The Colonel Gallery
A Brief Biography
Desmond Wilkinson Llewelyn was born in South Wales in 1914, the son of a coal mining engineer. In high school, he worked as a stagehand in the school's productions and then picked up sporadic small parts. His family would not give up their effort to prevent him from a life on stage, so an uncle who was a high ranking police officer arranged for Llewelyn to take the department's physical exam. "Thank God, I flunked the eye test, and they [the police] wouldn't take me. I suspect the inspector had a hangover because he also failed this other chap I knew, who went out the same day and passed the physical for the Royal Navy, which had a lot tougher test." After failing the police exam, Llewelyn thought about becoming a minister, realizing after a week-long retreat of quiet and meditation that the ministry "was definitely not for me." Llewelyn persevered in his acting quest, and was accepted to the Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts in the mid 1930s. The outbreak of World War II in September 1939, halted his acting career, and Llewelyn was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British army. He was assigned to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was sent to France in early 1940. In a short time, his regiment was fighting the Germans, and Llewelyn's company was holding off a division of German tanks. Llewelyn explained that "eventually, the tanks broke through and many of us jumped into this canal and started swimming down it to the other side, figuring that our chaps were still over there. But the Germans were the only ones there and Llewelyn was captured, and held as a prisoner of war for five years. At one prison camp, the prisoners had dug a tunnel and were planning to escape the next morning. Llewelyn was down in the tunnel doing some maintenance work in preparation of the escape when the Germans found out about the tunnel and caught him down in it, a crime that earned Llewelyn 10 days in solitary, which Llewelyn called "a blessing of sorts. After spending every day of several years sleeping in a room with 50 other people, the quiet and privacy was rather nice." After the war, Llewelyn returned to London and revived his career, eventually being cast as his trademark Q in From Russia with Love (1963). Since 1963, Llewelyn has appeared as Q in every MGM/UA Bond film, except Live and Let Die (1973). Llewelyn was omitted from Live and Let Die *(1973) because producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli felt that too much was being made of the gadgets and they would play it down. Llewelyn said he "was quite disappointed" at being left out of Live and Let Die (1973). Fans, however, missed Q, and Llewelyn got a call shortly after the release of Live and Let Die (1973) telling him that he would be in the next Bond film, Man with the Golden Gun, The (1974).Llewelyn, who admits that his mechanical abilities in real life are virtually nil, is geared up for the next Bond movie. "I'd love to be in the next one," Llewelyn said. "Of course, if you consider my age, they should have put me out to grass a long time ago."
* Note: During the time Live and Let Die was being filmed, Desmond Llewelyn was absence from the filming of Follyfoot, whether or not the Live and let Die part of Q was actually filmed with him and later cut or not I have not been able to discover.
He appeared in the 'The Big Breakfast' in early December 1999.
He died after he was driving home from a booksigning to promote his autobiography in East Sussex and his car collided head-on with another.
Ironically, he admitted on Ireland's Gerry Ryan Radio Show in May 1999 that he, "Q" (aka Major Boothroyd), personally detested gadgets.
On why he disliked Americans: In World War II, Desmond was rescued from a German POW camp by an American GI. When he told the soldier he'd been there for five years, the American replied, "Aw, cut it out. War's only been on for three years", forgetting that it was only the United States that had been at war for three years. Upon telling his story to Ian Bulloch, an American stuntman on the set of Thunderball, Bulloch replied, "Maybe the Yank should've left you there!"
Attended almost every Bond premiere in Norway.
Died shortly after the release of 'The World is Not Enough'
Despite being the longest recurring actor in the 007 franchise, appearing in 17 films, his on screen time is only a little more than 30 minutes in total.
Llewelyn was not the first choice for the role of "Q." Actor Peter Burton played the role of Major Boothroyd (later known as "Q"), in Dr. No (1962), the first in the '007' series. Barton was unavailable when the second movie From Russia with Love (1963) was filmed. The part went instead to Llewelyn and remained his for 16 more productions until his death in 1999. The only other time Llewelyn did not play "Q" was in Live and Let Die (1973). Producers felt too much attention was being paid on the gadgetry so they downplayed it by cutting his role. However, audiences enjoyed the role of "Q" so much that Llewelyn was brought back indefinitely.
The DVD of "Doctor Who - Tomb Of The Cybermen" reveals that he was unsuccessfully sought for the role of Prof Parry (played by Aubrey Richards)
When asked by People Magazine, shortly before his death, how long he intended to continue with the Bond series: "As long as the producers want me and the Almighty doesn't."
"Yes, I know 'Q' is beloved. But, for God's sake, don't make him some kind of sentimental grandfather. That's what I am in real life."
Click on the link below to read Desmond's final interview
Click images to enlarge