The Bourne Ultimatum: Why John Cleese Left The Bond Movies

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in 'Die Another Day' (Pic: Eon)

John Cleese and Pierce Brosnan in ‘Die Another Day’ (Pic: Eon)

John Cleese is a forthright man, unafraid of airing his version of events that he has participated in and equally unafraid of the consequences.

So, his recent Radio Times interview, in which he explains why he appeared in two James Bond movies–The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day—as the irascible but inventive quartermaster Q, is naturally fairly bullish stuff.

According to John, he was attracted to the role by the franchise’s dry one-liners and good-natured ribbing across class barriers, and the chance to work with the original Q, the equally imperious Desmond Llewelyn. But a combination of factors—Llewelyn’s death in 1999, and pressure John believes came from the movie backers to ramp up the action and tone down the silly—left him with very little to do.

He explains: “I did two James Bond movies, and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humorless.

“Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that’s why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it’s a fundamental flaw.

“The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humor or the class jokes.”

Still the invisible car was cool, eh?

Sadly he did not go on to explain how he feels about the return of Q to the franchise, as played by Ben Whishaw, or whether there is enough subtle humor in a scene like this:

And it should also be noted that Eon, producers of the Bond franchise, have yet to respond to John’s comments.

See more: 
WARNING: Daniel Craig Wants To Bring ‘Irony’ Back To Bond
Idris Elba: “Don’t Call Me The Black James Bond”
Eleven Fictional Characters Who Could Totally Be Time Lords
James Bond’s Submarine Car Forgotten in Storage, Sold at Auction

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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