According to news reported by From Sweden With Love, Anders Frejdh’s Swedish Bond fan page, Lewis Gilbert, director of Bond classics You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has passed away.
Gilbert started out early as a child actor during the 1920s and 1930s, later switching to other production-related jobs. After assisting at Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, Gilbert began his direction career with documentaries during the Second World War. After the war, he branched out into scriptwriting and producing films and directed a number of productions based on true events from the war, 1960’s Sink the Bismarck just one of them.
In 1966 he adapted Bill Naughton’s play Alfie with Michael Caine more or less on a shoestring budget. The film won the Jury Special Prize at Cannes and got an Oscar nomination in the best picture category, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Gilbert.
In 1967 he directed You Only Live Twice, the Bond film that started a trend to largely ignore Ian Fleming’s source material in favour of escapist spectacle, huge set pieces and extensive stunt work. While overshadowed by Sean Connery’s obvious reluctance to further suffer as the focus of a global super-spy craze (and cameraman John Jordan’s severe accident during shooting) the film was only slightly less successful at the box office than its predecessor Thunderball.
So solid was Gilbert’s work on 007 that Eon asked him back to direct not once but twice – and both times to shoot remakes of his original, this time with Roger Moore as Bond. The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977 and 1979’s Moonraker today have a somewhat mixed reputation with the fanbase; yet they are regarded as classics in their own right with wider interested film aficionados and critics. And of course they grossed spectacularly in the year of their original release.
Gilbert’s post-Bond career included a number of smaller productions, Shirley Valentine perhaps the most notable amongst these. In 1997 he was awarded the CBE and in 2001 he was made Fellow of the British Film Institute.
An earlier version of this article did not name the source. CBn thanks Anders Frejdh for breaking the news on this.