He was an actor, a director and a painter – but I, like so many here, encountered him in 1979, displaying a steely, eerie calmness as Sir Hugo Drax, hiding his contempt for James Bond withstanding every amusing attempt to rid him of his life.
Michael Lonsdale followed the wonderful Curt Jürgens, playing another megalomaniac insanely planning to change the world through mass murder, but while Jürgens, in the massively successful “The Spy Who Loved Me”, brought a creepy world weariness to his Stromberg, Lonsdale played Drax in “Moonraker” as a deeply determined, arrogant oligarch enjoying his luxurious life – and delivering his sardonic one-liners with slow-burn glee. He is the perfect counterpart to Roger Moore´s playful Bond, both underplaying the silliness of the whole extravaganza, thus making it work even better and transforming it into one of the most entertaining Bond films ever.
Born in Paris on May 24, 1931, the son of a French mother and a British father lived in London, Morocco and Paris where he studied acting. His breakthrough in the films of Francois Truffaut (“La Mariée était en noir” / “Baisers volés”) was followed by more than 240 films. One of the most celebrated character actors, Lonsdale worked with legendary directors such as Louis Malle (“Le souffle au cœur”) , Marcel Carné (“Les assassins de l’ordre”), Jacques Rivette (“Out 1: Noli me tangere / Out 1: Spectre”), Orson Welles (“Le procès”), Fred Zinneman (“Day of the Jackal”), John Frankenheimer (“Ronin”) and Steven Spielberg (“Munich”). Fun fact: he is one of the rare Bond villains who acted with three other Bonds: Roger Moore (“Moonraker”), Sean Connery (“The Name of the Rose”) and Daniel Craig (“Munich”).
In 2011 he won the César, after being nominated three times, for Xavier Beauvois´ “Des hommes et des dieux”. He died on September 21st, 2020, in Paris, in his grandfather’s apartment, where he had been living since 1949.