'Moonraker' actor Michael Lonsdale dies aged 89

Tom Butler
·Senior Editor
·3-min read
Director Michael Lonsdale on the set of "Moonraker". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
Director Michael Lonsdale on the set of "Moonraker". (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

British-French actor Michael Lonsdale, best known for playing Hugo Drax in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, has died in Paris aged 89, his agent has told AFP.

Lonsdale was also known in the English-speaking world as detective Claude Lebel 1973’s spy thriller The Day of the Jackal and as. M. in 1993’s The Remains of the Day. In 1986 he starred opposite Sean Connery in the medieval drama The Name of the Rose.

He also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 historical drama Munich, alongside future James Bond star Daniel Craig, and in 1998’s action thriller Ronin.

The bilingual actor had hundreds of acting credits to his name, most recently appearing in the Belgian-French drama The First, the Last (Les Premiers, les Derniers) released in 2016.

Actor Michael Lonsdale arrives at the 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Actor Michael Lonsdale arrives at the 69th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Lonsdale reprised the role of Drax for the 2016 video game 007 Legends. When asked whether he was concerned that playing a Bond villain might affect his career, he told James Bond fan site Mi6-HQ: “Not at all! On the contrary!

“Because, I made so many films that were not really very popular or didn't make much money, and I only made poor films, so I thought I might like to be in a rich film.”

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Reflecting on his experience of making the film he said: “It was a great experience to make a very popular film. Everybody was so kind. Roger Moore, Lois Chiles and Richard Kiel were all wonderful. There was a beautiful understanding between the actors, and so I was very happy to do that.”

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 09: Actor  Michael Lonsdale attends the tribute to "Jean Pierre Mocky 70 ans de Cinéma" at Les Deux Magots on December 09, 2019 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage)
PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 09: Actor Michael Lonsdale attends the tribute to "Jean Pierre Mocky 70 ans de Cinéma" at Les Deux Magots on December 09, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage)

The official Twitter account for the estate of Sir Roger Moore, who played Bond opposite Lonsdale, expressed its condolences online.

Moore had previously singled out Lonsdale for praise as a Bond villain, telling GQ in 2012: “All the villains are great. Michael Lonsdale [Drax, in Moonraker] is a brilliant actor, sometimes you think that they're too good for the movie.”

This photo taken on July 6, 2011 shows French actor Michael Lonsdale posing during the Paris Cinema Festival in Paris. - French actor Michael Lonsdale has died at the age of 89, his agent announced on September 21, 2020. (Photo by Fred DUFOUR / AFP) (Photo by FRED DUFOUR/AFP via Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 6, 2011 shows French actor Michael Lonsdale posing during the Paris Cinema Festival in Paris. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP via Getty Images)

Lonsdale was born in Paris to English and Irish-French parents, and initially raised in Guernsey, then later in Casablanca, Morocco. He later returned to live in Paris, making his stage debut aged 24. He made his film debut in 1956.