The James Bond series has lost another one of its exemplary actors. Michael Lonsdale, who played the villainous Hugo Drax in the 1979 film Moonraker, has passed away at the age of 89. The storied actor leaves behind a career that spans sixty years on screen. He died Monday at his home in Paris.
Lonsdale’s performance as Hugo Drax in the sci-fi spy blockbuster Moonraker is easily one of the best elements of that entry in the James Bond series. While Moonraker received a mixed reception from critics upon its release in 1979, Lonsdale’s commitment to the genocidal main antagonist was still seen as one of the film’s greatest highlights.
Lonsdale not only left his mark on the James Bond series but a number of other notable film productions as well. He was the indefatigable detective Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel in 1973’s The Day of the Jackal, the esoteric Jean-Pierre in 1998’s Ronin, and also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s dark revenge thriller Munich in 2005. Not to mention his forays into the world of French cinema with luminary director François Truffaut in films like The Bride Wore Black and Stolen Kisses.
The James Bond series certainly owes a debt to Michael Lonsdale. The franchise has become undeniably linked to its larger-than-life villains. Hugo Drax is by far one of the most memorable of those antagonists, and a lot of that has to do with Lonsdale’s calculated performance. Considering that the newest James Bond film looks to dig back into the villainous past of the 007 agent’s many opponents, it is worth remarking just how vital these adversaries are to the super spy’s legacy. Without Hugo Drax and Lonsdale’s interpretation of him, we may not have the kind of future villains we saw in the series.
Though Moonraker may not be the most fondly remembered entry in the ever-expanding James Bond canon, even its detractors often have positive things to say about Michael Lonsdale’s performance as Hugo Drax. His megalomaniacal villainy became one of the most enjoyable elements of that film. Lonsdale himself spoke to the incredible evil behind Drax’s motivations and how playing him was akin to playing a real-life monster such as Adolf Hitler.
It is unfortunate that Moonraker became such a disliked entry in the James Bond franchise. Many of its more comical elements would be parodied in the Austin Powers series of films – particularly Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me – and it is often looked upon with an ironic or snarky disposition by many fans. However, with the passing of Michael Lonsdale, it is hopeful that viewers will be able to see the kind of gravitas and energy that the actor brought to the film.
The world has lost a true talent with the passing of Michael Lonsdale, and the James Bond series has lost one of its most memorable and engaging supervillains. Now has never been a better time to revisit Moonraker and to bask in the delightful and wicked enthusiasm Lonsdale brought to one of the best bad guys in a series filled with great antagonists.