Desmond LLEWELYN (1914-1999)

Desmond Llewelyn This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 932
  • Subject No: 908
  • Broadcast date: Wed 22 Nov 1995
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 20 Nov 1995
  • Repeated: Thu 23 Nov 1995 2.35pm
  • Venue: Teddington Studios
  • Series: 36
  • Edition: 12
  • Code name: Gadget

on the guest list...

  • Pamela - wife
  • Ivor - son
  • Justin - son
  • Barbara Broccoli
  • Michael Wilson
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Izabella Scorupco
  • Famke Janssen
  • Jo Bailey
  • Derek Tansley
  • Michael Edwards
  • John Glen
  • Geoffrey Keen
  • Gillian Blake
  • Christian Rodska
  • Lois Maxwell
  • unnamed daughters-in-law and grandchildren
  • Filmed tribute:
  • Lord Peyton of Yeovil

production team...

  • Researcher: Clare de Vries
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Brian Klein
  • Associate Producer: John Graham
  • Executive Producer: Peter Estall
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related page...

An Actor's Life For Me

spotlight on the stars

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Screenshots of Desmond Llewelyn This Is Your Life

Desmond Llewelyn's biography

Sandy Hernu recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in her book, Q The Biography of Desmond Llewelyn...

In November, the day before the premier of Goldeneye, Pierce and Desmond faced, for the umpteenth time, a battery of press, cameras and questions.

Later that evening, as Desmond relaxed with some of the cast at The Hyde Park Hotel, Pierce suddenly walked across and gave his shoulder an affectionate squeeze.

"I thought the man had gone quite mad. I'd been working with him all day and now he was hugging me as though we hadn't met for years." The cause of Pierce's burst of affection soon manifested itself. As Desmond turned, he saw Michael Aspel purposefully approaching him, clutching a large red book. "Desmond Llewelyn – This Is Your Life."

Desmond Llewelyn This Is Your Life

"My reaction, apart from surprise, was one of complete panic. Oh Christ, I thought, what about Pamela? How will she cope? Will she be alright? Silly of me really, as Ivor and Justin were obviously aware of the programme and they would look after her. I later discovered they'd planned it all from the beginning. Thankfully, when I reached Teddington Studios and walked apprehensively on to This Is Your Life, I saw Pamela sitting there quietly by the boys."

For the next half-an-hour, friends past and present recalled events as Desmond's life unfolded. Jo Bailey, an ex-Radlean, embarked on an outrageous tale about rugger, to which Desmond counteracted, impishly, "If I may say so, that's absolute balls." Derek Tansley recollected their days together in repertory with Matthew Forsyth; Lord Peyton, the wartime story of the tunnel at Warburg. Lois Maxwell, John Glen and Pierce Brosnan related a few incidents from Bond. Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli sat amongst the guests. The latest Bond girls, whom Desmond had never met, came on and asked which was his favourite gadget? He shrugged his shoulders and put his hands up in mock despair, "Frankly," he said, "I hate bloody gadgets."

"I enjoyed the party afterwards much more then the programme. After all, This Is Your Life is a bit false and guests say silly things. I think it would be much better if there wasn't all this damn secrecy and then it could be more relaxed."

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

Every launch of a new James Bond film has its own hype to justify the many millions of pounds spent on each production, and the new film Goldeneye was no exception. I was keen, however, not to surprise the new Bond, Pierce Brosnan, but do a Life on the 80-year-old Desmond Llewelyn, who had played the character of 'Q' for so many years, the man who provides Bond with all his gadgets.

We researched his life and it proved to be a wonderful story, from his early RADA days to his many films including a part in Cleopatra. What was really interesting was the fact that as a soldier in the Second World War he had seen action and was eventually captured and made a prisoner of war for five years. Not only that – he had been actively involved in tunnelling out only to be caught by his German guards.

This is the sort of story that we all love and we wanted to do it when the film came out as a sort of topical peg to hang it from.

Desmond was going to be at the press launch of the film at the Hyde Park Hotel and that was the best time to spring our surprise. I knew that if people saw Michael at the press launch then they would think that we were about to surprise Pierce Brosnan, the star of the film. To stamp out that idea I thought we should have him with Michael at the beginning to help us with springing the 'hit'. This would also tell our audience that Pierce was not our subject that night.

It would also be fun to have a conspiratorial meeting between Michael Aspel and James Bond. We set up a bar and Michael rehearsed the scene with John Graham standing in for Pierce Brosnan, who was arriving off a plane from New York. Within the hour Pierce had arrived and said that if time was tight, he did not need a rehearsal. I showed him the script and took him through the moves and then he simply said: 'Let's do it.'

Michael stood against the bar, the obligatory vodka martini in one hand and the Red Book in the other. He walked over to Pierce, who was sitting at the other end of the bar.

Pierce said: 'You're late, Double O Eight.' Michael replied: 'You said eleven, Double O seven.'

And so it went on. It was great fun, a perfect take and a wonderful opening for the programme. Pierce went on to help Michael distract Desmond at the press conference while Michael and the book appeared from the other side.

I wondered why Pierce had put himself to so much trouble; the programme touched on but was not about his film. The answer came when Pierce came on the programme in the studio, and after giving Desmond a great tribute, actually kissed his hand. He was obviously genuinely very fond of this 80-year-old character actor.

Maybe I was getting cynical in my old age but I found this behaviour very moving coming as it did from a very big screen star. Well done to Pierce Brosnan, and long may he reign as 007.

Series 36 subjects

Rolf Harris | Lisa Clayton | Pam St Clement | Allan Norman | Alicia Markova | Tony Warren | Johnny Cooper | Clive Mantle
Charlie Drake | Stan Boardman | Frank Skinner | Desmond Llewelyn | Brian Conley | David Kennett | David Essex | David Croft
Bob and Dolores Hope | John Virgo | Rula Lenska | Gavin Hastings | John Peel | Ann Rachlin | Michael Buerk | Chili Bouchier
Benny Green | Sue Barker | Petula Clark