Cleese laments loss of Bond humour

Braintree and Witham Times: John Cleese took over the Q role made famous by Desmond Llewelyn John Cleese took over the Q role made famous by Desmond Llewelyn

Comedy star and former Q actor John Cleese has criticised the later Bond movies for their over-long action sequences and for sacrificing their British flavour to secure "big money" from Asia.

The Monty Python actor, 74, starred in two 007 movies, The World Is Not Enough, in 1999, and three years later in Die Another Day.

But he hinted to Radio Times magazine that he was dropped from his role as gadget inventor Q, in the long-running British franchise, partly because film bosses wanted to please audiences in Asia.

He suggested that the spy movies, which have enjoyed renewed success with Daniel Craig in the lead role, had dispensed with their subtle British sense of humour.

"I did two James Bond movies and then I believe that they decided that the tone they needed was that of the Bourne action movies, which are very gritty and humourless," he said of the thriller spy films starring Matt Damon, which have been a box office and critical hit.

"Also the big money was coming from Asia, from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, where the audiences go to watch the action sequences, and that's why in my opinion the action sequences go on for too long, and it's a fundamental flaw."

He added: "The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humour or the class jokes."

Cleese's character did not appear in the recent Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace but was resurrected by Ben Whishaw in Skyfall in 2012.

Cleese, who split from his third wife, Alyce Eichelberger, in 2008, also told the magazine that recent years had not been creatively satisfying because he was making divorce payments.

"The past few years have been rather disappointing because I've had to earn money for the alimony. Otherwise I could have been doing things that were more satisfying to me artistically," he said.

"In those days I had enough money, so I could do things literally on spec. With A Fish Called Wanda I didn't take a penny until we actually went round the studios saying, 'This is the script, this is the director, this is Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, me...'"

He said of the success of the Pythons: "We literally sat down to do what made the rest of the group laugh. We had no idea of a target audience or any of that crap. There was something about the joy of the silliness of it."

Fellow Python Michael Palin, 71, added: "The BBC was confident enough at the time to commission a series like Python on the merest whim. We gave them very, very little information as to what should be in it and that helped us a lot.

"We weren't easy to dictate to. We didn't have executive producers saying, 'Do this, do that.'"

But he said that during the third series, the BBC "started making some fairly ridiculous censorship decisions. Not being able to say masturbation."

Terry Jones, 72, said that he had no idea whether the Pythons had influenced the comedy genre.

"Everybody keeps telling me it has. But I don't really see comedy. I don't have a television in the house," he said.

But he said of trying to subvert the Establishment: "It was so stuffy in the 60s. The class system had a stranglehold."

Eric Idle, 71, said of the long-awaited Monty Python reunion shows at London's o2 Arena: "This is a musical revue with a chorus of 20 and lots of Python songs, many of which have never been done by the Pythons before. And many of the sketches have never been performed live by us."

He added: "Comedy has been largely stand-up for the past 25 years. This show is different in so far as it is sketch comedy.

"So the stage will be filled more and there are sets and costumes and an orchestra... This is the first attempt at musical revue for about 50 years. I called it ironically 'Deja revue'".

He added: "We haven't been dead! Many of us have been writing for years... Everything changes all the time, but we change with it. We are no longer the same people we were in 1969. No-one lives in the past.

"This is the Age of Entitlement. Modern celebrity culture is a product of television. Python always mocked television. We have updated (the sketch) Blackmail, for example, as a modern TV show, which reflects the tabloids' obsession with celebrities and their sex lives."

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