by Hans ten Cate
Monday, 18 January 1999

John Cleese gets an inter-agency transfer from Ministry of Silly Walks to MI6

For some time now, a number of James Bond fans on the Internet have debated, speculated, even waxed lyrical about possibly seeing the role of "Q," Bond's impetuous gadget-man, passed to John Cleese. This coming November, they will get their wish... sort of.

Cleese is slated to make a cameo appearance in the next Bond film (aka Bond 19, aka The World is Not Enough) as "R," the Deputy Assistant to Desmond Llewelyn, the British actor who has played "Q" in no fewer than 16 previous Bond films. The character "R" is to introduce Bond to the new BMW Z07, a Beetle black sportster with missiles planted behind the headlights. The role of "R," of course, calls for the same sarcastic banter that made "Q" such a memorable character. This, as many fans know, is Cleese's trademark. How else would Basil Fawlty have remained so indelibly inscribed in the comedy record books?

Llewelyn is the longest standing player in the Bond franchise and has appeared in all but two of the previous Bond movies. Yet, Bond fans have recognized that even in the civil service, Llewelyn would have retired 20 years ago. In 1995 and 1996, a number of threads appeared in the newsgroup conjecturing who the next "Q" would be. The nominations were decidely in favor of comedy legend John Cleese. A letter campaign was soon launched to Eon Productions, the London production company responsible for the Bond films, to suggest that Cleese was "the perfect replacement for Llewellyn." This campaign obviously did not go unnoticed.

London's "The Evening Standard" reported January 12 that John Cleese had been approached for a cameo in the new Bond flick. In the article, Eon Productions confirmed this fact but said Cleese had not signed yet as he was on vacation in the Bahamas. His decision would be made upon his return.

If Cleese accepts, we might get to see him play with some of the new gadgets in Q's lab: microchips in shoes that transmit data when two people with the chips shake each other's hands (unfortunately, Q hasn't perfected this gadget, and one user's hair inevitably stands on end during the transfer) or Bond's new Omega Watch, which contains an odorless knock-out gas, armed by turning the bezel (and of course also contains the obligatory laser).

The 19th Bond film began shooting on January 11 at Pinewood Studios and has James Bond saving a host of celebrities, millionaires, and world leaders on the evening of the new millenium. Some of the action will take at Greenwich's brand new Millenium Dome, still under construction. Eon Productions hope to release the film in November 1999, just in time for the Millenium Dome's opening and to catch the Y2K hype.