Michael Lonsdale dies at 89

The announcements are putting at the top that he played Hugo Drax, the villain of the James Bond movie Moonraker, but to me he’ll always be Commissaire Claude Lebel, the French Chief of Detectives who stopped the political assassin The Jackal in Fred Zinneman’s film Day of the Jackal.

I kept an eye on him since, noting his appearances in Munich and other films.

I’ve always suspected that he got the role of Drax because in the novel Fleming describes Drax as “A Lonsdale kind of character”. Not meaning Michel Lonsdale, of course. But the name might have given the folks at Eon productions the idea of casting him. Because, honestly, although I love Lonsdale in the part, he doesn’t at all resemble, in appearance or temperament, the villain of Fleming’s book.

RIP, Lonsdale – James Bond Villain Michael Lonsdale Dead At 89 | HuffPost Entertainment

Back in 2014, when I first noted this, SDMB member Weldell Wagner suggested that THIS might be the “Lonsdale character” Fleming had in mind:

I see that, according to Wikipedia, Michael Lonsdale also provided the likeness for and dialogue for Hugo Drax in the 2012 videogame 007 Legends

He was one of those actors you saw everywhere (ate least in European productions), but never know the name of. He was good as the abbot in “The Name Of The Rose”, that’s what I remember him most for.

I enjoyed him in the role of Drax, but remember him best as Detective Claude Lebel in Day of the Jackal which is where I first saw him.

RIP, Michel.

The 007 Legends video game was pretty neat, it’s gimmick was that it pretended that Daniel Craig in between movies was having all sorts of crazy adventures lifted from previous films but “modernized” so their version of Moonraker had Drax as an Elon Musk type who specializes in commercial space travel, so him just having a random giant orbiting space base is slightly more plausible.

^Another vote for these. It was so memorable a performance that on each re-watching of the film, I always regret that he wasn’t cast in more movies than he was.

Condolences to his family and friends.

He was also notable for being one of THREE Bond villain actors to appear in the movie Ronin. The others being Jonathan Pryce and Sean Bean.

I just remembered that Lebel’s assistant in Day of the Jackal was played by none other than the great Derek “Claudius” Jacobi. The two of them on screen together made a fantastic and memorable team.

Derek Jacobi also had a part in the next movie adapted from a Frederick Forsyth thriller. He played The Forger in the underappreciated The Odessa File .

Yep. I’ve always wondered what happened to him when the Organization realized he and his files had been compromised. Nothing good, I’m sure. :dizzy_face:

Both great movies (and of course Jacobi was flawless in them).

Looking over Lonsdale’s Wikipedia page, I’m struck by the number of movies of the caliber of The Day of the Jackal, in which he appeared. (I’d like to take a look at Is Paris Burning?, for example.)

Serious-minded films about political issues (including war) seemed to be more frequently made back in the sixties and seventies, as compared with current output. I suppose having WW2 fresh in many memories created a market, but: even so.

Not to mention the Algerian War of Independence, the backdrop of Day of the Jackal.

Indeed. When you think of all the stories that could be told about various legacies of colonialism, worldwide, not to mention all the other conflicts attendant on the human impulse to exploit other nations where possible, you realize that there are a hell of a lot of fascinating movies that have never been made.

Spandex tends to take over the cinematic space, sadly. But then it’s a plain fact that catering to the interests of adolescence drives a lot of the movie industry. It’s not a non-profit industry, after all.

(Imagine Michael Lonsdale in a spandex-based movie…okay, I guess the Bond one is in the general neighborhood of superhero movies, at that.)