Bond is missing a sense of humour, says Cleese

John Cleese. Photo / Getty Images
John Cleese. Photo / Getty Images

Witty one-liners, deadpan puns and absurd gadgets were once a requisite of James Bond films.

Now, however, the comedy, which reached its peak during the Sir Roger Moore years, has all but disappeared because the films are pitched at Asian audiences who do not understand the British sense of humour, according to John Cleese.

The actor appeared opposite Pierce Brosnan in two 007 films: playing an assistant to Desmond Llewelyn's Q in The World Is Not Enough (1999) and as Q himself in Die Another Day (2002).

He was not invited to reprise his role, and says that the subsequent films starring Daniel Craig have the "fundamental flaw" of lacking humour, while being too full of action sequences.

In an interview with Radio Times, the Monty Python star said: "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 [based on the spy novels of Robert Ludlum], which are very gritty and humourless.

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."

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


Cleese believes the Daniel Craig Bond films are too full of action sequences.

Gadgets have also begun to disappear from the latest films.

The franchise took a darker turn in 2006 when Craig made his debut in Casino Royale. The character of Q was ditched altogether, and the closest Bond came to cracking a joke was when he greeted a barman's "shaken or stirred" query by snapping: "Do I look like I give a damn?"

Casino Royale's director, Martin Campbell, said at the time that he had tried to film "more realistic" action scenes, adding: "We kept away from gadgets. We couldn't suddenly have John Cleese storming in with a rocket car."

Cleese's brief run as Q followed Llewelyn's 36 years in the role, during which he supplied Sean Connery's Bond and his successors with ingenious spy gadgets.

After a hiatus, Q reappeared in the 2012 film Skyfall, played by Ben Whishaw. This time, the humour did not revolve around Bond fooling about with the gadgets, but centred on the fact that Q looked barely old enough to be out of short trousers.

Sir Roger Moore has described Craig as the finest actor to play Bond, but acknowledged that the films are far more action based than in his day.

He said of Craig in Casino Royale: "My God, he did more action in the first half - in the first second - of the film than I did in all the Bonds put together. He's brilliant." Of his own films, including The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man With The Golden Gun, he said: "I always felt you should let the audience share the joke."


Roger Moore in an early Bond film.

Cleese's comments shine a light on the importance of the Asian market to Hollywood film studios.

This year's Edge of Tomorrow, the £100 million Tom Cruise science-fiction blockbuster, performed poorly in the US but topped the box office in Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea.

Casino Royale was the first Bond film to be shown in China, with Craig flying in to attend the premiere in Beijing.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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