Michael Lonsdale, best known for his role as villain Hugo Drax in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker, died on Monday at the age of 89.
Lonsdale passed away peacefully at his Paris home of old age, his agent of 20 years, Olivier Loiseau, told The Associated Press.
“It was kind of expected,” said Loiseau of the Aartis agency, who recently spoke with Lonsdale by phone. “His spirit was alive but his body was tired.”
The British-French actor had more than 200 credits to his name across his 60-year career, having worked with top directors including Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Francois Truffaut and Louis Malle.
Along with his role opposite the late Roger Moore’s 007 in the Bond franchise, Lonsdale was also known for playing detective Claude Lebel 1973's spy flick, The Day of the Jackal.
He played a French monk in Algeria in the 2011 movie Of Gods and Men, which earned him a Cesar, France’s equivalent of an Oscar, for best supporting role.
Other recent films include Manoel de Oliveira’s Gebo and the Shadow in 2012. His last full-length feature was in 2015, Les Premiers Les Derniers (The First, the Last) directed by Bouli Lanners.
His final screen performance was in a short film last year for the Opera of Paris, Degas et Moi (Degas and Me).
Born in Paris on May 24, 1931, Lonsdale was introduced to the cinema and a passion for life in Casablanca, Morocco, where he spent a decade of his young life with his French mother and British military officer father.
He said American GIs posted there during World War II gave him candy, gum and free visits to the movies they showed. He told French journalists that he was blown away by the movies and the industry became his dream.
Returning to Paris in 1947, a Russian theatre teacher taught him that actors must also show they can be mean. He threw a chair across the room and broke it.
Lonsdale remained an enigmatic character despite his public visibility, never truly comfortable in the often clubby actor’s milieu. The newspaper Le Monde quoted him as saying that “I feel sometimes so out of it ... to the point of feeling very uncomfortable.″
The French daily Le Parisien quotes him as saying in 2016 that he had no anxiety about dying. “I give myself a reason. It’s life.”
Lonsdale never married and had no children. Funeral arrangements were not immediately known.
Tributes for Moonraker villain
Sir Roger Moore’s Twitter account, which has been run by his ‘family and office’ since his death in 2017, paid tribute to Lonsdale.
“Terribly saddened to learn Michael Lonsdale has also passed away today. As Hugo Drax he was a smooth-tongued and cultured adversary to 007 in Moonraker,” the tweet read.
Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli released a statement in honour of their ‘very dear friend’ via the official James Bond Twitter account.
‘We are very sad to learn of the passing of Michael Lonsdale, who played Hugo Drax in Moonraker. He was an extraordinarily talented actor and a very dear friend. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time’ – Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”
Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson tweeted, “Michael Lonsdale. The best Bond baddie of them all. RIP”.
Fans of Lonsdale also flocked to social media to farewell the man they called the ‘greatest Bond villain of all time’.
Additional reporting by AP.