Michael Lonsdale, the French actor best known as the James Bond villain Hugo Drax from Moonraker, has died. He was 89-years-old. The news was confirmed by agent Olivier Loiseau, who had the following to say in a brief statement.
“I must unfortunately confirm the passing of Michael Lonsdale, our dear talent for so many years.”
Born in 1931 in Paris, France, Michael Lonsdale began acting in the 50s professionally. His first major role came in 1956 in director Michel Boisrond’s It Happened in Aden. This was the beginning of a long, prosperous and diverse career for Ironside, who would go on to amass more than 240 credits during his time as an actor. Lonsdale’s on-screen career spanned just over six decades.
Michale Lonsdale scored his most well-known role when he was cast alongside the late Roger Moore in 1979’s Moonraker. Produced in the aftermath of Star Wars, which arrived in 1977, the movie brought James Bond to space and Lonsdale played the movie’s villain, the evil Hugo Drax. Though Moonraker is not generally considered to be among the best entries the series has ever produced, Drax is often considered to be among the very best villains in the history of the James Bond franchise. It was also a major financial success at the time, bringing in more than $200 million at the global box office. James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had this to say in a statement.
“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”
Some of Michael Lonsdale’s other notable roles include 1973’s The Day of the Jackal. The crime drama, directed by Fred Zinnemann, earned Lonsdale a BAFTA nomination for best supporting actor for his role as Lebel. Lonsdale also starred alongside Robert De Niro in the 1998 crime thriller Ronin, directed by John Frankenheimer. Steven Spielberg also worked with the actor in his 2005 drama Munich, which was inspired by true events. The movie ultimately went on to garner strong reviews and was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture.
Cinema lovers took to social media to pay tribute to the late actor. Among them were former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, who called him the “best Bond baddie of them all.” Michael Lonsdale also starred in a number of movies and TV shows that were internationally recognized, far beyond what American audiences might know him for. Lonsdale won France’s prestigious Cesar award for best supporting actor in 2011 for his role in director Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men, for example. He was also nominated for the award two more times. First in 1995 for Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud and again in 2007 for Heartbeat Detector.Lonsdale’s final on-screen performance was in 2016’s Sculpt from director Loris Greaud. This news of Lonsdale’s passing was confirmed by Variety.