Michael Lonsdale, who starred as the mad villain Hugo Drax in the Bond film Moonraker and the dogged detective in the Fred Zinnemann-directed crime thriller The Day of the Jackal, has died. He was 89.
Lonsdale died Monday at his home in Paris, his agent, Olivier Loiseau, told the AFP.
Born in Paris, Lonsdale portrayed Louis XVI in Jefferson in Paris (1995) and appeared in other notable films including Jean-Jacques Annaud’s The Name of the Rose (1986), James Ivory’s The Remains of the Day (1993), John Frankenheimer’s Ronin (1998) and Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005) during his busy six-decade career.
He also received a Cesar award for portraying the Trappist monk Brother Luc in Of Gods and Men (2010), set in 1996 during Algeria’s civil war. The film was a huge hit in France.
In the Roger Moore-starring Moonraker (1979), Lonsdale was fiendishly good as Drax, a billionaire piano-playing industrialist who aims to poison the people of Earth and then repopulate the planet using people he has selected to live on his space station.
“He is such a terrible character, a sort of Nazi,” he said in a 2012 interview. “I mean, Drax is like Hitler. He wanted to destroy everybody and rain down a new order of very athletic, young people … he was mad completely.”
As Claude Lebel, he thwarted the would-be Charles de Gaulle assassin played by Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal (1973).
Lonsdale was born to an English military officer and a French mother on May 24, 1931. He and his family moved to Morocco in 1939.
“My parents became friends with the officers [there at the time] and they brought me along to see all the great movies by John Ford, George Cukor, Howard Hawks,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2010. “I even saw Casablanca in Casablanca. It was amusing to see Hollywood’s idea of Morocco, which was a kind of extravagant Egyptian fantasy. Of course, nobody looked anything like that.”
He returned to Paris in 1947 to study painting but took acting classes and appeared on the stage for the first time when he was 24.
Lonsdale also played a pastor in Orson Welles’ The Trial (1962), a tortured vice-consul in Marguerite Duras’ India Song (1974) and a strange shoe salesman in François Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses (1968).