John Cleese: 'James Bond' Franchise Sacrificed Humor to Win Asia Markets

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John Cleese

"The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humor or the class jokes," said the British comedy legend, who appeared in two Pierce Brosnan Bond films.

John Cleese, founding member of Monty Python and eminence grise of British comedy, has taken aim at one of the U.K.'s most beloved film franchises: James Bond. The 74-year-old actor said he believes the Bond films have sacrificed their signature English wit in order to pander to the booming movie markets of Asia.

In an interview with the U.K.'s Radio Times magazine, Cleese 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, which are very gritty and humorless.

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"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. The audiences in Asia are not going for the subtle British humor or the class jokes."

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Cleese played Bond's gadget guru Q in The World Is Not Enough (1999) and Die Another Day (2002). Both films performed well at the box office, but have paled in comparison to blockbuster Bond films of the Daniel Craig era. Whatever Cleese's gripes, the international strategy behind any shift in tone for the Bond franchise appears to be working financially. The latest installment, Skyfall, grossed $304 million in the U.S. and $804 million internationally. It is also the highest-grossing film ever at the U.K. box office.

Cleese is currently preparing for Monty Python's 10 live farewell shows at London's O2 arena, as well as the U.K. movie Absolutely Anything, directed by Python co-founder Terry Jones.