Obituary — James Bond Villain Michael Lonsdale [Hugo Drax] dies aged 89

“It was her [Delphine Seyrig] or nothing, and that’s why at 85 I’m still unmarried.”

Le Dictionnaire de Ma Vie — 2016 Memoir

“At the end of the day we are likely to be punished for our kindnesses.”

RONIN (1988)

“I feel sometimes so out of it [the actor’s milieu] … to the point of feeling very uncomfortable.”

Le Monde — Interview

“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

September 27 2020 — Michael Lonsdale, the French-British actor whose best known role was the villain Hugo Drax in Moonraker, died on September 21 2020. He was born on May 24 1931. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Lonsdale — a devout Catholic baptized at 22 — played a string of religious figures, including the abbot in the successful adaption of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1986) and a Trappist monk in Of Gods and Men (2010), for which Lonsdale won a best supporting actor César.

“I’d vowed never to accept another role as a priest,” Lonsdale said, “but I couldn’t resist playing this wonderful, generous character.”

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Lonsdale played more than 200 roles in both English and French over a career that spanned six decades.

His other film credits include The Day of the Jackal (1973), Munich (2005), and Ronin (1988).

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RONIN (1988)

Ronin is an American action thriller film directed by John Frankenheimer and written by John David Zeik and David Mamet, under the pseudonym Richard Weisz.

It stars Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce.

The film is about a team of former special operatives hired to steal a mysterious, heavily guarded briefcase while navigating a maze of shifting loyalties. Ronin is noted for its realistic car chases in Nice and Paris, and its convoluted plot that uses the briefcase as a MacGuffin.

The film’s title was derived from the Japanese legend of rōnin, samurai whose leader was killed and left them with no one to serve, and roamed the countryside as mercenaries and bandits to regain a sense of purpose.

In Frankenheimer’s film, the rōnin are former intelligence operatives who are unemployed at the end of the Cold War; devoid of purpose, they become highly-paid mercenaries.

Michael Lonsdale’s character elaborates on the analogy in an anecdote about the forty-seven rōnin told with miniatures, comparing the film’s characters to the 18th-century rōnin of Japan.

In his essay, “Action and Abstraction in Ronin”, Stephen Prince wrote that the rōnin metaphor explores themes of “service, honor, and obligation to complex ways by showing that service may entail betrayal and that honor may be measured according to disparate terms”.

According to Stephen B. Armstrong, “Arguably Frankenheimer uses this story to highlight and contrast the moral and social weakness that characterize the band of rōnin in his film”. [From Wikipedia]

The revenge of the forty-seven rōnin is not a legend. It is an 18th-century historical event in which a band of 47 rōnin (leaderless samurai) avenged the death of their master. [1701 — 1703]

RONIN (1998) — Robert De Niro & Michael Lonsdale

Michael Lonsdale : “The Forty-Seven Ronin. Do you know it? Forty-seven samurai, whose master was betrayed and killed by another lord. They became ronin; masterless samurai; disgraced by another man’s treachery. For three years they plotted, pretending to be thieves, mercenaries, even madmen; that I didn’t have time to do; and then one night they struck, slipping into the castle of their lord’s betrayer and killing him.”

Robert De Niro : “Nice. I like that. My kind of job.”

Michael Lonsdale : “There’s something more. All forty-seven of them committed seppuku; ritual suicide; in the courtyard of the castle.”

Robert De Niro : “Well, that I don’t like so much.”

Michael Lonsdale : “But you understand it.”

Robert De Niro : “What do you mean, I understand it?”

Michael Lonsdale : “The warrior code. The delight in the battle, you understand that, yes? But also something more. You understand there is something outside yourself that has to be served. And when that need is gone, when belief has died, what are you? A man without a master.”

Robert De Niro : “Right now I’m a man without a paycheck.”

Michael Lonsdale : “The ronin could have hired themselves to new masters. They could have fought for themselves. But they chose honor. They chose myth.”

Robert De Niro : “They chose wrong.”

Actually, only 46 committed ritual suicide…

REFERENCE

Michael Lonsdale obituary — The Guardian

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Obituary — James Bond Villain Michael Lonsdale [Hugo Drax] dies aged 89

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