Website last updated: 8-7-2024

In Memoriam of James Bond director Lewis Gilbert (1920-2018)

By: Anders Frejdh
Lewis Gilbert James Bond director obituary
Saddened to report that legendary director Lewis Gilbert, aged 97 (only a couple of days from his 98th birthday) with three of the biggest James Bond 007 films on his resume (the 1967 film You Only Live Twice, 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me and 1979's Moonraker), passed away on Friday 23 February and that his funeral will be held in Monaco next week. Having met him a few times over the years it's easy to say he was a very kind man with a great sense of humour. He will be deeply missed and our thoughts and prayers Lewis' family. RIP, sir. [Editor's Note: The news of Lewis Gilbert's passing was first published on this site.]

Saddened to report that legendary director Lewis Gilbert, aged 97 (only a couple of days from his 98th birthday) with three of the biggest @007 films on his resume, passed away on Friday 23 February. Having met him a few times over the years it's easy to say he was a very kind man with a great sense of humour. He will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers goes out to Lewis' family. RIP, sir. #fromswedenwithlove

Ett inlägg delat av From Sweden with Love (@jamesbond007se)

Lewis Gilbert was born in 1920 and began his career as a director while attached to the US Army Air Corps in the Second World War. He went on to direct over 40 films, besides the three James Bond movies he directed classics like Sink the Bismarck! (1960) and Shirley Valentine (1989) (co-starring Joanna Lumley).

Gilbert was also a prolific writer and producer. Among Gilbert’s numerous awards are two BAFTAs for Reach for the Sky (1956) and Educating Rita (1983), plus, a Golden Globe for Friends (1971). And his 1966 film Alfie was nominated for numerous Academy Awards.

In 1997 Gilbert was appointed a CBE for his achievements in film, and five years later directed his final picture, Before You Go (2002) with Dermot Crowley (Major Kamp in the 1983 Bond film Octopussy) in one of the roles.

In April 2010, Lewis came out with his autobiography titled All My Flashbacks in which he stated that The Spy Who Loved Me was the highlight of his career. Read publisher Marcus Hearn's tribute of Lewis on the book page.

Lewis Gilbert All My Flashbacks
Cover for Lewis Gilbert's book All My Flashbacks. © 2010 Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. All rights reserved.

Wherever he lived in the world, he remained a loyal supporter of Arsenal Football Club.

Legendary James Bond editor and director John Glen shared with us:

"Lewis Gilbert was one of the most successful directors of his generation. I had the pleasure of editing The Spy Who Loved Me which must count as one of the best Bond movies starring the sadly missed Roger Moore. Lewis was a very understated director and was equally at home on blockbuster movies and simple low budget films. He loved working with children, on Cry from the Streets a simple story of kids in an orphanage Max Bygraves improvised a song for the children when rain stopped filming. He will be remembered with affection by his crew, never angry, full of humour ... he just loved film making from his early beginnings as a child actor. He could be absent minded sometimes. I remember his stepping backwards off a rostrum and falling through the scaffolding before emerging with barely a scratch. When I succeeded Lewis after Moonraker he was the first on the phone to congratulate me. A giant of the cinema. With fondest memories."

Steven Saltzman, son of legendary producer Harry Saltzman, on the news of Lewis:

"The Bond family in Monaco weeps again, less than a year after the passing of Sir Roger Moore at the news of Lewis Gilbert CBE’s death last Friday. Lewis was the director who took James Bond to Japan in You Only Live Twice with a script penned by Roald Dahl which gave the world the first real views Japan after WWII. We saw Sumo wrestlers, Japanese Supercars and extraordinary gyro Little Nellie! His direction and reveal of Donald Pleasence as Blofeld is a Bond masterclass in menace. Hilary and I send our condolences to his family."

Legendary special effects maestro John Richardson commented:

"I first worked with Lewis Gilbert on a film in Malaya 55 years ago he was such a lovely man and one of the nicest Directors you could ever wish to work with. I was fortunate enough to do several films with him all of which were a joy to work on. He will go down in film history as one of the great directors and he will be sadly missed. God bless you Lewis!"

Legendary special effects maestro Chris Corbould wrote:

"I was a young man in a junior position when I worked with Lewis on Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me so did not have a great deal of close up contact but I do remember him being a sweet man with a great sense of humour who was greatly respected by the whole crew."

Academy Award winning sound guru Norman Wanstall wrote:

"Well, you can imagine my reaction to hearing the news about Lewis. Of all the directors I worked with Lewis is the one I can relate to best, as I worked on Carve Her Name With Pride, The Greengage Summer, Sink The Bismark, HMS Defiant and You Only Live Twice I was also asked to join him on “Alfie” but unfortunately I couldn’t be free in time. I admired the man so much for the shear diversity of the films he directed, from modern light-weight dramas such as Alfie and Educating Rita to historical action films like HMS Defiant. And then of course there were the Bonds. What an all-round, brilliant film-maker he was.

Lewis will be remembered with great respect in the history of the industry and I was so pleased to meet him again after so long at one of the Pinewood events and to introduce you to him, Anders. I’m sure his son John will be devastated by the loss of his dad. I always wondered what happened to John as I knew him well in the early days and it was he who pestered me to work on Alfie.
I send my sincere condolences to him and his family."

Sound maestro Colin Miller remebers his work with Lewis:

"I worked with Lewis twice. The first time on The Spy Who Loved Me and then in Moonraker. ‘Spy’ was my first Bond film, and, along with my co sound editor, Alan Soanes, we got along just fine with Lewis and he appreciated our input into the film and was kind enough to seek us out and tell us so.

Moonraker was the busiest film for us. The whole space battle, luckily, was contained in one reel and took us ages to pre-mix. We were a bit concerned as to how Cubby [Albert R. Broccoli] and Lewis would react as there were so many different types of sound within the sequence. Cubby and Lewis were called to the mix studio and we ran the reel. Cubby was delighted, and Lewis said, “He was blown away.” We were very happy also. I was hoping to work for Lewis again in the future but alas it never happened. I will always remember my happy times working with such a nice man."

Visual effects supervisor Alan Church also sent us a note on Lewis:

"Oh no. I worked as Optical Cameraman on Educating Rita and he was such a lovely soft-spoken polite man. RIP Lewis Gilbert"

Moonraker 'Bond girl' Anne Lönnberg wrote this:

"Lewis was adept in doing huge marathon movies like the James Bonds. Very organized, polite with everyone, calm, never lost his temper but under all that he was like steel. He was very serious in his work, knew exactly what he wanted – to handle the complexities of a James Bond filming is no small feat. But he always had time to listen to others.
My most fond memory was not on a set as I ran into him in Cannes and I had my first son Yann in my arms at some swimming pool and Lewis took my baby and cuddled him with such tenderness... Generous, kind, and a great sense of humor."

Anne Lonnberg Lewis Gilbert Moonraker
Anne Lönnberg with Lewis Gilbert on the set of Moonraker. © 1979 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

Moonraker 'Bond girl' Irka Bochenko sent this:

"Those who knew him and worked with him remember Lewis Gilbert as a warm hearted man. And I learned so much working with him on Moonraker that will stay in my memory forever. May his heart and soul find peace and comfort. And my sincere condolences to his Family."

British Bond girl Valerie Leon sent this:

"Although I only had a cameo role in The Spy Who Loved Me I remember Lewis Gilbert as being a most charming man, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such a wonderful director."

Legendary stuntman and stunt coordinator Rocky Taylor posted this:

"Lewis was a lovely man. Good director, very versatile which is key to a long career. I worked on You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me with him and he directed me in scenes with Roger Moore."

Property master Tony Teiger remembers Lewis:

"Lewis was a very special person for me making Operation Daybreak in Prague 1974. What a great time. My condolences."

Lewis Gilbert The Spy Who Loved Me
Lewis Gilbert on the set of The Spy Who Loved Me. © 1977 Danjaq S.A. & United Artists Corporation. All rights reserved.

More personal comments to follow...

Photo on top
Lewis Gilbert during a visit to Cannes in 1997. Photo by Joel Villy. All rights reserved.

Read more about the amazing film career of Lewis Gilbert on his IMDB page.



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