John Cleese has said that the James Bond film series has dispensed with its humour, in order to pander to Asian audiences.
Speaking in a Radio Times interview, he 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 humourless.
"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 humour or the class jokes."
Cleese played MI6 gadget expert Q in 1999's The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day in 2002, furnishing Pierce Brosnan with such fripperies as an invisible car and a tricked-out surfboard. Although financially successful, the films were seen as increasingly silly and over the top, prompting a paring-back of the gadgets and quips for the subsequent Daniel Craig era. The strategy worked: the most recent instalment, Skyfall, became the highest-grossing film ever at the UK box office and made $1.1bn worldwide. Q returned to the series in Skyfall after being absent for two films, but was played rather more soberly by Ben Whishaw.
Cleese has been vocal of late about the failings of various media companies. Last year, he described much of the British press as "the most appalling, depraved, disgusting, amoral creatures you could find anywhere outside of prison", while more recently he complained that the BBC has become creatively limited: "There's an awful amount of crap. These [commissioning] decisions are being taken by people who don't understand comedy, but don't realise that they don't understand it."
Elsewhere in the Radio Times interview, Cleese laments his costly divorce as impinging on his creative freedom: "The past few years have been rather disappointing because I've had to earn money for the alimony. Otherwise I could have been doing things that were more satisfying to me artistically." Cleese went on the road with The Alimony Tour in 2011, in part to help fund his divorce payments.
Of his pre-divorce days, he said: "I had enough money, so I could do things literally on spec. With A Fish Called Wanda I didn't take a penny until we actually went round the studios saying, 'This is the script, this is the director, this is Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, me ...'"
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