MI6 caught up with David Hedison, the only actor to appear twice as James Bond's CIA ally Felix Leiter in "Live And Let Die" and "Licence To Kill"...

David Hedison Interview
24th June 2005

What or who motivated you to become an actor, and would you still have the same motivations if you were starting out today?
I was cast as the principal, Mr. Bradley, in a play called "What a Life" when I was in Junior high school. Roger Williams Junior High [in Providence, RI] to be exact.

While performing the play, I just knew deep in my heart that I belonged there on that stage. It gave me the freedom to become someone else. That motivated me to work hard, to read many plays, so I could eventually make acting my life's work. And to answer the second part of the question: Of course!

How did you secure the role of Felix Leiter in "Live And Let Die"?
I was having dinner with the screenwriter, Tom Mankiewicz, and he asked if I'd be interested in playing Felix Leiter in "Live and Let Die." I read the script and thought it would be great fun to work on a James Bond film with Sean Connery who was supposed to do it. The next thing I knew, Sean stepped out -- and Roger Moore stepped in. I couldn't have been happier since Roger and I were good friends.

Above: David Hedison as Felix Leiter in "Live And Let Die" (1973)

Did you feel at that time that "Live And Let Die" would be a one-off Bond film for you, given that Felix had been recast in every movie beforehand?
Yes. I was sure that would be my first --- and last.

Above: David Hedison as Felix Leiter in "Live And Let Die" (1973)


How did you get hired to reprise the role for "Licence To Kill"?
Several years later I was having dinner with my wife at the Bistro Gardens in Beverly Hills. Cubby Broccoli and his lovely wife, Dana, were also there and I waved hello to them. As they were leaving, they by our table to say hello. That was it. Several weeks later I was called in for a meeting with Director John Glen, from which I cast in "Licence to Kill."

In "Licence To Kill", Felix has a very brutal and realistic encounter with a shark. Were those scenes tough to shoot?
Yes. It was really gory stuff. A great deal was finally edited out. Too much I imagine for a James Bond flick.

How close were you to/what prevented you from appearing as Felix in "The Man With The Golden Gun" and "A View To A Kill"?
I never thought about either film -- and I didn't pursue them. Perhaps I should have. I never figured out why they cast a different actor as Felix on so many occasions. There must have been a reason. If you find out, let me know!

If you ever stumble across a Bond film on television, do you change channels or watch for a while?
In all my years of television viewing I have never stumbled across a Bond film. But if I had -- and it was my puss on the screen --- well, naturally I'd watch it for a while.

You were injured during shooting of the parachute landing sequence that appears in the pre-titles teaser of "Licence To Kill". Can you tell us a little about that shot with the crane, did it affect the production for you?
We had already completed the shot -- but the director thought we could improve on it. Wrong!

A device was set up and Timothy and I were strapped into these harnesses. Once a button was pushed we'd be literally shot to the ground. I was first. Bam!! I fell to the ground and badly hurt my knees. They stopped everything. Cut. Confusion. I hobbled around for days. Luckily, Timothy was to go second!


Above: Roger Moore, Elliot Gould and David Hedison in "The Naked Face" (1984)

Above: Felix Leiter embraces his wife to be in the pre-titles sequence of "Licence To Kill" (1989)


You also played along side David Hasselhoff and his talking car KITT in "Knight in Retreat." Can you tell us about your part with Ann Turkel in that episode?
I remember being in a hot tub with Ann -- and it was delightful. Such pleasure. I would have done it for free!

You have worked with Roger Moore outside the Bond franchise, in The Saint (as Bill Harvey), North Sea Hijack (as Robert King) & The Naked Face (as Dr. Peter Hadley)!
It was joy working on all of them with that very generous actor and dear friend, Roger Moore. And I might add, with the exception of "Live and Let Die," Roger put in a good word for me on all the other films -- which I got -- and am forever grateful.

Can you tell us a little about your role with the infamous A-Team in the episode "Mind Games"?
All I remember about that was being --- almost --- tossed over a balcony by Mr. T.

Most people remember you as Captain Crane from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. What is the fondest memory you have of your time on that (now) iconic show?
The fondest memory was having the opportunity to work with Richard Basehart for four wonderful years. One hundred and ten episodes.

He was such a brilliant actor, and I learned so much from him. We became such great friends, I love him and I miss him very much.

What are your future plans?
I made a film last year in New York City called "Death by Committee." The title is now "Reality Trap" and it is being shown at the Avignon Film Festival in France, June 16-19. From there it will probably screen at their NY Festival and where it ends up AFTER that, it's hard to say.


Above: Jane Seymour (who played Solitaire in "Live And Let Die") with David Hedison at the "Licence To Kill" premiere.

For more information on David Hedison visit his official website.

Many thanks to Diane Kachmar for arranging for this interview. Images courtesy David Hedison and davidhedison.net