The Scottish actor’s James Bond co-star was Pedro Armendáriz, who played Ali Kerim Bey, the head of MI6 Station T in Istanbul. Sadly, the Mexican actor, who has a substantial role in the movie, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Back in 1956, he had had a part in John Wayne’s Genghis Khan flop, The Conqueror, which was filming in Utah while the US government were conducting atmospheric nuclear testing one state over in Nevada.
Tragically, within 25 years of the production, 91 out of the 220 working on the movie developed cancer, 46 of whom died from it. A few year later, Pedro developed neck cancer at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, which was diagnosed as inoperable. Nevertheless, the Mexican actor was determined to get as much of his role in From Russia with Love completed as soon as possible despite his pain, to provide financial security for his wife. The Sean Connery James Bond movie’s Istanbul shoot was soon shut down and moved to Britain, with Pedro’s scenes moved forward so he could complete as much as possible while physically still able to.
When it reached the point where he could no longer work, Pedro had a stunt double and even director Terence Young would stand in for him in the last two months of production. Unable to carry on and with just weeks of his life remaining, the Bond actor headed to a hospital near his home. There, the Mexican actor smuggled a gun in and died by suicide on June 18, 1963 at the age of 51.
Following Pedro’s sudden loss, From Russia with Love had to have uncredited rewrites by Berkely Mather during filming. Peter Hunt began editing the movie despite the shoot being behind schedule and over-budget in an effort to meet the already premiere date. He helped restructure the Connery Bond movie’s opening scenes with one suggestion by Young.
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This led to a 007 film tradition to this day, when Red Grant’s training sequence would be shifted to before the opening titles sequence. Interestingly, Pedro Armendáriz Jr ended up playing President Hector Lopez in Timothy Dalton’s second Bond movie, 1989’s Licence to Kill. Pedro Jr went on to feature in blockbusters like Amistad, The Mask of Zorro and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Sadly, he too was diagnosed with cancer in November 2011 and died a month later at the age of 71. He is buried by his father at Panteón Jardin in Mexico City.
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