Mention the name James Bond to anyone. What do they think of? The danger of Sir Sean Connery? The gadgets, girls and guns? The hunky Daniel Craig? Quite possibly, but in a few seconds they will think about memorable villains who one actor faced, a classic opening theme who one actor entered to, lots of eye-rolling puns that one actor made iconic and a charming British persona that was, and still is, unmatched.
This one actor blended so much classic iconography into the role of James Bond that, favourite or not, he became quite possible the defining face of Britain’s number one spy; Sir Roger Moore.
Sir Roger, the beloved actor who played James Bond for 7 years, has sadly passed away after a brave battle with cancer. It is my honour to write a short piece on the man we knew and loved both on and off screen.
Born in 1927 and following a wonderfully ordinary childhood, Roger George Moore wanted to be an actor from a very early age, but his dreams were cut short with national service as the Second World War hit, and National Service loomed. It was only after the war did Roger study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, learning much and meeting many faces who would shape and influence his career.
After graduation and working as male model and taking extra television work when he could, Roger didn’t hit the big-time. Even with his dashing good looks and British charm, not even a film contract with MGM IN 1954 helped boost his name, with a few small roles here and there. Nor did a move to Warner Brothers in 1959. Roger Moore was, effectively, a nobody.
Turning his attention to the small screen back to his home country of England, what better role could fit this aforementioned handsome, charming man than Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in ‘Ivanhoe’, an adaptation of the 1819 romance novel in in the 12th century. That was when the small-screen called. Following ‘Ivanhoe’, Roger followed suit with ‘The Alaskans’ and later ‘Maverick’, both American westerns.
From these roles that helped expand his quality at acting, screen presence and passion for the industry, another TV show came along. ‘The Saint’. In 1962 (when a little film called ‘Dr.No’ was released introducing the world to James Bond), Roger Moore was launched internationally as a household name in playing the suave, womanising, cunning and dangerous Simon Templar for 7 years.
Following that, a newly married (for the 3rd time!) Roger starred in ‘The Persuaders!’ from 1971 to 1973 alongside Tony Curtis as a couple of millionaire playboys who got into all sorts of adventures. It was also in 1971 that Sean Connery stepped down for the final time as James Bond, leaving the door wide open for a new actor to take on the role as the suave, sophisticated secret agent.
Free from his television contracts, Roger, the most famous Brit on TV at that time, was signed by Bond producers Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to appear as 007 in 1973s ‘Live And Let Die’. Nothing was ever the same again. Not even the everyday raise of the eyebrow.
Spanning twelve years from 1973 to 1985 and covering 7 movies, Roger Moore became, and still is, the longest serving James Bond actor, and also the oldest, aged 43 in his debut and 58 in his finale. Not one to shy from work he loved, Roger starred in many dramas and action films during his Bond era that shaped him as an actor to bring charm, humour, excitement and action to his roles, such as ‘The Wild Geese’, ‘The Cannonball Run’ and ‘Gold’.
Roger was a very different Bond from Sean Connery, and has never been matched. He brought warmth and humour to the role, but was never afraid to show a dangerous side to his spy. He was the “family friendly” Bond that appealed to all generations and helped Bond gain many new followers and fans. He was also part of some iconic Bond moments that are memorable 40 years on. From the villains he faced, to the gadgets he used, the cars he drove and the one-liners he purred out, Roger Moore gave us a 007 like never before.
Following his finale of ‘A View To A Kill’ in 1985 as Roger hung up his Walther PPK, he took a deserved break from acting until 1990 when he started a quieter career in select films, television work and even pantomimes, injecting that trademark self-parody and passion to any role he took on as actor or presenter.
But it wasn’t just acting that Roger took on. In 1991 he was inspired by good friend Audrey Hepburn and became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. It was the continued acting and charity work that led to Roger becoming a ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE) in 1999 followed by a ‘Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (KBE) in 2003 to take the title “Sir”. He also met his fourth wife, Kristina Tholstrup in 2002 whom he was with until the end, but not before suffering a tragedy in 2016 when they lost their daughter, Christina, 47, to cancer.
Roger continued to work in voice-over and adverts from 2009 onwards, as well as his dedicated charity work. He also continued to be the unofficial ambassador for James Bond 20 years after he parted the role. From stage shows to talk about his life, promoting new 007 merchandise and writing books on his life and career, Roger never stopped, and nor did his passion for his work, his family and his fans.
Suave, sophisticated and not remotely serious, which is why we loved him and will continue to love him, thanks to his legacy on and off screen.
Thank you, Sir Roger. Thank you for keeping the British end up.
Sir Roger Moore, 1927 – 2017.