Classic Bond: Roger Moore cover

Classic Bond: Roger Moore


For an actor who has starred in seven James Bond blockbusters, Roger Moore is famously dismissive about his acting chops.
“I have three expressions,” he likes to say. “Left eyebrow up, left eyebrow down, eyebrows not moving.”

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Classic Bond: Roger Moore

Cookie Crumbs

For an actor who has starred in seven James Bond blockbusters, Roger Moore is famously dismissive about his acting chops.

“I have three expressions,” he likes to say. “Left eyebrow up, left eyebrow down, eyebrows not moving.”

Recalling his years as the big screen’s favorite action hero, he credits successfully staying out of the way of the explosions as one of his greatest achievements.

“The extraordinary thing about me is that everything I play looks like me, sounds like me and is me. It's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm just lucky that a certain percentage of people liked me," he adds.

Roger Moore

Roger Moore

Image by Allen Warren (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Becoming Bond

If all this were true, and few would argue he has a point, then the one-time 1950s knitwear print model – nicknamed “The Big Knit” – certainly made the most of his limited talents.

He was not only the longest serving Bond actor, having spent 12 years in the role from ‘Live and Let Die’ in 1973 through to 1985’s ‘A View to a Kill’, but he was also the oldest 007, making his debut in the role at 45 and finally bowing out when he was 58.

Enjoying Himself

And there was no doubting his popularity.

Moore was voted “Best Bond” in an Academy Awards poll in 2004 and won with 62% of the votes in another survey four years later.

Less intense than Sean Connery’s Bond, quicker with the one-liners and showing off a casual insouciance towards women that is politically incorrect to many modern viewers, he played the debonair playboy spy for all it was worth.

Unlike Connery, he also looked like he was enjoying himself.

The son of a London bobby, Moore was born on October 14, 1927 in Stockwell, south of the River Thames, the only child of George and Lily, who was a housewife.

His Beginnings

Two terms at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London initially helped him to little more than some toothpaste and knitwear ads and a bit part at 17 in ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ in 1945.

"I remember my first experience in repertory. The director said to me, 'You're not very good... smile when you come on,’” he said, as self-deprecating as ever about his acting abilities.

But in 1954 he got what he thought was his big break – a coveted seven-year studio contract with MGM.

Roger Moore as 'Maverick'

Roger Moore as 'Maverick'

Public Domain

Small Screen

The films that followed were flops in which Moore was billed way down the pecking order.

He appeared in ‘Interrupted Melody’ with Glenn Ford and Eleanor Parker and ‘The King’s Thief’ with David Niven and George Sanders.

“At MGM, RGM (Roger George Moore) was NBG (No Bloody Good),” he said later. He lasted just two years in Hollywood before being axed by the studio and deciding to scale down his ambitions with an attempt to make his name on TV.

It was on the small screen that Moore’s career began to get some traction and lay the groundwork for his success as Bond.

Building His Bond Persona

He was the eponymous hero, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, in the 1958-59 series ‘Ivanhoe.’

There was a short stint as James Garner’s successor in ‘Maverick’ in 1960-61 before his career-making role as the rakish Simon Templar in a British TV adaptation of ‘The Saint.’

The series, which ran for six seasons between 1962 and 1969, established the suave, quipping style that Moore would carry through to his Bond persona.

The Successor

With his star in the ascendance, Moore was twice offered Bond while on ‘The Saint’ but had to turn it down because of contractual obligations.

He was lured back to TV with an offer in the region of $1.5 million-an-episode – making him the highest paid TV star in the world – to star as Lord Brett Sinclair opposite Tony Curtis in ‘The Persuaders’, a comedy thriller about the antics of two millionaires flitting around Europe.

With ‘The Persuaders’ ending its short run in 1972, Moore finally found himself available to play Bond just as producer Cubby Broccoli was looking for a replacement for the critically-maimed George Lazenby, the successor to Connery in 1969’s ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, his one and only Bond film.

Roger Moore on Set

Roger Moore on Set

Image by Blair Stirrett (CC BY 2.0)

The Big Bang

Moore had to cut his hair and lose some weight, but essentially Simon Templar became James Bond for a lucrative run through the seventies and early eighties.

After ‘Live and Let Die’ came ‘Then Man With the Golden Gun’ (1974), ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), ‘Moonraker’ (1979), ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981), ‘Octopussy’ (1983) and finally ‘A View to a Kill.’

Ever resourceful, Moore's Bond evaded his enemies by hopping across the backs of alligators or converting an automobile into an underwater ship to evade attackers. If the plots got increasingly unlikely, Moore was always there with a one-liner, a gorgeous woman inevitably by his side, to bring us back down to earth with, we may assume, a bang.

Very Different To Real Life

Unlike Connery, he was quite happy not to do his own daredevil stunts but became “very, very good at getting people to look like me".

He admits his portrayals of Templar and Bond were similar, admitting: “I was a little older in Bond. And I tried to be different. But it involved acting, unfortunately!”

While Moore’s onscreen dalliances with a bevvy of beauties didn’t appear to ruffle anything but the occasional eyebrow, it was a very different story in real life where three of his four marriages did not end well.

‘The Saint’

Public Domain

‘The Saint’

Publicity photo from the television program The Saint. Pictured are Roger Moore and Earl Green.

Tough Love

According to The Telegraph:

his first wife, the ice skater Doorn Van Steyn he married at 19, threw a pot of tea at him, wife number two, singer Dorothy Squires, smashed a guitar over his head and the third, Luisa, the mother of his three children, Geoffrey, Deborah and Christian, won more than $15 million in a messy divorce.

It was especially hard for Moore to extricate himself from his marriage to Squires, who was 13 years his senior. On once occasion, she reportedly threw a brick through his window and then cut her arm as she reached through to grab his shirt. “The police came and they said, 'Madam, you're bleeding' and she said, 'It's my heart that's bleeding'" Moore said later.

A New Start

He left Luisa, reportedly by phone call, after 38 years together after surviving prostate cancer in 1993 and taking stock of his life.

A few weeks after the divorce was finalized, he wed Kristina, his current wife, a former neighbor and close friend of the family. The couple, who have now been together more than two decades, live between homes in Monaco and Switzerland and Moore focuses on his charity work for UNICEF, for which he was knighted by the Queen in 2003.

Roger Moore, 2015

Roger Moore, 2015

Image by Ibsan73 (CC BY 2.0)

Finding The One

"My joke is that I should know a good deal about marriage having done it four times. But I still know damn all,” he says.

He may have finally found the right woman in real life, but what about all those Bond girls.

"Well, it would be ungentlemanly to say which I liked best, because that would leave the others thinking, 'What was wrong with me?' But I did especially like Maud Adams, who worked on two of the films, ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and ‘Octopussy’, and played a different character in each. What did I like about her? Well, she was always on time, knew her lines, liked to do her own hair and make-up. Just a lovely, normal person, although extremely beautiful. We remained friends afterwards."

Recalling His Bond Memories

But he doesn’t have particularly fond memories of the famous Bond love scenes.

"There wasn't much romance about it,” he recalled in a recent interview. “You'd often be shooting on a cold Monday morning and have to keep your socks on under the sheets. There'd be a crew of sparks looking on - and that's not terribly romantic, either."

After drawing a close on his Bond career, Moore didn’t act onscreen for more than five years and has focused more on his humanitarian work in the years since, officially announcing his retirement in 2009.

Looking Back

In 2003, he had a pacemaker fitted after collapsing on stage during a Broadway show and he has since struggled with poor health.

Diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2013, he can no longer drink martinis, shaken or stirred, and looks back with fondness on his days as Bond while accepting he’s a louche anachronism in today’s world.

"I think he would be looked at with pity, and considered an ignorant so-and-so," he says now.

The he raised that eyebrow, the left one, and you knew that even in his eighties, Roger Moore still has what it takes to make women swoon as James Bond.