Roger Moore dead at 89: We've lost not just the suavest James Bond, but also a great actor
Roger Moore was the oldest to play Bond, the longest serving Bond and twice voted ‘Best Bond'
By the time Sir Roger Moore signed on to play James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973) he was already 45 and in fact, three years older than Sean Connery, who had given up being Bond. For the man who for some reason was always seen as the ‘second’ James Bond, there were many firsts attached with Sir Roger Moore. He was the oldest to play Bond, the longest serving Bond (twelve years and seven films) and although one would think of him as the perpetual second favourite Bond on everybody’s list, he was twice voted ‘Best Bond'. Roger Moore, who died on 23 May, 2017 from cancer, was just a few months short of turning 90 and was famous for being all things James Bond (suave, charming) and also nothing like him (least physical whom screenwriters had to give witty one-liners).
In a pre-Internet era, rumours concerning film stars were of a different league. Moore was such a natural fit to be James Bond that it was often believed that it was him and not Sean Connery, who was the first choice to play the agent with a license to kill. Perhaps it might have to do with the fact that Moore was already playing Simon Templar in the television series The Saint (1962-69) that fetched him worldwide recognition. Moore even commented that this was a role that was originally envisioned with Sean Connery, but as Connery was unavailable, it fell in his lap. Moore then teamed up with Tony Curtis for The Persuaders (1971-72) and these long-running television commitments probably kept the producers of James Bond at bay even, though Moore seemed like a natural to play the spy. Moore’s brilliant timing and his finesse at playing Simon Templar were some of the traits that he got to Bond and in the films that he portrayed Bond, the character was more dependent on gadgets and smooth talk than physical strength.
Irrespective of whom you prefer as Bond the most, Moore’s Bond films are closest to what define the perfect Bond film for most. Take for instance the brilliant opening sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) where Bond is skiing and jumps off to the ultimate reveal with the Union Jack parachute; Moore often spoke about the hearing the audience gasp the first time they saw it and thought that image also set the Bond template that always had the same reaction irrespective of the country or the language a Bond film played in. Lazenby as a married Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) was the first-ever attempt to infuse realism in a James Bond but it was Moore’s Live and Let Die (1973) and later For Your Eyes Only (1981) where one sees Bond in a very real world. In the former, there is an African-American CIA agent (Gloria Hendry), something that was inevitable following the onslaught of Blaxploitation films such as Shaft (1971) and Superfly (1972) and the former had Bond tracking a missile defense system that was the hot topic in the early 1980s. This along with the fact that Moore as Bond visited India in Octopussy (1983) made him the first brush with Bond for thousands of Indians who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, you loved Connery and of course, Pierce Brosnan was a good replacement and Daniel Craig could now be the ultimate Bond (something that even Roger Moore believed) but Moore was Bond and for the longest time it remained that way.
By the time Moore retired as James Bond he was 58, an age where an actor, any actor playing Bond would be unimaginable today. If Connery often lamented that playing Bond destroyed his life, Moore never openly said any such thing. On the contrary, Moore used his public persona as Bond to serve as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a job he was initiated into by the late Audrey Hepburn, who was a friend. Unlike Connery, Moore even suggested three replacements – two of whom Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan even ended up filling his shoes – and wanted to play a Bond villain. Moore once famously said that he enjoyed being a highly overpaid actor and act he did! How else do you explain a man who was a hypochondriac and hated heights, guns or explosions still be Bond, James Bond? To this, Roger Moore simply said, “Ah, well that’s where the acting comes in you see! I look incredibly brave, but I’m very, very good at getting people to look like me.”
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