If you must like James Bond films, then you can do no better than enjoying the Bond films staring Sir Roger Moore (born 1927). Though the Moore films are nothing like the Bond novels of Ian Fleming (1908-1964), they have qualities that appeal greatly to your correspondent. Moore’s Bond films are light entertainments, with a leading man who really gets the joke.
Few premises are more ridiculous than a world famous secret agent, and Moore’s Bond travels (often to some of the most exotic or glamorous places on the globe) with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. More than any other actor to inhabit the role, Moore was the complete Gentleman Hero – he lacked the cruelty of Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, the crudity of Timothy Dalton and the nouveau riche affectations of Pierce Brosnan, but he was always accessible and amusing. In an era when we must suffer through Batman movies that take themselves “seriously” (perhaps one of the most telling indications of our cultural and intellectual rot), Moore’s trifles are a welcome balm indeed.
These thoughts flittered through my mind last week when I had the great pleasure of attending a question and answer session with legendary actor last Thursday at New York’s Player’s Club. The event was presented under the auspices of the Hudson Union Society, with Moore in a discussion about his history as Bond during this, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the James Bond film series.
To those of us who grew up with Moore’s Bond pictures, it comes as something as a shock to realize that Moore is now 85 years old. Though visibly slowed by age, Moore took the stage with a glass of wine and answered interview questions and queries from the audience for more than an hour before stopping to meet every attendee and sign copies of his new book, Bond on Bond. Many of us then retired to the bar.
Sipping his wine, Moore said, “I don’t have a drinking problem: I can always find liquor” and the evening was off and running. When asked which was his favorite Bond film, Moore told the audience it was the current release, Skyfall. Then, under his breath, he murmured, “they paid me to say that.”
Moore’s self-decrepitating humor never failed him. Commenting on the extremely muscular turn of Daniel Craig – noted especially for gratuitous shots on the beach and in bathing trunks, the octogenarian hero said, “they wanted me for those scenes, but I was busy that day.”
Moore told wonderful stories of Hervé Villechaize (1943 – 1993), whom he playfully described as a “sex maniac” who slept with over 54 women during the making of The Man With the Golden Gun. “But,” Moore says, “I told him it doesn’t count if you pay for it.” He also remembered his years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where, “I learned more about sex than about acting.”
Moore told stories about his turn as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes in New York (“John Huston played Moriarty and said he couldn’t remember his lines, so the art department made the most beautiful idiot cards you had ever seen – all done by hand in calligraphy. And the bugger was letter perfect when he showed up: he never needed them”); about his inability to ski (“my children would tell me to stay home whenever they had field trips – I was an embarrassment to them”); and expressed his disdain for pop has-been Grace Jones (“next question”). And watching the audience laugh along with him, I thought it was a shame that Moore became such a bankable leading man when his greatest talents were as a light comedian.
Moore stated that his one unfilled dream was to play the villain in a Bond film – they often have the best dialog and work many fewer days. I believe that ship has sailed, but it would’ve been a wonderful coda to an amusing – and amused – career.