He was television's "Saint" but will always be known as the tongue-in-cheek version of James Bond
Roger Moore, the actor who holds the record for longest run as Ian Fleming’s superspy, “James Bond” has died in Switzerland at the age of 89. His family announced his passing on May 23rd.
Born in Stockwell London in 1927, Roger Moore attended several colleges but never graduated. He was drafted into the Royal Army Service Corps and rose to the rank of Captain. After he left the military he began working as a model, notable for knitwear and toothpaste.
In 1954 he signed a seven year contract with MGM but the studio released him just two years later. During that time he made three films for the studio, none of which enjoyed any success. After his release he worked in television, mostly in one-off guest roles.
In an ironic twist, he won the part of “Beau Maverick” in the television series “Maverick” starring James Garner. The irony comes from the fact he got the role after Sean Connery went to the U.S. for a screen test and didn’t get the job. He did 14 episodes as the English cousin of the title character.
Fame finally found Moore in his next television gig, as “Simon Templar” in “The Saint.” He actually tried to purchase the rights to the Saint novels written by Leslie Charteris but was unsuccessful. However he was more than pleased to be cast in the role of Simon Templar. The show ran for six seasons and made him a star all over the world. The series was broadcast in more than 60 countries.
When Eon (a play on Everything Or Nothing) Productions began casting the initial James Bond film, Dr. No, Roger Moore wasn’t on their radar. He was committed to television projects. In his 2008 autobiography, Moore said that he was never approached about Dr. No nor did he feel he was even considered. Five years later, when Sean Connery quit the role (and did not speak to Cubby Broccoli for an extended period after leaving the franchise), Moore was still not in the mix of those considered for the part. But after one film (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) with George Lazenby in the part and Connery’s final Eon Bond film (Diamonds are Forever), Moore was offered the role.
Live and Let Die in 1973 was Moore’s debut as the dapper 007 and it was a smash hit at the box office. He would go on to make six more Bond films; The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and his final turn as Bond, A View to a Kill.
He said that he decided to stop portraying James Bond when he was introduced to the mother of Tanya Roberts, the main Bond Girl in A View to a Kill and learned he was older than the mother of Ms Roberts. However there are rumors that Cubby Broccoli had already decided that Roger Moore was too long in the tooth for another outing as Bond.
He made other films during his dozen years as 007 including Gold, Shout at the Devil and The Wild Geese during the years 1974 through 1978. All three were shot in South Africa, causing criticism of Moore for working there during the era of Apartheid. The cast of The Wild Geese included such notables as Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Hardy Kruger and Stewart Granger. Of Granger, Moore remarked, “I must admit I was in total awe of Stewart Granger. He is my idol.”
In 1979 he tried to escape having been typecast as Bond by playing “Rufus Excalibur ffolkes” in the movie North Sea Hijack (that’s the UK title, in the US it was released as ffolkes). The misogynistic counter-terrorism expert who loved cats and hated just about everyone else was as far from James Bond as one could get, but the movie was a bomb at the box office and with critics. In 1981’s Cannonball Run he played Seymour Goldfarb, Jr., heir to a fortune made in making girdles. Goldfarb is to obsessed with the actor Roger Moore he had plastic surgery to closely resemble the actor, and in the race drives a gadget-equipped Aston-Martin DB5 (the classic Bond vehicle).
He took an extended break from movies after making his final Bond film but came back in the 1990s in Bed and Breakfast, The Quest and 1997’s Spice World. His work in Spice World put him in competition with Sean Connery again, as both were nominated for a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie that year. Connery was nominated for his work in The Avengers but both of the former Bonds lost to famed screenwriter Joe Eszterhas who played himself in An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn.
Roger Moore never stopped working and was doing/slated to do voice work in more than one production that is currently filming. In 1978 he became a tax exile, moving from the United Kingdom to Switzerland, ultimately becoming a resident of Monaco. In 1991 he became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He was married four times, the last time to his widow Kristina Tholstrup.
RIP Sir Moore.