Roger Moore, the actor who wore the movie role of James Bond, fictional British secret agent 007, with great ease, passed away May 23 at the age of 89. Starting with 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” Moore helmed the spy franchise for seven films, longer than any of the other actors who have played the role for Eon Productions.
Moore was the third actor to star as the licensed-to-kill British spy for producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Based on the popular books by Ian Fleming, the movie series began with 1962’s “Dr. No.” Moore, who had previously made films at both MGM and Warner Bros., was the first choice of both Broccoli and Saltzman but was unavailable due to his contract for TV’s “The Saint.”
Scottish actor Sean Connery went on to make film history by starring as the first Bond. For better or worse, Connery’s portrayal set the standard against which all subsequent performances have been judged.
In 1966 a second opportunity for Moore to play agent 007 arose. Connery wanted to leave the role. Producers Broccoli and Saltzman were planning on making “The Man with the Golden Gun.” But, the movie’s Cambodian filming locations became impacted by political unrest. So, Moore continued his work on “The Saint” (he would also provide a cameo voiceover in the 1997 big-screen version of the show), once again postponing the possibility of his portraying Bond.
Connery returned to the role for “You Only Live Twice” followed by Australian model George Lazenby attempting to become the new Bond with 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” But, despite a good first performance, Lazenby didn’t capture the audience’s heart. United Artists insisted Connery return again, which he did for “Diamonds Are Forever,” but he then insisted that was the end of the series for him.
This time Moore was available. Very aware of Connery’s strong impact on the franchise, Moore decided to make subtle changes so his portrayal of Bond would be unique. With the blessings of the producers, “Live and Let Die” screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz increased the number of Bond’s quips and puns. Moore, adept at comedy after his training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (where he was classmates with Lois Maxwell, the Bond series’ “Miss Moneypenny”), smoothly delivered the tongue-in-cheek humor with a twinkle in his eye and trademark raised eyebrow.
When Moore’s Bond to utilize his license-to-kill, the actor was equally adept at action sequences. Moore said he based his Bond’s dramatic scenes on Fleming’s original literary portrayal of a spy who kills when required but derives no satisfaction from the taking of life.
Moore’s Bond films let him interact with a bevy of beautiful “Bond girls.” The list of his leading ladies included: Jane Seymour (“Live and Let Die”); Brit Ekland (“The Man with the Golden Gun”); Barbara Bach (“The Spy Who Loved Me”); Carole Bouquet (“For Your Eyes Only”); and Tanya Roberts (“A View to a Kill”). Actress Maud Adams played two different Bond girls, both times opposite Moore (“The Man with the Golden Gun” and “Octopussy”).
Equally impressive is the list of actors portraying the villains Moore’s Bond had to defeat: Christopher Lee, Ian Fleming’s real life cousin (“The Man with the Golden Gun”); Louis Jourdan (“Octopussy”); Yaphet Kotto (“Live and Let Die”); Curt Jergens (“The Spy Who Loved Me”); and Christopher Walken with Grace Jones (“A View to a Kill”). Moore’s Bond twice faced menace from Richard Kiel as Jaws, a 7’2” henchman with silver teeth and a deadly bite.
After bidding farewell to the role of James Bond in 1985, Moore continued acting and also dedicated time to humanitarian causes. In 1991, he became a Special Representative for UNICEF, the UN’s children’s charity. Actress Audrey Hepburn, who had benefited from the organization’s work after World War II, had become a Special Representative herself and encouraged Moore to become involved, too. His work for UNICEF sent Moore all around the world, much as his filming of the Bond movies previously had.
It was for his charity work that Moore earned his Commander of the British Empire (CBE) honor from Queen Elizabeth in 1999. That was followed by a knighthood in 2003 for his work on behalf of UNICEF, resulting in the title of “Sir.” And, in 2007 he received American recognition with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It didn’t matter which worldwide threat (illegal drugs, nuclear weaponry, space domination, etc.) his Bond had to overcome. Moore always portrayed the agent with style, calm and polish. Unlike Connery, Moore never resented being primarily associated with the role of 007. Within the fraternity of actors who have portrayed the spy for Eon Productions, Moore seemed the most at home as Bond. A possible reason for this might be that his previous acting roles, especially as Simon Templar in TV’s “The Saint,” prepared Moore for the balance of adventure, intrigue, romance and light comedy. (Future Bond Pierce Brosnan benefited in a similar fashion from his time on TV’s “Remington Steele.”)
After Moore’s passing, current Bond Daniel Craig tweeted, “Nobody does it better,” referencing Moore’s favorite movie among the seven he made (“The Spy Who Loved Me”). Actress Adams praised him for his “keen intellect, quick humor and caring for others.” Such admiration reflects genuine respect for Moore and his contributions both on-screen and in real life.