Read an exclusive extract from The Many Lives of James Bond featuring Roger Moore
Roger Moore opens up about playing the iconic spy in Mark Edlitz's in-depth exploration of the character.
We still don't know who will be the next James Bond following the release of Daniel Craig's last film as the suave super spy, No Time to Die, but that doesn't mean we can't reminisce about his previous incarnations – and what makes the character so great after all these years.
That's exactly what writer Mark Edlitz's book The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy is all about.
Not only does it celebrate the MI5 agent, but it also features plenty of insight and interviews with the actors who brought him to life, including Roger Moore, who played the spy in seven of Bond's big-screen adventures.
Read on for an extract from the book – exclusive to RadioTimes.com – which features Edlitz's recollection of an encounter with Moore, as well as a Q&A with the actor himself.
Talking to Roger Moore when he’s wearing a tuxedo is like trying to hold a conversation with Leonard Nimoy when he’s wearing Spock ears. Your rational mind knows you’re talking with an actor but your fan instinct can almost trick you into thinking that you’re talking to the real James Bond.
Moore and I met at a gala dinner where he was invited to talk about his work for UNICEF, a charity that provides aid to needy children. Moore became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, and from 1991 until his death in 2017, he traveled the world meeting ill and impoverished children and raising money and awareness for the organization.
At the gala, diners listened politely as Moore spoke about his ties to the charity. However, I suspect that many of them, like me, were there less to see and admire Roger Moore the philanthropist than to rub shoulders with James Bond. After Moore’s speech, the moderator opened the floor to questions. Moore responded to all of them knowledgeably and passionately, but it wasn’t until I asked Moore about his work as the superspy that the gathering turn festive. Moore knew his audience wanted him to acknowledge his onscreen counterpart, and he did not disappoint.
Prompted by my question, Moore self-effacingly explained his version of how he was cast in the role that earned him international stardom. “Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, the producers, and I used to gamble. They owed me a lot of money. They thought it would be cheaper to put me in a movie.”
Moore talked about taking over the role of Bond from Connery. He said, “People would ask, ‘Aren’t you nervous about taking over for Sean Connery?’ And I’d respond, ‘No, not really. There have been four thousand actors who have played Hamlet, and this certainly ain’t Hamlet.’ There’s not much to say in the role apart from, ‘My name is Bond.’” It could be argued that Connery was so successful and beloved as Bond that only an actor of great confidence could assume the mantle. Moore’s bravado and fearlessness were not unlike Bond’s. Furthermore, Roger Moore was suave, erudite, and witty—words that have been used to describe James Bond himself.
Later on, Moore admitted to having a few trepidations in taking over the part that Connery seemed to define indelibly. “I did get nervous when I was on my way to London for the first screening of Live and Let Die. I felt like I was in a delivery room
waiting to have a baby. The baby’s going to come out and that’s it! There’s nothing you could do about it.”
Moore’s fear about following Connery, at least the one that he’d admit to, manifested itself in a most unlikely way—in Bond’s drink of choice. Fearing that he could not order a “martini, shaken not stirred” without a Scottish burr, Moore’s Bond never orders his preferred beverage. “I never ever said that in any of my Bond movies. But every waiter, every barman in the world knew that I wanted a martini shaken, not stirred.”
Although there is deservedly much discussion about how suave and funny you were as Bond, you were also good at making him coldblooded and lethal. How did you approach those scenes?
Well, if you read the internet blogs, they agree I was funny, but they’re not so sure I was suave and certainly don’t regard me as having been cold-blooded. There was one scene in For Your Eyes Only where I had to be rather cold-blooded in killing a villain. They say that scene changed the series tone for my films, but I wasn’t comfortable with it, if truth be known. I was rather cold-blooded and mercenary on Fridays, though. That’s the day I received my paychecks.
What do you think are the most significant ways the character of Bond has changed?
He has had six different faces! Each Bond is right for that generation. I’m sure my Bond wouldn’t work today; just as Daniel Craig’s 007 probably wouldn’t have worked for 1970s audiences. The producers move and adapt with the times. They are very clever.
Over the course of your seven Bond films, you experimented with different approaches to the part, from the tongue-in-cheek to the more realistic. What is your favourite approach?
I never really enjoyed the hard, gritty side of Bond. I much preferred being a lover and being a giggler.
Were there any moments in the Bond films that made you uncomfortable?
As I say, my Bond was a lover and giggler. I didn’t think he should hit a woman [as he does in The Man with the Golden Gun] nor kill a man in cold blood. The storyline called for it, I know, but I personally don’t feel comfortable with those types of
In the full interview, Moore provides an assessment of all other Bonds and elaborates on his approach to playing the secret agent. In other chapters of The Many Lives of James Bond, Mark Edlitz interviews key filmmakers and creators who reveal the inner workings of making a new Bond adventure.
The Many Lives of James Bond by Mark Edlitz is available from Amazon and it includes interviews with Bond directors, screenwriters, novelists, lyricists, game designers, and actors who have played 007 in different media. The Many Lives of James Bond features the largest collection of interviews with actors who have played Bond.