Contributed by: The James Bond Movie Encyclopedia by Steven Jay Rubin

(October 14, 1927–May 23, 2017): Dashing British actor who won the part of James Bond in Live and Let Die in 1973, and started his own dynasty that would last twelve years and seven films. Producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had first considered Moore during their initial 007 casting search back in 1962, but he was considered too much of a “pretty boy” to play Bond.[1] He was also portraying The Saint on television and was thus unavailable to Eon Productions.

When Sean Connery left the Bond series after Diamonds Are Forever, the producers returned to Moore, and this time he was available and perfect for the role and the direction the series was now taking. The Moore years took a fantastical approach to the original Fleming stories, embracing globe-trotting adventure, tongue-in-cheek action, and witty repartee. Gone was the cruel sensuality of Connery epitomized by Dr. No and From Russia with Love. Moore was hardly the aristocratic snob that some critics claimed, but he did bring a more outwardly self-assured, confident, and polished take on 007.

As screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz, who would be involved in writing two of the Moore films, put it, “When Sean Connery walked into a bar, your immediate feeling was ‘Uh oh, there’s going to be trouble.’ Sean can look like a bastard, especially when he’s angry. Roger, on the other hand, looks like your typical nice-guy secret agent. There is no way that he can look evil. He is much more the Etonian dropout that Fleming once conjured, and in the Moore Bond films, we had to play to those strengths. While Sean could just look at somebody and they would back away, Roger has to come on with a line like ‘Excuse me, haven’t we met?’

“Sean, of course, could just be nasty and the audience loved him for it. He could sit at a table with a girl, and he could lean over the table and kiss her and then stick a knife into her under the table, saying to a nearby waiter, ‘Excuse me, but I have nothing with which to cut my meat,’ and the audience would go along with it. They would take that from Sean because he had that glint in his eye—that touch of the lorry driver in him—even though he was always the quintessential good guy inside. Audiences wouldn’t take that kind of stunt from Roger.

“Roger, however, can have much more fun in a sophisticated setting. For instance, in the original script for The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger was pretending to be an ornithologist—which is really a conceit, because James Bond is named after an ornithologist. So Bond is at this party in Bangkok, and an ambassador comments to him, ‘I understand you’re doing a book on ornithology,’ to which Roger replies, “Yes, sir,” and the man asks, ‘What is it called?” and Roger looks at the ambassador’s beautiful wife, a Thai girl, and replies, ‘Birds of the Far East.’

“Now, Roger can say ‘Birds of the Far East’ in a much more refined way than Sean ever could. Roger is a good comedian, and he can play direct comedy much better than Sean. Sean’s strong point was not playing comedy at all. If he had played the comedy in the Bond films, it would have looked phony.”[2]

One of Moore’s first scenes is a perfect example of the new order described by Mankiewicz. In Live and Let Die, Bond tracks Kananga (Yaphet Kotto) to a nightclub in Harlem, where 007 is easily disarmed and captured by his enemies. He politely introduces himself to Solitaire (Jane Seymour), and they engage in a stoic repartee until local drug kingpin Mr. Big, who, unbeknownst to Bond, is Kananga in disguise, marks him for execution. Outside the club, Bond manages to distract and disable his two executioners, and he makes it out of Harlem with the help of Strutter (Lon Satton), a resourceful CIA man.

Given the same set of circumstances, Sean Connery’s Bond would have probably approached the nightclub after dark, when he could camouflage his intentions more easily. Inside the club, he would have punched out a few people before surrendering to Mr. Big’s minions. The introduction to Solitaire would have been less polite, and Bond wouldn’t have responded so casually to the prospect of execution.

Critics and fans generally agree that Roger Moore grew into the James Bond role by his third go-around, in The Spy Who Loved Me. There is no question that the film was a cut above his previous two efforts; it even contained some subtle dramatic moments that surprised both the fans and the critics. The most impressive of these is the scene between Bond and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach) in a Sardinian hotel suite, in which Anya learns that 007 has recently been to Berngarten in Austria, where her lover, a Russian agent, was killed. She shows him a picture of her lover, whom Bond doesn’t recognize, but when Anya says that he was killed while on a mission, Bond confesses that he probably killed him. Anya turns cold and informs Bond that when their mission is over, she will kill him. It is one of Roger Moore’s best scenes in the series, warmly reminiscent of the early Connery Bonds, when drama was ever present, even amid the fun. Director Lewis Gilbert later agreed that Moore had taken his character to a new level of honesty.

But what moviegoers responded to above all else was Moore’s pure likability. The post-Vietnam, post-Watergate audience was looking for escapist fun, and nothing provided more of it than his Bond adventures. They won the series millions of new fans and turned Moore into an internationally famous movie star. Prior to the arrival of a new generation of science fiction and fantasy heroes in the late 1970s—in films like Superman, Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Alien—Roger Moore’s 007 was probably the most popular pop hero on the planet. And throughout the early 1980s, he maintained that status in the face of increasing competition. His retirement in 1985, after the release of his seventh film, A View to a Kill, was due primarily to age; producers thought it was time to enliven the series with a fresh face.

A London native, Roger Moore made his credited big-screen debut as a bon vivant tennis player opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson in the romantic drama The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954). However, it was on the small screen that Moore found increasing traction, first as the title character in the British series Ivanhoe (39 episodes, 1958–1959), then as Silky Harris in The Alaskans (37 episodes, 1959–1960) and Beau Maverick in Maverick (16 episodes, 1959–1961). And then came The Saint (118 episodes, 1962–1969), which brought him his first international acclaim as wealthy adventurer Simon Templar—what turned out to be the perfect training ground for future Bond duty. His final series before Bond came calling was The Persuaders! (24 episodes, 1971–1972), in which Moore’s English nobleman, Lord Brett Sinclair, teamed up with Tony Curtis’s Bronx-born self-made man Danny Wilde.

[1] Albert R. Broccoli, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, Los Angeles, April 10, 1977.

[2] Tom Mankiewicz, interview by Steven Jay Rubin, Los Angeles, November 7, 1977.


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