Best known for his iconic role playing James Bond seven times in 007 films such as “Live and Let Die,” Sir Roger Moore has died at the age of 89 after a battle with cancer.
Moore portrayed the epitome of the suave English gentlemen, tossing a quip as easily in a bespoke three-piece suit as he enjoyed an acting career that continued for eight decades.
The Englishman also was suave as another hero, Simon Templar, in the British TV series ‘The Saint.’ “I would have loved to have played a real baddie,” he once said.
Moore, who earlier made his reputation as a suave leading man on the television series Maverick, The Saint and The Persuaders!, died, with a message from his children shared on the actor’s official Twitter account reading: “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer.”
With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated. pic.twitter.com/6dhiA6dnVg
— Sir Roger Moore (Legacy) (@sirrogermoore) May 23, 2017
The statement, from his children, read: “Thank you Pops for being you, and being so very special to so many people.”
Moore had been approached to play the character of James Bond but scheduling conflicts with his television roles meant that he was never available. When Connery had stepped down from the role for good, Moore was asked again and made his first Bond film in 1973, the well-received Live and Let Die. He went onto star in another six films as 007 over a period of 12 years, making him the longest running actor in the role. When he finally retired from the role in 1985, he was 58.
“Being eternally known as Bond has no downside,” Moore told the Guardian. “People often call me ‘Mr Bond’ when we’re out and I don’t mind a bit. Why would I?”
After George Lazenby was one and done as Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Moore took on the guise of Agent 007 in Live and Let Die (1973) and stayed for The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985), which hit theaters when he was nearly 58. He said it was his choice to leave the franchise.
His Bond was more of a charmer than a fighter, more of a stirrer than was the shaker embodied by the first Bond, Scotsman Sean Connery. Moore took on the role with a grain of salt, not to mention cigars — as part of his contract, he reportedly was given unlimited Montecristos during production.
“My personality is entirely different than previous Bonds. I’m not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs,” he once said. Moore’s devilish smile and famously cocked eyebrow made his Bond a more polished, albeit less pugnacious, chap than former bodybuilder Connery’s robust warrior.
After handing over the reins to Timothy Dalton, Moore took a break from the spotlight and didn’t make another film until 1990. From then on, his acting work became sparse, including small roles in Spice World and Boat Trip.
The late Amy Winehouse apparently was a fan. On her song “You Know I’m No Good” from the 2006 album Back to Black, she sings, “By the time I’m out the door, you tear men down like Roger Moore.”
“I probably just rhymed with door,” he once said. “Or she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with Connery.”
Moore played Bond more than any other actor — while bedding a total of 19 beauties, by one count — and his films earned more than $1 billion at the box office. But he considered himself to be the fourth-best 007, trailing Connery, Daniel Craig and Lazenby. And after leaving the series, he acted only sporadically.
Earlier, Moore starred for six seasons as the slick Simon Templar, who makes a living stealing from crooks, in the popular 1962-69 series The Saint, which aired in the U.K. on ITV and in the U.S. on NBC (an international hit, it sold to more than 80 countries.)
In an October 2014 interview, Moore lamented the fact that he pretty much always played the good guy.
“I wasn’t an Albert Finney or a Tom Courtenay,” he said. “I didn’t have their natural talent, I had to work quite hard at acting. My life’s been all right, but people like that get to play wonderful parts. I spent my life playing heroes because I looked like one. Practically everything I’ve been offered didn’t require much beyond looking like me. I would have loved to have played a real baddie.”
Roger George Moore was born on Oct. 14, 1927, in Stockwell, England south of the River Thames in London. An only child, he was evacuated as a teen during World War II to Worthing, Sussex in southern England while his father remained in London, serving as a police constable who sketched crime scenes.
His first job was with Publicity Pictures Production, a film company in London, which specialized in animated cartoons. He worked as a tracer and filler-in, made tea and ran errands. After he was fired, a friend suggested he could make some easy money serving as an extra on Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), then filming outside London.
He played a Roman soldier in a crowd scene in the film that starred Claude Raines and Vivien Leigh, and the experience put his life on a new course. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (with future Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell), and by the end of the first term, he managed to get into a West End production of The Italian Straw Hat.
Moore quickly landed more parts, including a role in another West End Theater production, The Circle of Chalk.
In 1945, Moore was drafted and entered officer training school. He was sent to Germany after winning his commission, commanding a small supply depot. During his tour of duty, he joined the Combined Services Entertainment Unit in Hamburg, doing traveling shows throughout Europe.
Upon his discharge, Moore landed a role in the musical comedy Trotti True (1949) but then experienced a long period of unemployment. During this time, he joined a repertory company, the Intimate Theatre; performed in such plays as Noel Coward’s Easy Virtue; and supported himself as a model for things like knitwear and toothpaste.
After he understudied for David Tomlinson in a West End production of The Little Hut, Moore moved to Hollywood and within days got a role on a 1953 episode of the live NBC anthology series Robert Montgomery Presents.
He played a tennis player who is the object of Elizabeth Taylor’s flirtation in the MGM drama The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), followed by parts in such films as the biopic Interrupted Melody (1955), starring Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford; The King’s Thief (1955), with Ann Blyth and David Niven; Diane (1956) with Lana Turner; and The Miracle (1959), with Carroll Baker.
Moore’s pretty-boy looks and confident manner elicited comparisons to a young Errol Flynn, and he landed his first starring role, portraying the title knight in the U.S.-British swashbuckling TV series Ivanhoe.
He played swindler Silky Harris on the 1959-60 ABC series The Alaskans, and when James Garner quit Maverick in a breach-of-contract dispute, Moore stepped in as cousin Beauregarde “Beau” Maverick, even going so far as to wear the costumes that Garner had left behind. He would later quit the show as well.
Disillusioned with television in the U.S., Moore starred in The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961) with Angie Dickinson and returned to England to make Romulus and the Sabines (1961), an Italian film about the founding of Rome. His co-star was Italian actress Luisa Mattioli, whom he married in 1969, after his divorce from singer Dorothy Squires was finalized. They had three children together before divorcing in 1996.
British media mogul Lew Grade wanted Moore to star as Templar, the character created by author Leslie Charteris and played on the big screen by George Sanders in the 1940s (and by Val Kilmer in a 1997 film). His savoir-faire was perfect for the part, and Moore became an international celebrity.
Grade also signed him to star in the big-screen thrillers Crossplot (1969) and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) — he considered the latter to be his best film — and then approached him with another TV series, The Persuaders!
Moore played English nobleman Lord Brett Sinclair opposite Tony Curtis as rogue New Yorker Danny Wilde, and the mismatched pair solved crimes in exotic locations in the 1971 ITV-ABC series.
Around that time, Moore also served as the European managing director of Brut Productions, the show-business wing of Faberge cosmetic works.
Working around his 007 assignments, Moore appeared in Shout at the Devil (1976) with Lee Marvin, The Wild Geese (1978) with Richard Burton, The Sea Wolves (1980) with Gregory Peck and Niven and The Cannonball Run (1981) with Burt Reynolds.
He also starred in the 1976 NBC movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (Patrick Macnee played Dr. Watson and John Huston was Professor Moriarty).
In 1999, Moore was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, and knighthood followed in 2003. He spent the past several years doing charity work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Survivors include his wife Kristina, whom he married in 2002, and children Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.
“The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone,” read the statement from Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.
“Our thoughts must now turn to supporting Kristina [his wife] at this difficult time.”
It added: “We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement.
After to describe his version of Bond in relation to others, Moore told NPR in November 2014: “I look like a comedic lover, and Sean [Connery] in particular, and Daniel Craig now, they are killers. They look like killers. I wouldn’t like to meet Daniel Craig on a dark night if I’d said anything bad about him.
“George [Lazenby], Timothy [Dalton] and Pierce [Brosnan], we’ve been together, the four of us. But Sean, Sean really was sort of not that enamored of being confused with James Bond all the time. Sean … damn good actor, but he felt that he was only being remembered for Bond. I personally don’t give a damn. I just want to be remembered as somebody who paid his debts.
“During my early acting years I was told that to succeed you needed personality, talent and luck in equal measure,” Moore said to the Guardian in 2014. “I contest that. For me it’s been 99% luck. It’s no good being talented and not being in the right place at the right time.”