With Roger Moore’s new tour about to kick off on Sunday, Tim Mottorshead provides his thoughts on Moore’s previous tour.
When I first heard of Sir Roger Moore’s tour, my initial thought (will he be coming to a venue nearby?) was quickly settled when a search of the actor’s website revealed he was coming to Buxton Opera House. My next thoughts (what will the event consist of?…what will he be like?) had to wait until the evening of the performance. In short the answer to the first question was an overview of his long career; and to the second was that he came across exactly as he does in television interviews: relaxed, charming, open – a natural wit and raconteur.
During the course of the evening it was debatable who had the more fun: unflappable host Gareth Owen (co-author of two books with Moore – the autobiography My Word is my Bond, and Bond on Bond, an insider’s look at the evolvement of the ongoing film franchise) who delighted in reminding the star of points during his long career where events took a sudden and unexpected direction (“You were fired”); or Sir Roger when sending himself up in typically self-depreciating style (“I was fired!”).
It will come as little surprise that Sir Roger’s general approach was tongue-in-cheek, with a penchant for taking questions at face-value. Fairly typical was his answer to what had he done before being an actor?…at the beginning?…“I was a baby”. But when pressed he revealed that career-wise after leaving school at fifteen and a half he had been an animator at a film studio. From here he became a film extra, from whence it was a short step to enrol as a pupil at RADA, where (vastly outnumbered by female students…one of a number of occasions where he gave a wave to his wife Christina) he counted his famous contemporaries as Lois Maxwell, and Yootha Joyce.
We were treated to some hilarious anecdotes about his early experiences in rep, and the vagaries of life in ‘digs’, before hearing of the first of a number of calls from Hollywood. During one of his early films for MGM he was befriended by David Niven – and spoke moving of Niven’s later battle with motor neurone disease. Perhaps the earliest work for which Moore is still widely remembered are the TV series Maverick (yes the very same) and more particularly 39 episodes of Ivanhoe. In the strange way that matters often work out in life, Moore had unsuccessfully tried to acquire the rights to Leslie Charteris’s The Saint only to be offered the role several years later. We heard how Simon Templar came to drive a Volvo (rather than a Jag), and how over the course of 118 episodes during a seven year period, Moore sometimes directed too, and gave the first breaks to budding stars such as Oliver Reed and Donald Sutherland (“not that they ever gave me any work” he quipped).
Moore recalled a favourite film Man Who Haunted Himself (where he was actually allowed to act) before moving onto another series for which he is fondly remembered The Persuaders, which gave him one of a number of opportunities throughout the evening to exercise his talent as uncanny mimic: on this occasion recalling the ‘gloved-hand flourish’ with which Tony Curtis adorned his character of Danny Wilde.
Finally we came to the part for which Roger Moore is best known – James Bond, making seven films over a twelve year period. Amongst the items discussed were his relationship with Desmond Llewellyn, whom he would mercilessly wind up via spoof scripts for Q’s ‘gadget briefings’ to Bond; and the fact playing the world’s most famous secret agent was not always beer and skittles, for which two examples must suffice.
Firstly, the special effects could be genuinely dangerous: witness the occasion where Bond has to remove Mary Goodnight to safety – Roger Moore and Britt Ekland realised something was afoot when they discovered the entire crew were half a mile out to sea! Secondly, he revealed that the love scenes were not all audiences may imagine either: wearing football socks in an attempt to keep warm in a freezing studio first thing on a Monday morning, in bed with a beautiful lady when, glancing up he notices hoards of electricians and carpenters overhead on the gantry, urging Bond to “give ‘er one!”
The stories and exclusive anecdotes were rounded off by a question and answer session, which inevitability brought further Bond reminiscences, and fulsome praise for current incumbent Daniel Craig. He was also asked what film part he would have liked to have played, to which he replied Lawrence of Arabia. He also obliged to a request for “the eyebrow routine”.
Earlier, he had openly acknowledged the role of luck in his career (99% in his estimation). He has entertained millions around the world for years. And he now utilises that popularity to crucial effect – and related his long involvement with UNICEF (initially at Audrey Hepburn’s behest). Without notes, or prompting, he spoke with quiet conviction about the importance of this work and how a contribution as small as 25 pence can literally save the life of a child. Surprisingly, for such a humorous and easy-going gentleman, the highlight of the evening was also the most serious.
Tim Mottershead is a professional pianist, composer, and writer on music, regularly contributing to a number of scholarly journals including TEMPO. As a pianist his repertoire ranges from specialist concerts devoted to individual composers, to lighter programmes, and themed recitals; one of which is a James Bond concert For Your Ears Only.
This article originally appeared on remotegoat.com in November 2013