He has played one of the most suave, sophisticated heroes of the silver screen. Actor Sir Roger Moore was James Bond for a generation of moviegoers from “Live and Let Die” to “A View to a Kill” (1973-85). Following in his friend Sean Connery’s footsteps had its perils, but the blond, blue-eyed actor never shied away from an opportunity. No stranger to television either, he starred in two popular British television series, “Ivanhoe” and “The Saint.”
I read that you started your career modeling and doing commercials.
No, I didn’t start out doing modeling and commercials. I started out as an animator and diagram artist. Then by chance I became an actor. I then went to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and did a couple of plays in London. Then I had to go into the army. When I came out I sort of scratched a living as a struggling young actor.
I had a friend who was a photographer who said, “Would you like a few pounds doing photographic modeling?” So I did a few of those. It kept the wolf from the door. I just worked throughout my life.
Did your parents live long enough to enjoy your success and fame?
Yes. Sadly they weren’t alive when I was knighted, but I think the success I had at the time gave them satisfaction. I know my mother stopped saying, “Why don’t you get yourself a regular job?”
Do you count yourself lucky?
Yes, very lucky. Very lucky indeed to keep working.
After playing the handsome leading man for so much of your career, what was it like to transition to the grandfather role?
This [“A Princess for Christmas] is the first time I’ve played a grandfather. [laughing] It should have come easy to me because I am a grandfather. [The cast] were all very, very nice and all very talented. But I was only shooting for one week. Unfortunately on the penultimate night of shooting, I tripped over a table in the house where we were shooting. Three rather large guys made a grab to hold me and fell on top of me. One of them crushed my ankle rather badly. I still suffer a bit with this swollen foot. So the last day of shooting I was in a wheelchair. I got out and stood up to do close-ups and sat down again. So I imagine I looked rather pained.
Well, that got you right into the role, didn’t it?
Was playing James Bond a goal in your career or just one of those lucky accidents?
Well, I suppose really it was an accident. When they were looking for a Bond in the beginning, they told me that I was on the short list, but I was already shooting “The Saint” series.
I subsequently met Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman because we shared an addiction for gambling. We used to sit at the same table and play roulette, and we became friends. After about the third or fourth Bond of Sean’s [Connery], they approached me about doing Bond. I had finished doing “The Saint,” and I hadn’t started doing “The Persuaders” with Tony Curtis.
The film they were going to do was going to be shot in Cambodia. Unfortunately, all hell broke lose in Cambodia at that time, so they had to scrap the film. Then Sean came back and George Lazenby did one because I was tied up, and then Sean came back for one last one. Then it was me. Cubby and Harry called me and wanted me to do it. I suppose it was always in the cards because I had moved houses about a year before to outside of London and the telephone that I inherited to the house was **2-007. It was very funny. I sort of believe in coincidence.
Were you prepared for the inevitable comparisons that would be made between you and Sean Connery?
Yes, why not? He was the first Bond and made a great success of it, which was a major part of why the series was such a success. I obviously couldn’t play it the same way that Sean did — I couldn’t say, “My name is Bond, James Bond.”
Guy Hamilton, who directed the first one, wanted to avoid anything that was associated with Sean’s Bond — you know, a martini shaken not stirred. I never ever drank a martini shaken not stirred.
Do any of the characteristics of the roles you have played stay with you when the role ends?
Well, whatever characteristics there were it was me doing it. Looked like me, sounded like me and being 6-foot-1, blue-eyed and blond hair — when I had a lot of hair. That is where the acting came in, being the hero.
Did you want to play the bad guy?
Oh, yes, they always have the best parts. Poor Jim Bond, all he gets to say is “My name is Bond.” The villains always have the wonderful long speeches about the end of the world and taking over mankind. Apart from that, they don’t have to come in every day as Bond does.
Finally, do you count yourself as a romantic?
I don’t know. I would have to ask my wife. [Laughing] I suppose I am.