''Can I get you a drink, Mr. Moore?''
The waiter stands there, secretly hoping that he'll say those
five words known from the beaches of Rio to the bazaars of Cairo
to the ski slopes of Gstaad: Vodka martini — shaken, not
''I'll have a...Bloody Mary.''
Roger Moore is sitting in the posh dining room of New York City's
St. Regis hotel. He is wearing a crisp white shirt (French cuffs,
naturally), a blue-and-red-striped tie (Savile Row, of course),
and a blue blazer with a tiny florette pinned to the lapel signifying
that the erstwhile international man of mystery is a Commander
of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Seated next to him
is his fourth wife, Kristina, a lovely blonde with a vaguely European
Every eye in the room is on him. Middle-aged men and their wives
crane their necks just to hear his voice. This is what it is to
be in the elite fraternity of actors who have played James Bond.
When Moore's drink arrives, he swishes it around in his mouth
like a fine bordeaux and announces ''This is the best goddamned
Bloody Mary I've ever had!''
Adjectives almost fail to do justice to Moore's speaking voice.
It's a purr coated in honey and caramel and molasses. He is 81
and has a leathery tan. If you squint just a little, he doesn't
look all that different from when we last saw him — in a
steamy shower, canoodling with Tanya Roberts in the closing scene
of 1985's A View to a Kill (''Oh, James!'') — the last of
his seven debonair, sardonic turns as 007.
I was 8 years old when I saw my first James Bond film. It was
the summer of 1977. I consider myself blessed by the timing. The
Spy Who Loved Me was not only the best Bond movie Moore ever made
(an opinion he shares, by the way), it was also — thanks
to the luscious Barbara Bach and the steel-toothed giant Jaws
— one of the best films in the series.
Moore was the first Bond I knew. Like anyone who grew up in the
'70s, I'd later catch up with the older Sean Connery films on
TV. But they didn't compare. They just seemed like smudgy Xeroxes
of the Bond I'd first seen in the theater. And where was the fun?
Sure, Connery was more dangerous, rougher around the edges, deadlier
with a Walther PPK. But Moore was lethal from 10 paces, armed
with nothing more than a cocked eyebrow and a saucy bon mot. And
if there was some sort of sexual double entendre in that bon mot,
well, all the better for an 8-year-old.
Moore had the good luck to play Bond during the last gasp of
the Cold War. Often the plots were needlessly byzantine and downright
absurd (the outer-space love story involving Jaws in Moonraker
comes to mind). But most of Moore's Bond flicks were catnip to
boys who hadn't discovered girls yet. In Live and Let Die, he
got entangled in Caribbean voodoo. In The Man With the Golden
Gun, the villain had a superfluous nipple. And in For Your Eyes
Only, he was chased down the Italian Alps by Aryans on motorcycles
— Aryans on motorcycles! Cheese, yes. But served up with
just the right amount of ham, thanks to Moore.
Moore played 007 more times than any other actor. By rights of
possession, he owns the part. Connery appeared in only six, if
you exclude the unofficial and embarrassing 1983 comeback Never
Say Never Again (I doubt even Connery wants to include that one).
And as any apprentice-level 007 aficionado knows, there were also
the blink-and-miss George Lazenby (one film), the placeholding
charisma vacuum Timothy Dalton (two), and the so-suave-he-was-almost-bland
Pierce Brosnan (four). Now, of course, we have Daniel Craig, who's
updated Bond into a sort of sadistic, knuckle-scraping Jason Bourne
in a tux. He's serious, flawed, and, if you ask me, kind of a
The knock on Moore has always been that he played the character
too lightly. He was too arch. Too jokey. But that seems a bit
rigid. Moore's Bond films grossed $1.2 billion worldwide. He took
over a hugely popular franchise after its leading man walked and
kept it humming for 12 more years. As far as I'm concerned, Moore
is, was, and will always be Bond. It's not a critical argument,
just one from the heart.
When I explain this to Moore — that the Bond you love first
is the Bond you'll always love most, he seems genuinely touched.
I think he even calls me ''dear boy'' before turning to Kristina
and saying, ''Darling, get Sean on the phone. He needs to hear
After ordering a couple of insanely expensive hamburgers, Moore
and I dig into his double-0 legacy. Moore is aware of his lightweight,
also-ran reputation within the Bond universe. And he's actually
damn proud of it. ''To be associated with success is absolutely
wonderful,'' he says. ''If my first one, Live and Let Die, had
not been a hit, people might have said, 'Oh, he was the poor fellow
who only made one,' which is unfortunately what they say about
Moore has just published a new memoir called "My Word Is
My Bond". The timing is no accident. He's smart enough to
know that piggybacking its release on that of the 22nd Bond film,
Quantum of Solace, is good business.
Both in the pages of his book and in person, Moore, the only
child of a policeman and a homemaker, is a cheeky raconteur. Naughty
anecdotes from the exotic, far-flung sets of his Bond films pour
out of him, like the time when his View to a Kill costar Grace
Jones smuggled a very lifelike sex toy into bed during their onscreen
love scene, or the fact that his diminutive Man With the Golden
Gun castmate Hervé Villechaize had a sweet tooth for strippers
from Hong Kong.
Moore also tells a story that should get the legions of Connery
purists shaken and stirred too. Namely, that he was considered
for the role of 007 in 1962's Dr. No before Connery was tapped.
''That's what they told me, at least,'' he says. ''They also said
I was Ian Fleming's first choice. But Ian Fleming didn't know
me from s---. He wanted Cary Grant or David Niven.''
By the early '70s, Connery had grown weary of Bond and had become
increasingly testy about the financial details of his contract.
So Bond producer Cubby Broccoli came back to sniff around Moore,
who had just wrapped the British TV series The Persuaders! In
1973, he offered the actor a three-picture deal. Moore knew it
wouldn't be easy to make fans forget about Connery, so he wanted
to put his own stamp on the character. ''I tried to find out what
Bond was all about,'' he says, ''but you can't tell much from
the books. There's the line that says 'He didn't take pleasure
in killing, but took pride in doing it well.' So that's what I
did. But the other side of me was saying, This is a famous spy
— everyone knows his name, and every bartender in the world
knows he likes martinis shaken, not stirred. Come on, it's all
a big joke! So most of the time I played it tongue-in-cheek.''
Moore is the first to admit he's no Olivier. Well, second, after
the critics who crucified him as 007. In the past he's been quoted
as saying, ''My acting range has always been something between
the two extremes of 'raises left eyebrow' and 'raises right eyebrow.'''
When asked about this bit of self-deprecation, he adds, ''I can
also wiggle my ears.''
As our hamburgers arrive, Moore delicately reaches for a knife
and fork — yes, he actually eats a burger with a knife and
fork — and says, ''Listen, if I say I'm s--- as an actor,
then the critic can't, because I've already said it! For years
my agents would tell me, 'You've got to stop saying these things
about yourself. People will believe you.' So? They may also be
pleasantly surprised!'' Actually, Moore says that he did bring
one bit of Method acting to the role of Bond. In each of the films,
whenever he went face-to-face with a villain in a scene, he would
imagine that the bad guy had halitosis. ''If you watch those scenes,
you'll see I look mildly repulsed.''
In Moore's sixth Bond film, 1983's Octopussy, the secret agent
squared off against a rival that even Ian Fleming couldn't have
dreamed up: Sean Connery. After leaving the franchise 12 years
earlier, Connery had returned in the unsanctioned 007 movie Never
Say Never Again, which opened four months after Octopussy. The
high-noon box office showdown seemed like it would reveal, once
and for all, America's favorite Bond. Octopussy won. When I ask
Moore if he felt any competitiveness with Connery at the time,
he smiles. ''No more than two jockeys who are going to be paid
anyway for running the race. But it would be nice if you won because
you'd get the extra bonus. But really, no more than that. Sean
and I are friends.''
As he finishes this sentence, a stranger comes over to our table.
It's Plácido Domingo. Moore gets up, and the two go off
to the side of the room to catch up. I ask Kristina how these
two know each other, and she tells me that they often play tennis
together while on vacation in Acapulco. Of course they do. Then
I ask her where she and Moore live. She replies, ''We spend the
summers in Monaco and the winters in Switzerland.'' What did you
When Moore returns to the table, he launches into his reasons
for leaving the franchise. He twists open a mini-bottle of ketchup,
pours some on his burger, and then licks the rim of the bottle
to catch a stray dollop. ''It had been on my mind for a long time,''
he says. ''I became very conscious that I was getting long in
the tooth to play the great lover. Not that I ever needed Viagra,''
he says, shooting a rascal's grin at his wife. ''I was 57 in the
last one. You can see I was getting a little scraggy around the
Afterward, Moore made a few appearances in forgettable films,
passed on a TV series with Burt Reynolds, and began working as
an ambassador for UNICEF, which he continues to do today. But
mostly he just wandered away from acting, happy to live the good
life, ski, and play tennis. ''I was not born with tremendous ambition,''
he admits. ''And thank God, because my contemporaries who had
ambition are all dead. It can kill you.''
Ambition or not, Moore has always worked hard not to criticize,
or even comment on, the Bonds who came after him. He's too diplomatic
for that, too classy. So when I ask him his opinion of the newer-model
007s, I'm not surprised that he waves the question off with his
hand. But I ask again. ''Okay, I've seen Daniel's Casino Royale,
and I thought it was bloody good! I saw bits of the Timothy Dalton
ones, and I saw one of Pierce's and I thought that was a bit phantasmagoric
— invisible cars! They went too far.'' However, he says,
''in 47 years they haven't made many mistakes with the Bond franchise.
They're clever enough to sense a trend. And the trend right now
is for hard, gritty Bond.''
If that's the case, and the Bond movies reflect the times in
which they're made, what does he think the Roger Moore Bonds were
trying to say about the late '70s and early '80s? He thinks about
it for a minute, then seems to grow frustrated. ''People are always
reading things into the films,'' he says. ''But we set out to
make entertainment. There's no hidden agenda. They're just 'Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am,
here comes a pretty girl, there goes a car chase, let's shoot
a helicopter down.' That's as deep as they got.''
Just then, a man in his 40s approaches. He hovers behind Moore,
waiting for the right moment to say something. Finally, Moore
turns around and shoots him a ''Can I help you?'' stare. The man
stammers and clears his throat. ''I'm sorry to bother you, but
I'm a huge fan and I just wanted to hear your voice. Could you
say something — anything?'' Moore takes his napkin from
his lap and slowly folds it. ''Thank you, that's very nice of
you.'' That's it. The man walks away, giggling, a childlike smile
on his face. I ask Moore if he ever gets tired of this. Tired
of the fact that wherever he goes, he'll always be hounded by
people who want a piece of James Bond.
He almost chokes on his Bloody Mary.
''Are you kidding? I'm damn lucky!''
Then comes the old Moore quip. ''...I've been lucky, said the
man as he stepped into the street.'' He crashes his hands together,
mimicking the impact of an oncoming bus.
His wife and I politely laugh.
But our reaction isn't hearty enough. Moore wants more. So he
calls upon the deadliest weapon in his arsenal and cocks his left
Talk about a license to kill.
by Chris Nashawaty