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Sir Roger Moore: the highs and the lows of being James Bond

Copyright © The Daily Record - 28 Sept. 2008

 

I first met the producers of the James Bond films, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, across the Curzon Street gambling tables in the mid-Sixties.

Around the time of You Only Live Twice in 1967, when Sean Connery had made it known he didn't want to make another Bond film, Harry and Cubby spoke to me about the possibility of me taking over.

The Bond adventure they discussed with me was planned for Cambodia.

I don't think preparations had got very far when all hell broke loose in that country and plans were shelved.

I continued making The Saint and was unavailable when they regrouped and decided the next film would be On Her Majesty's Secret Service. George Lazenby was cast, and that was that.

Things didn't quite go as they'd hoped, though. George took some bad advice and decided that the Bond gig was Sean's, and that he himself would never last beyond one more film in the role. I knew George then, and have met him many times since. He admits he made a mistake.

Cubby and Harry tried to persuade Sean to return, but he was having none of it. The invasion into his private life that Bond had brought culminated in Japan when a reporter followed him into a toilet and started snapping pictures. Sean compared Bond to a "monster" that he had created.

I was at Pinewood filming The Persuaders and saw a lot of Harry and Cubby. When Sean left the franchise, I knew the role was up for grabs and declined Lew Grade's offer to make a second series of The Persuaders.

Just as well I did, as my phone rang. It was Harry. "Roger," he said. "Cubby and I have decided we want to go with you as the next James Bond."

I was, naturally, ecstatic. I met with Cubby, Harry and their director, Guy Hamilton. It was Guy who showed the only trepidation about me playing Bond.

He was anxious I should not have any lines that were associated with Sean.

I'd been living the good life in the previous year or so. That was brought home to me rather curtly when Harry called me one day.

"Cubby thinks you need to lose a little weight," he said.

OK, I thought. So I started a strict diet. The phone rang again. "Cubby thinks you're a little out of shape," said Harry. So I started a tough fitness regime.

Again the phone rang. This time it was Cubby. "Harry thinks your hair's too long."

"Why didn't you just cast a thin, fit, bald fellow in the first place and avoid putting me through hell?" I replied.

Once I was announced as being the new 007 in Live And Let Die, it started. The media interest was phenomenal. The relentless press interest would follow throughout my whole tenure as Jimmy Bond, and beyond.

The Spy Who Loved Me, my third Bond film, was big and early on it became apparent there was no stage large enough to house three nuclear submarines - the abduction of which is central to the plot.

Some of my early scenes were filmed at Faslane nuclear sub base on the Clyde.

The director, Lewis Gilbert, thought it would be nice to have a hand-held shot of the interior of a torpedo tube and it opening up to fire.

Cameraman Alec Mills was volunteered to carry a small camera into the tube and capture the shot.

"Not until Roger is off this sub," he said defiantly. "Why?" asked Lewis.

"Because I know him and once I'm in there, he'll fire it for real."

The funniest experience I had at the Oscars was in 1974. David Niven was about to present an award when a naked man streaked across the stage behind him.

Without missing a beat, Niv deadpanned, "The only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping and showing his shortcomings."

The most awkward experience ever came in 1972 when I was co-presenting the Best Actor award with Liv Ullman. The winner was Marlon Brando for The Godfather. I was holding the statuette and, when Brando's name was called, a girl dressed in Indian clothes, whom I refer to as Mini Ha Ha, came on stage.

Brando had refused his Oscar and sent this girl, Sacheen Little feather, who was later discovered to be an actress, to state his reasons, which were based on his objections to the depiction of American Indians on film.

In all the confusion, nobody actually took the Oscar from me.

During a lovely family Christmas at our home in LA, I started to reflect on my life. I couldn't see myself maintaining this pace forever.

However, I didn't have much time to think about it all too much as the phone rang. It was Cubby. He wanted me to play Bond again for the seventh time in "A View To A Kill". At 57, I felt a little long in the tooth, a bit like Gary Cooper in Love In The Afternoon, but I was pretty fit and still able to remember lines.

There were some terrific locations in View, including Iceland, Royal Ascot, Paris, Chantilly and San Francisco. We had some terrific location difficulties too, especially at the Eiffel Tower. The script called for Grace Jones's character, May-Day, to leap off the Eiffel Tower, open a parachute and land on a boat in the Seine.

But while the authorities had given permission for take-off, we didn't have permission to land. Apparently, the river came under the remit of another authority and only on the day of the shoot was permission forthcoming. What fun.

I'm afraid my diplomatic charm was stretched to the limit with Grace. Every day in her dressing room, next door to mine, she played very loud music. I was not a fan of heavy metal, so didn't quite appreciate it vibrating through the walls whenever I returned to my room.

An afternoon nap was well and truly out of the question. I did ask Grace to turn it down several times, to no avail.

One day, I snapped. I marched into her room, pulled the plug out, went back to my room, picked up a chair and flung it at the wall. The dent is still there.

I knew this would be my last Bond film.

Cubby and I sat down one day afterwards, reflecting on its success and agreed it was time for a younger actor to pick up the Walther PPK. There was no drama, no tears (aside from my agent) and certainly no big discussion where Cubby told me it was all over and I had to accept it.

That, however, was not the case as reported in his autobiography, completed by Donald Zec after Cubby's death.

I felt very hurt by the claims that Cubby had to effectively tell me it was all over, and how I wouldn't accept it at first.

Then he claimed I had started making "neurotic demands" and had become difficult in so much as I refused to attend charity events or make personal appearances.

I've always prided myself on being an unspoilt, down-to-earth individual.

I like the finer things in life, sure, but I've never forgotten my roots and how lucky I have been.

 

 

 
 
 

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