Moore: I'm the worst Bond, apparently
Copyright © The
Telegraph - 23 September 2008
Sir Roger Moore would not exactly say that he is looking
forward to seeing Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film.
"Errrr." A long pause. "Hmmmmm." A raise of
the most famous eyebrow in the world. "I'm curious to see it.
I thought Daniel Craig did a very good job in the last one, having
been attacked by all and sundry. Wait until the baby is born before
you start criticising it, I say!" He produces the first of
"I'm the worst Bond, according to the internet. Generally
hated! I was too funny, too light. Didn't take it seriously enough."
He seems quite proud of this.
"Well, I mean, this is a man who is supposed to be a spy.
And yet he turns up in bars and hotels around the world, and everyone
says, 'Ah, Mr Bond, we've been expecting you.'" Chuckle, chuckle,
chuckle. "Everybody knows who he is and what he wants to drink.
"It's the same with the Bond girls. All the new ones say,
'Oh, I'm going to be different from the others', but before long
it's always the same - 'Oh, James!'"
For all his jokiness, Sir Roger has obviously done something right.
He is the longest-running Bond to date, beating Sean Connery by
one film (unless you count Never Say Never Again, generally not
thought of as a real Bond film because it was not made by Eon Productions),
and is so iconic that Amy Winehouse refers to him on her latest
album: "You tear men down like Roger Moore."
He hasn't a clue why. "I probably just rhymed with door.
Or she couldn't find anything to rhyme with Connery."
He's equally unfazed by comparisons with his Scottish chum's portrayal
of the secret agent. "The important thing to me is: 'Did I
get the cheque?' I did, and they keep coming. The residuals are
quite handsome!" Chuckle, chuckle.
It's easy, when meeting the 80-year-old in Monte Carlo - his home
for half the year, alongside Switzerland, partly, he claims, for
tax reasons - to conclude that he hasn't taken anything terribly
seriously in his entire life.
Especially because he's just written a deliciously self-mocking
autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, in which he concludes that he
owes most of his success to luck.
The book is not exactly brimming with bitchy stories. As he writes,
"This is, after all, a book about me: a suave, modest, sophisticated,
talented, modest, debonair, modest and charming individual - of
whom there is much to write."
But compared to Connery's recently published wrestlings with the
idea of Scottishness, Sir Roger is definitely "ahead on the
witty anecdotes", as he puts it.
It is certainly hard to imagine him refusing autographs to fans
because they might be sold on, as Sir Sean reportedly does: Sir
Roger has an air that is part lounge lizard, part clown.
He hobbles, minderless, into the lobby of the Hôtel de Paris,
where the staff immediately rise to greet him. "Ah, Sir Roger,
for you the best table."
It is a bit like watching a James Bond film, should Bond become
a geriatric - Sir Roger's mind has a tendency to wander off at tangents,
and at one point he puts his sweetener in the ashtray instead of
He even dresses like Bond, wearing a navy blazer with white trousers,
white shirt and white loafers with gold details. Topped off with
huge Cartier glasses, it is a quite ridiculous look - and I suspect
that is just the way he likes it.
In fact, Sir Roger is so relentlessly silly that spending time
with him is an unmitigated pleasure. He pulls faces for the photographer,
and tells us that instead of saying "cheese", he prefers
the term "witty, titty sex", which he duly utters every
time the flash goes off.
Devoid of any self-importance whatsoever, he asks the photographer
if he wants him to do angry eyebrows, or seductive ones - in reference
to his Spitting Image puppet, whose entire dramatic range was based
around its mobile brows.
His rambling anecdotes are equally delightful, and equally batty.
He remembers that when he was in The Saint, the cast were all asked
who they would most like to meet, dead or alive.
"I said Mr Walls, of Walls ice cream, so I could ask him why
the company had stopped producing these wonderful choc ices with
dark chocolate on the outside. I didn't know all the others were
saying 'Gandhi' or 'Jesus'."
He has to pause for a moment to stifle his laughter. "As far
as I know, they didn't get an extension on life, but I did get sent
a big chocolate cake."
Sir Roger - who was knighted in 1999 for his tireless services
to Unicef - was born in south London, the son of a policeman.
He tried to write his autobiography many years ago, at the insistence
of his friend Michael Caine, "because he had written his and
I suppose he thought someone else should suffer too". But then
his laptop was stolen and he couldn't be bothered.
He started again after being nagged by his fourth wife, Kristina
Tholstrup, and his three children from his third marriage, to Luisa
Mattioli, an actress who was best friends with Tholstrup until she
took up with Sir Roger.
As he has reduced me to the state of a quivering schoolgirl, I
fail to probe him about his multiple marriages, perhaps because
I am fantasising about becoming wife number five.
Although the relationships are mentioned in the autobiography,
he seems far more interested in another topic: his health.
Sir Roger seems to have been under the weather all his life; most
recently he was treated - successfully - for prostate cancer. "I
was going to call it Out of the Bedpan," he purrs, rather incongruously.
"As a child I had mumps and the measles. Chickenpox. Tonsils
out. I didn't learn the alphabet until I was 11. I was circumcised
at eight. Much better than having it done later, like my old friend
in the army, Captain Hornby of the Royal Artillery. Afterwards I
said to Matron, 'You can't call Hornby "old cock" any
There are many similar stories, most of them verging on the unprintable.
When he was 10, for example, he had acute appendicitis, which the
doctor diagnosed via a rectal examination. "Because it was
a training hospital, he invited 30 student doctors to perform the
same humanitarian task. They all agreed: acute appendicitis - and
by the way, you're a little gay."
Was he traumatised? "Oh no. I thought: 'One day I shall become
an actor, and I will write an autobiography, and this will all be
It is indeed all grist to the mill - but his insistence that in
his career, he has been a lucky amateur (the book carries the self-deprecating
subtitle Memoirs of an Aspiring Actor) is belied by his training
In the 1950s, he was a male model, before winning a contract at
MGM, and though his films were not box-office smashes, they did
lead to the role of Simon Templar in The Saint, followed by The
Persuaders!, alongside Tony Curtis, and his first Bond excursion,
1973's "Live and Let Die".
He hasn't done much in the way of acting since he hung up his tuxedo
in 1985, aged 58. I suggest that is quite old for an action star.
He in turn tells me not to be so rude.
"The wonderful thing about age is that your knees don't work
as well, you can't run down steps quite as easily and obviously
you can't lift heavy weights. But your mind doesn't feel any different.
I read the obituary columns and I think: 'Oh goodness, he was only
Does he worry about death? "What would be the point? I've
not planned my funeral. I'm not the Queen. A procession through
the streets of Stockwell would be nice, I suppose. But when I go,
I'd just like everyone to say: 'He lived longer than anyone I knew.'?"
And off he goes again: chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.
"My Word Is My Bond" by Roger Moore (Michael O'Mara,
£18.99) is available from Telegraph Bookshop for £16.99
+ £1.25 p&p. To order, call + 44 (0) 870 428 4112 or go