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How Roger Moore writes

Copyright © Time Out Hong Kong - January 2009

 

I’ve never met a knight before – do I need to call you Sir or approach you in any way?

Oh no no no. Roger. Roger.

How did you find the process of writing?

Difficult to start because I wasn’t sure where to start. I started writing a book 20 years ago that was supposed to be a memoir but which ended up being a collection of my childhood illnesses. I got up to the age of 13 and had written 15,000 words. But I wasn’t computer smart, so I had it on a disk and did not have a backup. It was stolen.

 

I started to write this book because my darling wife Christina, well, she hadn’t said that she was fed up listening to my stories but she felt that I should let other people be bored by them as well. So she said ‘write them down’. I wouldn’t have done it but I was sort of press ganged into it by Christina and my assistant Gareth Owen by arranging offers to consider. So I then had a commitment. And then it was then a question is sitting down and just getting on with it.

What kind of difficulties did you encounter writing the book?

Having blanked spots where I couldn’t remember. But at 3am, it would all come very clearly to me and then disappear again by 8am. So, at 3am I would start writing. I didn’t find it very easy. Every memory triggers off another memory. You think of smells, sounds and colours and all those things that whip together. You think of people and things that are connected with them. But the whole problem is the discipline to put it in the right order which perhaps I didn’t have. And so my assistant working with me would say ‘I think this and that’. And the publisher’s editor was really good at taking things and saying ‘I think we should put that there and that there’. They know more about it than I do and I would say ‘fine’. After 9 months, I delivered the entire manuscript.

But I was left with a section which I wanted to write about UNICEF and about various countries in the world that I had left out of the book. So I started feeding [the publisher], country by country ‘around the world in 80 years’. But the publisher, Michael O’Hara, said ‘we’ve already established the thickness of the book’ because they had already printed the hardcovers. But as the stuff kept coming about UNICEF, he said ‘we’re going to have to find a way of doing this – we’re going to have to make the pages work. And also, I would like to make a donation to UNICEF from the book’, which they’ve been doing and I’m very grateful. UNICEF is very grateful too.

You talk about how memories trigger other memories. What are some of your favourites that you rediscovered whilst writing this book?

I think through childhood. I think about operations that I had as a child and that would trigger other memories about what actually happened in those hospitals, what the sounds and the people were like and the lessons you learnt from it – about never complaining about a boiled egg.

Did you collaborate with a ghost writer?

No. My assistant Gareth helped me. I typed it up and he corrected my typing. Sometimes he would come up to Switzerland or Monaco, wherever we were, and I would then dictate to him which he would take away and type up. Then I would correct that because, in reading it, I would then remember something else. It was gradual. It was a process of just getting it all together.

Did you have a set routine or discipline that you adhered to?

No. I wanted to have a discipline because I have so many good friends that are writers, like James Clavell, and I knew what his system was: it was get up at 6 in the morning, lock yourself away until 2 in the afternoon and write. Don’t be disturbed and it didn’t matter if you sat looking at the keyboard with nothing coming, you just sat. And I know that Jackie Collins writes by long-hand and not typed, which is amazing. I’ve seen all her manuscripts.

So you couldn’t end up sticking to any type of discipline?

No I couldn’t. I have no discipline.

After Live and Let Die you published a book about the making of that film. Have you wanted to write since then?

Well that [book] was at the instigation of the publicity department. They [arranged it] right at the beginning. I dictated every night going home from location in the car or in the dressing room. I wanted to put thoughts down. And of course, it was a diary, and you couldn’t write about the same scene that you were 40 times during a day because that it boring. So I would reminisce and put bits in. But that was very well edited and they cut all the shitty bits out.

Have you wanted to write since that book?

No. No. I think I am fairly useful at writing because I have a certain worry about the grammar and punctuation. So I found that in writing the book, I had to write it as I write letters which is, not full stops, but dot dot dots and dashes and the occasional exclamation mark. That’s why I think the book comes across as conversational rather than sort of heavy typing.

You see a lot of celebrities today, such as Paris Hilton and David Beckham releasing autobiographies at a very young age.

Yes – like McCauley McCulkin. Lifetime achievement award at 19. [laughs].

Apart from Christina’s clear influence, was there any other impetus for this book coming together now?

No, not really. But my daughter kept saying, daddy, you should put these things down. And as she was reading it, she said ‘Oh I’ve learnt so many things about you that I didn’t know’. Because I’m fairly uncommunicative. I don’t speak much about emotion. I’m a coward, an emotional coward, which I’m criticised for all the time by my children and by Christina [laughs]. I don’t really say what’s on my mind, I just look pissed off.

There are a couple of biographies that have been written about you in the past. Have you ever read them?

No. I have no interest in them. I only know what I think of myself. I don’t want to know about what other people think about me.

How would you describe your autobiography?

They are the memoirs of an aspiring actor. It’s my recollections from life from childhood, coming up to the most important part of my life, which is working for UNICEF, which, with the able and devoted assistance of Christina, I continue and shall continue.

All celebrities today seem to have a pet cause. Do you think, with your long involvement with UNICEF, you’ve inspired many celebrities to take up a cause and give something back?

I don’t know. I know that Ralph Fiennes became UK committee goodwill ambassador. Ewan McGregor has done so as well. I was recruited by Audrey Hepburn. At the time, I didn’t realise I was being recruited but I know now.

The Celebrity Division will say to me – do I have any suggestions [for goodwill ambassadors]? It’s not an easy thing to find someone that can be an international goodwill ambassador because, as the title suggests, you need to be internationally well-known. You have to have enough celebrity to attract media and press in every country. You also have to be someone who has the time to do it. So, it’s usually someone later in life.

The first goodwill ambassador, I think, was Danny Kaye. Danny Kaye was an enormous star, a very talented singer, dancer and comedian. He did countless number of films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and he was very well regarded in theatre and clubs. He was travelling on a plane with the then executive director of UNICEF back in the early 50s. The plane was diverted and it became a very long journey and they got talking to each other. Of course the executive director of UNICEF knew who Danny Kaye was but Danny Kaye wanted to know about UNICEF – it was something new. The mandate for UNICEF, when it was founded in 1946, was to take care of the welfare and rehabilitation of the children in Europe after the cessation of hostility in 1945. And that was their mandate. It was Europe. And then, in the early 50s, when Europe was very quickly sorted out, thanks to things such as the Marshall Plan, which made Germany economically stable, the mandate was then given to the children of the world. And at that point, Danny Kaye became very interested and would travel the world. You can see how wonderful he was as a goodwill ambassador at being able to dance with children and also talking, because he was one of those comedians that could talk any language without saying a word. Brilliant. Then came Sir Peter Ustinov, and Harry Belafonte, and today we have Mia Farrow, who is doing absolutely wonderful work.

Were you inspired by what they were doing when you were recruited?

By listening to Audrey and her complete passion and dedication to the cause of children, children’s suffering and their mothers - that intrigued me and made me want to find out more. Also listening to Harry Belafonte, who is a very good friend of mine. He and his wife are very passionate about the subject, so I decided that I should maybe get out in the field. Audrey introduced me to James Grant, who was the then UNICEF Executive Director and I became a representative. 17 years ago. They have been 17 wonderful years. It was doing something I consider important rather than poncing around.

Time Out recently globally ran an interview with Daniel Craig, in which you submitted some questions to Daniel. You ask him to pick your favourite Bond, between Connery and Dalton, and he chooses Connery.

I did? I never asked him that.

Oh really? [laughs].

What’s the other one?

In the other, you ask if Daniel Craig is going to buy your book.

Oh yes – that sounds like me. Gareth my assistant probably called me and said ‘what should we do about this’ and I probably dictated on the phone to him and have forgotten.

Have you sent Daniel Craig a copy of the book?

No – I haven’t. I actually saw him just as the book came out, met him for the first time actually, which was about 5 or 6 weeks ago, at the London Palladium. We were both appearing in a tribute to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming.

What do you think of Daniel Craig’s Bond?

I only saw Casino Royale and I thought he was terrific. It confirmed my belief that he would be a good Bond and that the English press are a bunch of arseholes. They had nothing but bad things to say about him. They were attacking a well established, fine actor. He had done a number of awfully good things for a number of years. I thought it was such unwarranted verbage about him being too blond, too short. So bloody what?

There’s been a lot of press about Quantum of Solace lacking the spotlight on the gadgets. What do you think of that?

Well, people still went to see it. It was the biggest Bond opening of all, so it’s pff pff to the critics. Maybe people are missing the gadgets and everything else but they’ll go back and see the next film, to see if the gadgets come back.

The roll of Bond is probably the most glamorous role in cinema. How did it change your life?

I was wondering this before I did it because I had no idea how Bond could add to all of that. I don’t think I was really aware of it until everyone spoke about it being big. You know, I’m a jobbing actor – I just get up and say the words. Not that there are that many words to say. ‘My name’s Bond. James Bond’. I mean, they’re not very hard. I did have to say a long speech in Man With the Golden Gun when asked about Scaramanga. But, Bond is never very verbose.

You mentioned Man with a Golden Gun, a lot of which was set in Hong Kong. What memories do you have of Hong Kong from back then?

Well, it changes every time you come. I had been here before, in the late 60s, and then in the mid 70s with Bond. And it was radically different in those few years. We’ve been back a few times since A Man with a Golden Gun and it changes and changes. I cannot recognise anything. It is just an extraordinary monument to industrialisation.

What is still recognisable from those days?

Well, I haven’t been over to see what they’ve done to the Peninsula, which is where we stayed for Man with a Golden Gun. I remember that very distinctly because one of my favourite moments of filming was coming out of the doors to the Peninsula with Britt Ekland to get into a little open top sports car. And there were thousands of people watching us, with all these lights going on, and Britt looks around and says “Oh I do like being a film star”. And I said ‘Why?’ And she said “All these people looking at me”.

You’ve got quite a connection with Asia. Most people know you as Bond, but many people are familiar with you as the voice of the Forbidden City audio guide.

Well, I hear that they’ve taken my voice off.

What do you think about that?

Yes. I think that I signed a piece of paper that said they had to pay me after so many years. Funnily enough, I did that in Chicago. When I was asked if I would do the voice over for the Forbidden City, I thought ‘Great, I’ll get a free trip to Beijing’. But I ended up recording the whole thing in Chicago. When we went about 4 years ago to Beijing, we went to the Forbidden City. I was fascinated to see my picture up there and that I was so smart, because I knew everything about the Forbidden City.

But they’ve taken me away? I suppose they’ve got Daniel Craig? [laughs]

I have just the final mandatory questions. Sexiest Bond girl?

The sexiest was the little old lady, at the beginning of Live and Let Die after I’ve taken the wings off the plane, and I say ‘Say time tomorrow’.

Best Bond song?

Well, it’s a toss up between Marvin Hamlisch and Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody does it Better’ and Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Live and Let Die’. Nobody does it better is great for Bond, isn’t it?

Your era was really the golden era of Bond songs?

Yes – if you think about The Spy Who Loved Me and Nobody Does it Better, and the opening shot with the parachute and the union jack – quite extraordinary. A privilege to be in those songs even though they nothing to do with me. I wasn’t there jumping off the bloody cliff with the parachute and the union jack, but when they cut to a close up, it’s me!

Favourite Bond movie that you starred in?

The Spy Who Loved me.

Favourite Bond movie ever?

It’s got to be Diamonds are Forever.

And of course, apart from yourself, Best Bond?

Whoever’s playing it at the time.

 

Interview : Mark Tjhung


 

 
 
 

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