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
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
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
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
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
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
Were you inspired by what they were doing when you were
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
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
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
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
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.