Saint and ... The Sinner"
Copyright © The
Mail Online - 17 Oct. 2008
An interviewer, I know, should be impartial, but I think
I am in love with Roger Moore.
Most film stars I have met either behave like RAF pilots being
interrogated by the Nazis, and will only divulge their name and
serial number, or arrive while you are on your sixth cup of coffee,
before launching into a tedious series of self-indulgent recollections.
Sir Roger - he was knighted in 2003 for his services to UNICEF
- formerly James Bond and the longest-running 007 to date, (beating
Sean Connery by one film) is a dream.
He arrives at our rendez-vous in a Cheltenham hotel (where he is
promoting his autobiography My Word Is My Bond) five minutes early.
He looks even more suave and elegant than he did in his films.
He is wearing a navy blazer with gold buttons, a crisp white shirt,
a red and white striped tie and a mischievous twinkle in his lucent
Connery wouldn't have worn this Riviera-style get-up, but the famously
natty Ian Fleming might. 'It's so nice of you to come and see me,'
Moore says in his chiffon baritone.
He is 81, but the nubile waitress serving us is already looking
as though she is about to mouth: 'Oh, James!' It is like watching
a film about the world's most famous spy in retirement.
The news has just broken that the gun used by Christopher Lee's
three-nippled villain in The Man With The Golden Gun has been stolen.
It's worth an estimated £80,000. 'Stolen was it? Search Lee's
house!' exclaims Moore, raising what are, along with Denis Healey's,
the world's most famous eyebrows.
He chuckles. Moore chuckles a lot. Indeed he is so good-tempered
that spending time with him is a pleasure, like eating an expensively
wrapped box of champagne truffles.
'Was the gun really made of gold?' I ask. 'Oh, no,' he replies,
stirring his espresso (his fingers are tanned and tapered). 'It's
worth so much because of its value as Bond memorabilia.'
I ask him what history will judge to be the most famous piece of
Bond memorabilia. Moore doesn't miss a beat. 'Daniel Craig's jock
strap.' He chuckles again.
There is no malevolence in his words even though, according to
a recent survey, his Bond wasn't 'gritty' enough for modern audiences.
I ask him what he thinks of Craig's interpretation, which is so
gritty it could pave the streets.
Quantum Of Solace, Craig's much anticipated follow-up to his first
Bond film, Casino Royale, is released at the end of this month.
'I bought the DVD of Casino Royale. I was curious because before
the film came out the Press had been quite unkind to Craig because
he was blond and short.'
Moore pauses, before delivering a deliciously naughty verdict:
'Daniel Craig, I think, will be remembered along with Ursula Andress
- for coming out of the sea with more than Ursula had!'
He continues, charmingly: 'I thought Craig's physical ability was
amazing. But I don't know. I'm just a lover.' He chortles again.
It is becoming a case of the Moore the merrier.
Despite churlish critics carping at his debonair interpretation
of Bond, Moore was one of the world's top box office stars for most
of the 1970s. His first three Bond films, Live And Let Die, The
Man With The Golden Gun and The Spy Who Loved Me, are classics.
He is so iconic that Amy Winehouse refers to him on her latest
album: 'You tear men down like Roger Moore.' He has no idea why.
'I probably just rhymed with door. Or she couldn't find anything
to rhyme with Connery.'
Ah, Connery. His nemesis. He must be sick of people saying the
burly Scotsman was the better Bond. Moore is too polite to attack
Connery. 'I only skimmed through the actual Bond books by Fleming
because I prefer Doctor In The House novels!' Then from where did
he take his lead?
'Actually, I did read the books. I took my lead from a line in
one of them. Bond had come back from Mexico where he had eliminated
The line went like this: 'He didn't like killing, but he took a
pride in doing his job properly.' So I thought this is what I will
do. I will not seem to enjoy violence. The line indicated that he
derived no pleasure from killing.'
I mention Sean Connery's cat-like satisfaction after he had pumped
someone full of bullets. 'Hmm. The hero must not be seen to enjoy
killing or he becomes the villain.
I liked to dispose of people through wit or love - I'd squeeze them
to death!' It seems that Moore wanted to get as far away from Connery's
007 as possible.
'We dropped Sean's catchphrases, most notably, "a Martini.
Shaken, not stirred." But we had to keep, "the name's
Bond. James Bond." I was always frightened that I would say
it with a Scottish accent.' 'Shems,' he burrs and we burst into
gales of laughter.
Moore's book, My Word Is My Bond, charts his childhood as the son
of a Stockwell policeman, his year at RADA, his time in Hollywood
in the Fifties, through his big break, when he was cast as The Saint
in the classic TV series, and his four marriages.
It is full of anecdotes, many of them involving what he quaintly
refers to as his 'wee man', which when he was eight a doctor recommended
'They made me wear these hospital bed socks. They were so scratchy
and horrible.' He then announces: 'When I was in bed with Jane Seymour
[his Bond girl in Live And Let Die] I wore socks.'
Er, why? Is it an idiosyncrasy of his? I ask tentatively. 'We were
on a cold stage, so I wore socks. There were no heaters, just cables
and the crew saying, 'Go on Rog!'
Jane, who was just 22, was almost virginal. Well, actually, she
can't have been virginal as she was married at the time!'
Moore's autobiography is the funniest film memoir since David Niven's
The Moon's A Balloon.
In 1954 Moore was cast in his first big Hollywood film, The Last
Time I Saw Paris. It starred a luscious Elizabeth Taylor. Moore
played a gigolo with whom Taylor nearly has an affair.
I have seen the film and Moore looked about 18, far too young to
play a gigolo. He beams delightedly, rocking on his chair. 'I was
27 at the time, but I always looked like a baby. I looked like a
baby until last week!'
I point out that most of his roles have been as smooth seducers.
After his success as Simon Templar in The Saint, he joined forces
with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders.
The pair played charming, wealthy womanisers. In a sense there
was an inevitability about his progression to James Bond.
'Yes, I never played characters,' he jokes. 'I never played down
and outs or drunks or people with psychological problems - only
off screen! There I was a drunk with the biggest problems you've
ever seen in your life.'
The Persuaders was a huge hit and now has a cult following but
Tony Curtis, as Moore puts it, was 'excitable'.
'Walter Matthau told me a great story about Tony. He and Tony started
out at the same time at the same drama school in New York and they
had a wager as to who would 'make it' in Hollywood first.
'A year or so later, Walter was walking down the street when a
stretch limo pulled up opposite. 'Hey, Walter! It's me! Bernie,
Bernie Schwartz!' (Curtis's real name.) "I've made it in Hollywood!
I f****d Yvonne de Carlo!'
'Tony didn't really get on with women,' ruminates Moore.
Curtis was also a bit of a wheeler dealer. Moore tells me that
actors 'usually steal their clothes at the end of films.
After we finished The Persuaders I took what I wanted. Tony was
given his clothes and the next morning he was on the set selling
them all to the crew!'
After originally turning down the role of James Bond because of
his TV commitments, Moore enjoyed his first outing as 007 in 1973
in Live And Let Die. He finally handed back his Walther PPK in 1985,
Moore's leading ladies are certainly impressively beautiful: Jane
Seymour, Britt Ekland, Maud Adams, Lois Chiles, Barbara Bach and
the inimitable Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny.
I wonder if this put a strain on his multiple marriages. Moore's
first wife was an English ice skater and actress who adopted the
exotic name of Doorn van Steyn.
He left her for the popular singer Dorothy Squires, who was 12
years his senior. The marriage was childless. After Moore found
fame as Simon Templar he met his third wife Luisa Mattioli while
filming in Italy.
He tells me, disarmingly, that 'Dorothy was very p****d off. She
didn't give me a divorce for a long time.' Their marriage had been
When Dorothy found out about Luisa she tried to climb through the
window of the flat where the lovers were trysting, announcing she
was 'going to kill an Italian!' The police were called and Moore
yelled: 'Take her to the nut-house.'
I ask if the age difference was too great. 'If the ladies in my
life had not been older, they were old by the time the honeymoon
was over!' he jests.
I am beginning to discern that Moore is uncomfortable talking about
his personal life, especially when he was not very saintly, and
turns the tables with a quip. 'I did feel guilty about Dorothy.'
He spoils this a bit by adding with a grin: 'It goes away.'
I tell him to be serious for a moment. 'I had no joy in any of
these things. I am an emotional coward. I can't stand a fight. I
either shut up like a clam or leave.'
Moore shudders at confessional celebrities. 'No, I don't do navelgazing.
It's me and my psychiatrist. I try to entertain. These people obviously
hope to get a publicist or a newspaper deal. It's boring.'
He did shock some of his friends, however, when he left Luisa after
25 years of marriage and three children for her close friend Swedish
socialite Kiki Tholstrup.
There is an uncomfortable silence. 'I don't want to...' he trails
off. Eventually, he decides to go into jest-mode again. 'I wanted
more of a quiet life. Luisa rightly got angry with me from time
to time. I'm a sensitive sort!'
Now, Moore lives in retirement in Monte Carlo and Switzerland,
mainly for tax reasons. 'I left when Labour was in power. The taxes
were just too high.'
Would he come back? He shakes his head. 'I don't trust politicians.'
At least Moore hasn't trodden the hypocritical path of Connery who
makes an issue out of being Scottish and calls for Scottish independence
although he is also a tax exile.
Sir Roger grimaces. So what of the Bond franchise? Will there always
be 007 as long as England's here? Moore has grumbled about the improbability
of some of the later films, including the increasingly unbelievable
gadgets, such as the invisible car driven by Pierce Brosnan in Die
'We did get a bit improbable in Moonraker, shooting off into space,'
he reflects. 'Things like invisible cars are kid-ult stuff. The
fight is always to get a 12 certificate so kids can go and see it
How will Bond and his expensive gadgets cope with the recession,
I wonder. 'Interesting. During the American Depression they made
these wonderful, escapist films with nice sets and optimism.'
He doesn't go to the cinema very much now. 'Films today,' he trails
off. 'Guy Ritchie... I never liked graphic violence or pornographic
violence.' He adds: 'I can't understand anything contemporary actors
I say that I sympathise and he rewards me with another wicked grin.
'I want to interview you!' he declares. I feel myself mouthing: