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James Bond's stage secrets

© New York Post - 5 December 2008

 

Most of the world knows Roger Moore as James Bond, the role he played for 12 years, from "Live and Let Die" (1973) to "A View to a Kill" (1985), when, by his own admission, "I became very aware, watching the dailies, that my leading ladies were looking a little bit younger than my granddaughter."

But theater lovers know Moore as the star of the fabled 1953 play, "A Pin To See the Peepshow."

Haven't heard of that one?

 

Strictly speaking, nobody has.

As Moore points out, "We opened on Sept. 17, 1953, and closed on Sept. 17, 1953."

Sitting in a booth at Sardi's directly below a wall of caricatures of legendary Broadway performers, he adds: "The artist didn't have time to finish my portrait. If he had, it would be right there, next to Carol Channing."

That "Peepshow" didn't make it had nothing to do, I'm sure, with Sir Roger's stage chops. Although he's celebrated for jumping out of planes without a parachute and driving cars that turn into submarines, Moore is, in fact, a classically trained actor who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

In his charming memoir, "My Word Is My Bond," just out from HarperCollins, Moore recalls his years at the academy and in the West End, where he appeared in several plays - including "Mr. Roberts," in which he played a hunky sailor.

"I was a 'Tennant bicycle' man," Moore says, sipping a Heineken (which he prefers to a martini). "In those days, we all worked for H.M. Tennant, which owned all the theaters. I was an understudy for several shows at once. Understudies were given a 'Tennant bicycle' to shuttle between theaters if they had to go on. Except they never gave me one. I had to walk."

Moore's movie career took off because he followed the advice his friend Noel Coward once gave him.

"My dear boy," Coward said. "Always take the job. Because you are not an actor if you are not working. And if you are lucky enough to have two offers on the table at the same time, take the one that pays the most."

In 1953, Moore was offered the chance to join the Royal Shakespeare Company or become a contract player at MGM.

Hollywood paid more.

When he became world famous as James Bond, he was often asked to star on Broadway. James Bond's "Hamlet" would probably have sold a few tickets.

"But by then, I was nervous about appearing onstage," Moore says. "I was so used to making films that if somebody coughs or drops a teacup, I'm going to stop and say, 'We'd better go again.' And wouldn't that be wonderful in the theater?"

In 1989, with Bond behind him, Moore accepted the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Aspects of Love."

"Andrew was under the illusion that I could sing, and therefore convinced me that I could," he says. "I rehearsed 'Aspects' and I had the most wonderful time of my life. I loved practicing my scales. But came the day when I had to sing with a full orchestra, and I knew that I could not do it.

"There were no recriminations from Andrew, thankfully. He agreed to let me go immediately. I said, 'Well, you could at least protest.' "

So Sir Roger will probably never become "a man of the the ater." But being James Bond isn't so bad.

As he walks past the bar at Sardi's, a group of women nearly fall off their stools. "He's so handsome," one says.

A man in a raincoat runs up to him and starts humming the James Bond theme: "Dum de-de-dum-dum, dum dum dum, dum de-de-dum-dum."

Sticking his finger in the air and cocking his right eyebrow, Moore says: "I recognize the tune."

Interview by Michael Riedel

 

 
 
 

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