With arched brow, Roger Moore found humor in Bond and in life
LOS ANGELES — Sir Roger Moore always made sure to laugh at himself before the audience could.
With a mere arch of an eyebrow, Moore, whose wit was drier than James Bond’s martinis, could convey a skepticism of his accidental profession, disarming good looks and the suave characters he often played, from Bond to Simon Templar, all while saving the day and charming a scantily clad girl in the process.
Sporting a posh accent and square jaw, Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, looked the part of a movie star and a debonair international spy. But beneath the surface, the policeman’s son from South London, a sickly child and plump kid who always chose a joke over a street fight, saw the inherent ridiculousness of 007 — and left an indelible mark on the role, and a generation, because of it.
“You can’t be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is,” Moore often said. “That’s just hysterically funny.”
A l arge part of his charm is that Moore never set out to be an actor. As a teenager, on a lark, he tagged along with some friends doing crowd work on the Vivien Leigh and Claude Raines film “Caesar and Cleopatra” and caught the eye of someone who thought he should meet the director,
“He said I think you should be trained. I said, ‘ Oh how wonderful,’” Moore recalled in an interview.
“So I rushed home and told my mother I was going to be Stewart Granger.”
Stardom did not come immediately, however. Moore toiled as a working actor, in television and films in the UK, and then in the U.S. as a studio contract player for MGM before breaking through in a few television roles, in “Maverick” and then “The Saint.” The long-running show “The Saint” about the witty and charming romantic hero Simon Templar, many noted, was not unlike Moore himself — and would inform how he chose to play James Bond over the course of seven films, starting with “Live and Let Die” from 1973 and ending with “A View to a Kill” in 1985.
Sir Roger Moore, who played James Bond in seven films, died after a short battle with cancer.