Remembering the life and career of James Bond star Sir Roger Moore
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Yesterday the news broke that British actor Sir Roger Moore has died aged 89. Most boys, it is said, want to be James Bond. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Roger Moore. I loved him not just as Britain’s greatest spy but in his earlier roles in The Saint and The Persuaders, and for who he was as a person. Both on and off screen he seemed emblematic of all that was great about Britishness. He was charming and modest, but also bold and adventurous, and even in desperate situations refused ever to be totally serious. When he took up the role of James Bond in the early 1970s, many doubted his suitability and the future of the series. Few believed he could be as convincing as Sean Connery with the tux and the Walther PPK. But Moore stunned the naysayers with a string of highly successful films in which he made the role his own, ensuring the Bond films would not go down as a relic from the 1960s but would thrive as the global phenomenon it continues to be today. His Bond was consciously different from Connery’s serious, gritty interpretation of Ian Fleming’s super spy. In keeping partly with the outrageousness of the era, Moore’s 007 was irreverent and tongue-in-cheek, raising only an eyebrow at his films’ ludicrous plots, in which he saved the world a record seven times. Though criticised for this he justified his portrayal by pointing out the innate absurdity of the series, which had as its central character a supposedly secret agent who could nevertheless walk into any club in the world and be immediately recognised by the barman. Moore played Bond for 12 years, believing his third film, 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, to be his best. He had given up the role long before I was born, with 1985’s brilliantly awful A View to a Kill, of which I still remember being bought an old VHS copy. Bond was the culmination of a long career in showbusiness, which began at acting school in England in the 1930s and the modelling of knitwear for men’s fashion magazines. The rise of television increased his popularity, with shows such as Ivanhoe, The Saint and The Persuaders, all of which starred him as the dashing hero, enjoyed by millions of viewers.
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