Roger Moore: James Bond actor dies from cancer aged 89, family says

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Roger Moore, the suave star of seven James Bond films, has died in Switzerland. He was 89.
Key points:

  • Sir Roger Moore dies in Switzerland of cancer, aged 89

  • He starred in seven James Bond films and was the longest serving Bond so far

  • He became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF after being introduced to the role by Audrey Hepburn

The British actor died on Tuesday after a short battle with cancer, according to a family statement posted on Sir Roger’s official Twitter account.

“We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF, which he considered to be his greatest achievement,” the statement said.
Roger Moore on set holding a gun, playing James Bond in 1972.PHOTO: Roger Moore plays the title role of secret service agent 007, James Bond, in 1972. (AP, file)

Sir Roger’s relaxed style and sense of whimsy, which relied heavily on the arched eyebrow, seemed a commentary on the essential ridiculousness of the Bond films, in which the handsome British secret agent was as adept at mixing martinis, bedding beautiful women and ordering gourmet meals as he was at disposing of super-villains trying to take over the world.

“To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous,” he once said.

“I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet, everybody knows he’s a spy. Every bartender in the world offers him martinis that are shaken, not stirred. What kind of serious spy is recognised everywhere he goes? It’s outrageous. So you have to treat the humour outrageously as well.”

Sir Roger played the role of secret agent 007 in just as many films as predecessor Sean Connery did, and he managed to do so while “finding a joke in every situation”, according to film critic Rex Reed.

Roger Moore and Barbara Bach arrive for the screening of their feature, The Spy Who Loved Me, in France in 1977.PHOTO: Roger Moore and Barbara Bach arrive for the screening of their latest 007 feature, The Spy Who Loved Me, in France 1977. (AP)

The actor, who came to the role in 1973 after Connery tired of it, had already enjoyed a long career in films and television, albeit with mixed success.

He was remembered warmly by fans of the popular US 1950s-60s TV series Maverick as Beauregarde Maverick, the English cousin of the Wild West’s Maverick brothers, Bret and Bart. He also starred in the 1959 US series The Alaskans.

In England, he had a long-running TV hit with The Saint, playing Simon Templar, the enigmatic action hero who helps put wealthy crooks in jail while absconding with their fortunes.

By the time the series, which also aired in the United States, ended in 1969, his partnership with its producers had made him a wealthy man.

Such success followed a Time magazine review of one of his earliest films, 1956’s Diane, in which his performance opposite Lana Turner was dismissed as that of “a lump of English roast beef”.

In the 1970s, film critic Vincent Canby would dismiss Sir Roger’s acting abilities as having “reduced all human emotions to a series of variations on one gesture, the raising of the right eyebrow”.

Debonair Bond a cover for shyness

Born in London, the only child of a policeman, Sir Roger had studied painting before enrolling in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

He played a few small roles in theatre and films before his mandatory army duty, then moved to Hollywood in the 1950s.

He appeared opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 1954’s The Last Time I Saw Paris and with Eleanor Parker in Interrupted Melody the following year.

In 1970, he became managing director for European production for Faberge’s Brut Productions. With the company, he co-starred with Tony Curtis in The Persuaders! for British television and was involved in producing A Touch of Class, which won a best-actress Oscar for Glenda Jackson.

Three years later, he made his first Bond film, Live and Let Die.

Roger Moore’s Bond films:

  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • Moonraker (1979)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • A View to a Kill (1985)

He would make six more, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only and A View to a Kill over the next 12 years.

And while the Bond of the Ian Fleming novels that the films were based on was generally described as being in his 30s, Sir Roger would stay with the role until he was 57.

He once said the upper-crust image he portrayed both on and off the screen was a carefully nurtured cover for his shyness and timidity.

He also said he was terrified of playing the sex scenes which were a key part of the Bond movies

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