Roger Moore, the handsome Londoner who portrayed James Bond in seven films with a cartoonish, cheeky charm and probably for a bit too long, has died. He was 89.
A message from his children, shared Tuesday on the actor’s official Twitter account, read, “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer.”
Before Bond, Moore made his reputation as a suave leading man on the television series Maverick, The Saint and The Persuaders.
After George Lazenby was done as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), Moore took on the guise of the superspy in Live and Let Die (1973) and stayed for The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983) and A View to a Kill (1985), which hit theaters when he was nearly 58. He said it was his choice to leave the franchise.
His Bond was more of a charmer than a fighter, more of a stirrer than was the shaker embodied by the first Bond, Scotsman Sean Connery. Moore took on the role with a grain of salt, not to mention cigars — as part of his contract, he reportedly was given unlimited Montecristos during production.
“My personality is entirely different than previous Bonds. I’m not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs,” he once said. Moore’s devilish smile and famously cocked eyebrow made his Bond a more polished, albeit less pugnacious, chap than former bodybuilder Connery’s robust warrior.
The late Amy Winehouse apparently was a fan. On her song “You Know I’m No Good” from the 2006 album Back to Black, she sings, “By the time I’m out the door, you tear men down like Roger Moore.”
“I probably just rhymed with door,” he once said. “Or she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with Connery.”
Moore and Connery each played Bond seven times — Moore bedded a total of 19 beauties, by one count — and his films earned more than $1 billion at the box office. But he considered himself to be the fourth-best 007, trailing Connery, Daniel Craig and Lazenby. And after leaving the series, he acted only sporadically.
“Roger was a beloved part of the MGM family for decades and leaves behind a legacy of iconic film and television performances that will be revered for generations to come,” studio chairman and CEO Gary Barber said in a statement.
Moore starred for six seasons as the slick Simon Templar, who makes a living stealing from crooks, in the popular 1962-69 series The Saint, which aired in the U.K. on ITV and in the U.S. on NBC (an international hit, it sold to more than 80 countries.)
In a 2014 interview, Moore lamented the fact that he pretty much always played the good guy.
“I wasn’t an Albert Finney or a Tom Courtenay,” he said. “I didn’t have their natural talent, I had to work quite hard at acting. My life’s been all right, but people like that get to play wonderful parts. I spent my life playing heroes because I looked like one. Practically everything I’ve been offered didn’t require much beyond looking like me. I would have loved to have played a real baddie.”
Roger George Moore was born Oct. 14, 1927, in Stockwell, England, south of the River Thames in London. An only child, he was evacuated as a teen during World War II to Worthing, Sussex, in southern England while his father remained in London, serving as a police constable who sketched crime scenes.
His first job was with Publicity Pictures Production, a film company in London, which specialized in animated cartoons. He worked as a tracer and filler-in, made tea and ran errands. After he was fired, a friend suggested he could make some easy money serving as an extra on Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), then filming outside London.
He played a Roman soldier in a crowd scene in the film that starred Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh, and the experience put his life on a new course. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (with future Miss Moneypenny Lois Maxwell), and by the end of the first term, he managed to get into a West End production of The Italian Straw Hat.
Moore quickly landed more parts, including a role in another West End Theater production, The Circle of Chalk.
In 1945, Moore was drafted and entered officer training school. He was sent to Germany after winning his commission, commanding a small supply depot. During his tour of duty, he joined the Combined Services Entertainment Unit in Hamburg, doing traveling shows throughout Europe.
Upon his discharge, Moore landed a role in the musical comedy Trotti True (1949) but then experienced a long period of unemployment. During this time, he joined a repertory company, the Intimate Theatre; performed in such plays as Noel Coward’s Easy Virtue; and supported himself as a model for things like knitwear and toothpaste.
After he understudied for David Tomlinson in a West End production of The Little Hut, Moore moved to Hollywood and within days got a role on a 1953 episode of the live NBC anthology series Robert Montgomery Presents.
He played a tennis player who is the object of Elizabeth Taylor’s flirtation in the MGM drama The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954), followed by parts in such films as the biopic Interrupted Melody (1955), starring Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford; The King’s Thief (1955), with Ann Blyth and David Niven; Diane (1956) with Lana Turner; and The Miracle (1959), with Carroll Baker.
Moore’s pretty-boy looks and confident manner elicited comparisons to a young Errol Flynn, and he landed his first starring role, portraying the title knight in the U.S.-British swashbuckling TV series Ivanhoe.
He played swindler Silky Harris on the 1959-60 ABC series The Alaskans, and when James Garner quit Maverick in a breach-of-contract dispute, Moore stepped in as cousin Beauregarde “Beau” Maverick, even going so far as to wear the costumes that Garner had left behind. He would later quit the show as well.
Disillusioned with television in the U.S., Moore starred in The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961) with Angie Dickinson and returned to England to make Romulus and the Sabines (1961), an Italian film about the founding of Rome. His co-star was Italian actress Luisa Mattioli, whom he married in 1969, after his divorce from singer Dorothy Squires was finalized. They had three children together before divorcing in 1996.
British media mogul Lew Grade wanted Moore to star as Templar, the character created by author Leslie Charteris and played on the big screen by George Sanders in the 1940s (and by Val Kilmer in a 1997 film). His savoir faire was perfect for the part, and Moore became an international celebrity.
Grade also signed him to star in the big-screen thrillers Crossplot (1969) and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) — he considered the latter to be his best film — and then approached him with another TV series, The Persuaders!
Moore played English nobleman Lord Brett Sinclair opposite Tony Curtis as rogue New Yorker Danny Wilde, and the mismatched pair solved crimes in exotic locations in the 1971 ITV-ABC series.
Around that time, Moore also served as the European managing director of Brut Productions, the show-business wing of Faberge cosmetic works.
Working around his 007 assignments, Moore appeared in Shout at the Devil (1976) with Lee Marvin, The Wild Geese (1978) with Richard Burton, The Sea Wolves (1980) with Gregory Peck and David Niven and The Cannonball Run (1981) with Burt Reynolds.
He also starred in the 1976 NBC movie Sherlock Holmes in New York (Patrick Macnee played Dr. Watson and John Huston was Professor Moriarty).
In 1999, Moore was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, and knighthood followed in 2003. He spent the past several years doing charity work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
“With the passing of Sir Roger Moore, the world has lost one of its great champions for children — and the entire UNICEF family has lost a great friend,” UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement. “In his most famous roles as an actor, Sir Roger was the epitome of cool sophistication; but in his work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he was a passionate – and highly persuasive – advocate for children. He once said that it was up to all of us to give children a more peaceful future. Together with [his wife] Lady Kristina, he worked very hard to do so.”
He married Kristina in 2002. His survivors also include his children Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.
To describe his version of Bond in relation to others, Moore told NPR in November 2014: “I look like a comedic lover, and Sean in particular, and Daniel Craig now, they are killers. They look like killers. I wouldn’t like to meet Daniel Craig on a dark night if I’d said anything bad about him.
“George [Lazenby], Timothy [Dalton] and Pierce [Brosnan], we’ve been together, the four of us. But Sean, Sean really was sort of not that enamored of being confused with James Bond all the time. Sean … damn good actor, but he felt that he was only being remembered for Bond. I personally don’t give a damn. I just want to be remembered as somebody who paid his debts.”