On Tuesday May 23rd 2017, Sir Roger Moore passed away after a brief spell of cancer. The news shook the pillars of the Bond fan community, as well as more casual fans and various pop culture media outlets. Rightfully so, if I may be so bold. He was a legend for all sorts of reasons. He will forever be known for portraying not one but two legendary screen characters, Simon Templar, aka The Saint, and James Bond 007. His success therefore spanned television and cinema, a much rarer feat in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. What’s more, starting in 1991, he became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, something he has said is the true greatest achievement of his lifetime, more so than Templar or even Bond. Who would argue?
Roger Moore has regularly been a sticking point in many a 007 debate regarding the actors that have donned the tuxedo. Some have never warmed to his mannerism, specifically the lightness of touch he brought to the role by and large. It isn’t because the good man passed away this week that they need suddenly change their tune. To each their own, as the saying goes. If one just can’t tolerate Moore as Bond, then so be it.
As for myself, he will always hold a special place in my heart. As revealed in a previous article published a few months ago, my very first 007 adventure, introduced to me by my Bond-fan mother (not my father), was Octopussy. Her favourite Bond was unmistakably Roger Moore, practically for the exact same reasons the actor’s naysayers frown on his interpretation. Bless her heart, for loving Roger Moore so much. I’ve never really been able to answer the question as to who my favourite Bond is (for reasons that I’ll maybe get into some day), but suffice to say that I very, very much enjoy each depiction. They all share similar traits whilst putting their own stamp on the role. Moore was, by all accounts, a classy, gentlemanly individual in real life, consistently exuding sophistication, good humour, and humane sensibilities.
These qualities translated into his version of 007. Yes, he still killed and had to be dangerous, but he clearly was the only Bond (thus far) to sort of ‘be in on the joke’. For as much as me and millions of fans around the world adore James Bond, the fact of the matter is the concept of 007 is utterly ridiculous, and Moore himself has said so in interviews. As such, he opted for a lighter tone, a variation that understood the inherent ludicrousness of the whole project, thus injecting it with humour. I don’t remember where I read or heard the following, but something comes back to me as I type these words. Some time ago I came across someone’s own in-universe interpretation of why James Bond behaves differently depending on the actor that plays him. Dalton was the burnt out version, Connery was the seasoned vet that still appreciated the danger involved in the job, etc. Roger Moore is Bond as a super seasoned agent that has basically gotten past the sense of danger. He does his job for queen and country, but he’s become so bloody good at it (unkillable you might say!) that he tries to make it as fun as possible. He’s become 100% comfortable in his skin.
That theory has always stayed with me. I think it fits, at least well enough. There is something incredibly warm of comforting about Moore as Bond. While the pure sense of danger isn’t always present in his films, there is conversely a positive energy that emanates from the knowledge that 007 has everything under control. It leads to predictability, but then again, if one enjoys the vibes of a Bond film (as I’m sure most reading this do), then there isn’t a problem with said predictability. What’s more, this James Bond will pull off the feat with a smile and a quip. Better still when it’s a painfully obvious pun. The more obvious the better, if you ask me.
There are also moments, infrequent perhaps, when his 007 does in fact turn cold in the face of either imminent danger, personal drama, or when dogged bullheadedness is required to finish the task at hand. These moments reminded, or revealed to some, that Moore was much more versatile an actor than most gave him credit for. His reaction in TSWLM when Anya Amasova rattles off facts from his profile and is about to mention his deceased wife is priceless. It’s true and honest. His ‘what a helpful chap!’ line in the same movie when he lets Sandor fall to his death after divulging critical intelligence is fantastic as well. His makes no effort to hide his disdain for Scaramanga in TMWTGG, straight to his face too. Several such moments occur in FYEO, like when Bond wisely warns a ferocious Melina that, when going after revenge, one must dig two graves. Then of course the classic, iconic moment when Bond kicks Locque’s car off the cliff in a shocking, ultra rare fit of anger from his 007. When called for, Moore could do much more than just smile and crack wise.
His passing is a sad moment in the 007 community, but his legacy goes beyond that of James Bond. As previously alluded to, everybody who was ever interviewed and talked about Moore has had nothing but pleasant things to say about him. Virtually every account paints him as an all around nice chap, but more importantly, a genuine chap. There was nothing fake about him. He loved the exposure his status granted, yet he never took it for granted per say. In fact, he strived to give back as best he could, and what a wonderful way to achieve that end by investing as much time as he did as a UNICEF ambassador. I’ve heard mention that, near the end of his the shows he gave in the latter years when he toured the U.K., he would take a few minutes to talk about UNICEF and the important role it plays in helping underprivileged children around the world. He was obviously tremendously pleased with their efforts and, right up until the very end, kept lending them whatever small helping hand he could.
When I read things like that, the first word that comes to mind is ‘inspiring.’ The fellow was a real life James Bond, only instead of fighting Stromberg, Max Zorin, or Scaramanga, he fought poverty, sickness, and brutality against children in need. If ever there was an actor famous for playing an action-star on screen who brought a whole new meaning to the idea of a real-life hero, then Roger Moore is certainly in that class.
Man or woman, no one can ever be exactly like James Bond, however cool that might be. Something more attainable would be to emulate, in some small ways, what Roger Moore was like. Be kind, be gentle, be positive, give when you can, be informed, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And of course, be a gentleman or a lady.
When we start doing those to the best of our own abilities, then we become James Bond.
Rest in peace, Sir Roger Moore.