By Ray Bennett
LONDON – Roger Moore, who died Tuesday aged 89, told me that really he was a frustrated bank robber. “It’s only fear that’s stopped me from robbing banks, and that’s why I’m a movie actor. I’d get caught. I’ve never been caught acting.”
I spoke to him at Pinewood Studios on Dec. 10 1984 on the set of his last James Bond picture, “A View to a Kill”. He had just been shooting an action scene with co-star Tanya Roberts. Unruffled, he sat on a director’s chair in the middle of a very cold soundstage smoking the first of several cigars he would enjoy through the day.
“The boilers are gone,” he said. “This centre of the British film industry on a Monday morning is freeze-your-bollocks-off time.”
The debonair star did not look it, but he was 57 years old at the time and so I asked if there would be an eighth 007 outing for him.
“The answer is always the same,” he said. “No.”
“Until it’s yes,” I said.
“Until it’s yes. One thing you can be sure about me is that I always tell the truth until I open my mouth. Then, I lie.”
Here are some highlights from my interview:
“‘The Alaskans’ was almost a Western: a frozen Western. I didn’t want to do ‘Maverick’ at all. I didn’t want to replace Jim Garner. They said I wasn’t replacing him, that it was an entirely different character [cousin Beauregard] but I noticed all the trousers had J. Garner written inside.”
On blinking when guns go off:
“Everybody blinks, actually. You see Western stars, they’re always squinting their eyes. That’s because they’re pinching the muscles to stop themselves from blinking. The trouble with me is that I blink before it goes off because I know it’s going to go off. But there you are. I’m getting better.”
On taking over as James Bond:
“I don’t suppose anybody else worked as cheap as me or turned up on time. I’d been asked earlier when it appeared that Sean would leave but he went back and did another one. When he finally took a powder, they came back to me. I have no pride whatsoever. Always ready.”
On Bond villains:
“Christopher Walken is a lovely fella. Very interesting. Good actor. Very pleasant to work with too. Mind you, all my villains that I’ve had in Bond have been very good. I envy them all because they’ve got the best part. They really do. Bloody villains!”
On playing villains:
“It depends. You know, leading film actors have a persona when they play heroes so there are things they don’t do. I would love to play villains but they won’t let me. Nobody casts me as a villain. In a certain sense I can see why. There are people who go to see you for the type of thing you do and you might piss them off by being nasty. But being rotten, they’re the best parts. That would be natural to me. This is acting. Being a nice guy is acting because really underneath, I’m a shit.”
On not given credit for working hard:
“I don’t give a shit. I get paid. If acting shows onscreen then it’s wrong. Film acting is listening and re-acting. Unless, of course, you’re playing what I call the lovely character parts where you wear a a false nose and beard and hide behind things. As a leading man, you have no physical things to hid behind. You haven’t got the hump, you know? You can’t do, ‘The bells! The bells!’, all that crap. Which is fun, you know, fun to do.”
On having good luck:
“I’ve always been rather surprised, actually, that I was employed. I didn’t expect not to be employed but I’m always surprised when I am. I’ve been very lucky. It’s luck in the first place to be there at the right time. It’s luck that the part comes along. It’s luck that you’re accepted in it. It’s luck that they come back for more. And it’s their bad luck because they’ve got to watch it.”
On his career:
“At the beginning of my film career, literally within the same week as I signed for MGM, I was offered The Old Vic. Well, I might have gone on carrying a spear for 40 years or I might gone on to be a classical actor. Who knows? I have a feeling I’d have been carrying a fucking spear. But I only say things like that because I’m modest.”
“I used to be terribly timid. I would rather not eat than go into a restaurant on my own. Even now, I hate that. I sort of covered up my timidity by being ingratiatingly charming. Which is why I got away with murder with teachers at school. Smile a lot. I recall when I came out of the army and started in repertory, a director, or producer as we used to call them, said, ‘You’re not very good. Smile a lot when you come on.’ So, I smile a lot.”
On comedy in his Bond films:
“I always wanted more humour in the films. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, I think had all the right ingredients to it. ‘Octopussy’ worked too in terms of the humour that I tried to get in. A lot of the time, it’s impossible to get any humour in. There are moments when you have to be serious and they’re the moments when I really want to laugh my head off. You think, ‘This is a load of cobblers.’”
On his political views:
“I avoid expressing them. I’m slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, that’s all. If everybody knew my views, I’d make a lot of enemies. I believe in dictatorship as long as I’m the dictator. A benevolent dictatorship. I suppose I started off, as most young people do when they start thinking of politics, they’re communists. Then you become socialist. Then Labour. Then Liberal when you don’t which fucking direction you’re going, and then you end up being conservative.”
As it turned out, “A View to a Kill” was Moore’s final appearance as James Bond so I was pleased to catch him before it all ended. Moore’s first appearance in the role was in “Live and Let Die” (1963) followed by “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “Moonraker” (1979”, “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) and “Octopussy” (1983).