Here at EF we were all saddened by the passing of Sir Roger Moore this week, at the age of 89. Not only was he a much-loved British film star, but also the last of his generation of suave, handsome leading actors.
Roger Moore had that rare quality of making everybody around him feel special and not taking himself too seriously – virtually unheard of in the profession. Whenever we’ve interviewed actors who worked with him, they all talk with great fondness, recounting his generosity as well as his wicked sense of humour. One time we saw him on stage, the interviewer tried to bring the Q&A to an end. “I’m not in a hurry. Is anybody here in a hurry?” he asked, turning to the audience and smiling. It’s not trite to say the room filled with love, that not a single person wanted to leave early, and he stayed for another twenty minutes, holding court, taking and answering questions with his characteristic wit, good grace and immaculate timing for stories.
In the days following his death, many such tributes flooded social media, concerning how Moore’s ability to connect with people touched so many lives. None of them were surprising, and all seem in character for such a great humanitarian who wanted to spend his life enjoying a successful career, making himself and those around him happy, and using his status to make life better for those less fortunate, as well as having more than his fair share of fun.
From his campaigns for animal rights in aid of PETA to his tireless dedication to helping the world’s children as an ambassador for UNICEF, Roger Moore made the most of his eighty-nine years, and he leaves the world a far richer place for his efforts.
The legacy he leaves behind is the stories people treasure and his extraordinary acting career. We look back over it and recall the roles that made the strongest impression.
We give you our personal top ten picks of Roger Moore’s many performances. Do you agree?
10. Lloyd Faversham
We begin with little-known American comedy Boat Trip, which would have sunk without trace if it weren’t for Roger Moore’s outrageous and unexpected appearance. The 2002 farce, set on a dating cruise liner, follows two guys as they attempt to hook up with a line of single ladies. Unfortunately for them, a vindictive agent has booked the boys onto a cruise strictly for gay men. Enter stage right 74-year-old Sir Roger Moore as shagged-out Lloyd Faversham, ex-SAS hero on the lookout to, well, roger more. Evidencing his ability to make a bad film entertaining just by walking into a scene, Moore upstages the cast at every turn, showcasing a camp-as-hell delivery with impeccable comedy timing. “I’m what you colonials might call a bad-arsed motherf****r,” he barks before skydiving; “who also happens to be skilled in the fine art of Japanese flower-arranging.” And why not?
9. Captain Gavin Stewart
1980’s The Sea Wolves was the perfect film at the perfect time for Moore. The previous year, Moonraker had reached stratospheric heights (pun intended) at the box office as the most successful James Bond film of all time. The following year, James Bond would return with a darker, earthier edge in For Your Eyes Only, by which time Moore was inarguably getting just a little long in the tooth for the part (even though audiences still adored him playing it just as much). The Sea Wolves cast Moore with greater honesty, as a former soldier too old to fight in WWII, but still with a role to play. A crack squad of older civilians are dispatched to capture a Nazi vessel and save the Allies. It was an excuse for the producers to team up Moore with other actors of his generation such as Gregory Peck, David Niven and Trevor Howard. A charming photograph of the four actors graced the cover of Moore’s autobiographical book Last Man Standing, in which he spoke of his co-stars with great affection, which translates onto screen. Captain Gavin Stewart is an honest portrayal of an aging hero, but one who still effortlessly charms the ladies.
Moore’s first starring role was on television as dashing hero Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe. The short-lived series, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott’s adventurer, hit screens in 1958 at the beginning of the golden era of television drama. Aimed at a young audience, Ivanhoe was the role which solidified Moore as one of the leading faces of TV, paving the way for a sensational career on the silver screen. As Ivanhoe, Moore not only offered boyish good looks and a strong jaw, but also the resonating voice of a leading man. Despite the creaky nature of the production and the absurdity of the chainmail costumes, it’s Moore’s urgent and authoritative performance which raises the show beyond the level it deserves and most importantly, debuts the iconic trademark of the Moore eyebrow, too.
7. Rod Slater
Shortly after he was cast as James Bond, Moore took a break from playing the super spy to make Gold, an adaptation of a Wilbur Smith novel, in which he plays the foreman of a gold mine in South Africa. He exchanges Q’s gadgets and megalomaniacs trying to take over the world to play a hero of a different kind: one who refuses to see men exploited by unscrupulous bosses who deliberately endanger their lives. The film is also critical of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa, and taking it at the time in his career where he must have had many offers to choose does Moore enormous credit. Watch out also for Tony Beckley’s masterclass in camp malevolence but undoubtedly, it’s Moore’s gritty portrayal that lingers in the memory afterwards.
6. Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes
By 1978, Moore was internationally associated with James Bond. In the interval between The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, he accepted the divergent role of a salty marine misogynist in the film North Sea Hijack. A cranky counter-terrorist expert with no time for pleasantries, Rufus Excalibur Ffolkes provided Moore with the opportunity to play the antihero next to Psycho legend Anthony Perkins in what’s essentially a siege-disaster romp. Bearded and topped with a bobbly beanie hat, this is Moore as he’s never been seen before; playing a bitter loner with a hatred towards women yet a love of pussy cats and tapestry. The original alternative hipster, Ffolks is radical casting for the master of savoir vivre, proving that Moore can deliver sullen and shabby with equal proficiency. A role which shatters the image of the globetrotting bon vivant, Ffolks is a bombastic bigot, yet remains an oddly likeable hero, demonstrating the alluring sympathy which Moore could bring to any character.
5. Lieutenant Shawn Flynn
The Expendables of its day, The Wild Geese (1978) is an all-star ensemble of leathery mercenaries setting out on a mission to liberate an imprisoned African politician. Sharing the screen with heavyweight boozers Richard Harris and Richard Burton (Moore in his younger years was no stranger to bending the elbow with the best of them – champagne his preferred tipple), Moore delivers wit and finesse as Shawn Flynn, an unflappable pilot with a love of ladies and cigars. The Wild Geese is an explosively sweaty macho movie, full of action, grit and testosterone. Between Burton and Harris, Moore shines as a sophisticated, sharp instrument among a bag of blunt tools. He’s the dashing pilot in the best clothes, the man who gets the girl, and the guy with all the cutting one-liners. In a movie full of cocksure conflict, dust and grease, Moore wraps up the production with some much-needed class, finesse and blue-eyed sparkle. Perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment.
4. Harold Pelham
Moore’s role in Basil Dearden’s unusual 1970 psychological thriller The Man Who Haunted Himself is, many would argue (and Moore himself would not have disagreed) his finest acting performance. Playing against type, Moore’s Harold Pelham is a sensible, clipped, bowler-hatted London businessman with a wife and family. A strange car crash leaves him believing he is losing his mind, as those around him claim they have seen him recently, acting recklessly and out of character. Could he have a doppelganger on the loose? Moore plays both versions of Pelham and creates a compelling and consistent contrast. His plight as the original Pelham at the denouement is fine acting by anybody’s standards. The film is a gem and well worth a look.
3. Lord Brett Sinclair
It’s hard to think of a more entertaining TV show than The Persuaders!, which Moore was shooting immediately prior to bagging the role of a lifetime when Sean Connery hung up his Walther PPK for the last time. The concept of the series was to pair up quintessential English gent Moore with self-made New York Jew Tony Curtis. The obvious contrasts between the two, even in terms of physicality, translated into fantastic chemistry on screen, and one of the most memorable buddy dramas of all time. The similarity was that they were both fabulously wealthy international playboys with a bent for solving crimes. Produced by Lew Grade and given a lavish budget and top notch guest casts, The Persuaders! was, at the time, the most expensive television show ever made, when Moore was at the height of his powers. It’s lost none of its original charm in the intervening decades.
2. Simon Templar
Originally airing in 1962, The Saint followed the exploits of debonair world traveller Simon Templar, a sort of modern-day Robin Hood who exposed the corrupt underbelly of the ‘ungodly’ and redistributed wealth to the saintly. Arriving at the peak of the spy-thriller boom, the show became a huge hit as one of the first British-made productions to win syndication across the United States. At the centre of the phenomenon was Roger Moore, who had been seeking the rights to adapt Leslie Charteris’ books for some time. As dashing bachelor Simon Templar, Moore had found his calling in a role which demanded a transatlantic twang coupled with a James Dean composure. A tuxedo-clad man a la mode – endlessly smoking and necking gin and tonics – women desired him and men wanted to be him. Moore captured the imagination of a generation of Sixties playboys and men about town. We know what came later, but the essence of Moore’s 007 was firmly established in The Saint, and Simon Templar is still the coolest cad to ever grace the small screen. The secret to the success of The Saint? “Three things,” Lew Grade famously said. “Roger Moore, Roger Moore and Roger Moore.”
1. James Bond
Well, what else could possibly be at number one than his most famous part? Moore played Bond in no fewer than seven movies, made across twelve years, which accounts for more films over a longer period of time than any other actor to have played the part – and that’s down to Moore’s personal success in making the part his own. The iconic spy was a role Moore was born to play, and he brought more humour and delicacy of touch to it than the more aggressively masculine Connery. Comparisons are pointless: Moore took his own path, and rightly so. From Live and Let Die through to A View to a Kill in 1985, viewers were in the thrall of a charismatic and much-adored leading man, who became strongly associated with Fleming’s creation in the minds of audiences worldwide. Some of his Bond films, notably Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me, remain amongst the best in the entire run of the franchise. Moore as James Bond was the quintessential leading man playing the quintessential leading part. Perfection.
Sir Roger Moore. 1927-2017.
This article was jointly written by Samuel Payne (@SamuelTPayne) and Greg Jameson (@Greg_Jameson). They are close friends and whenever they meet up, conversation inevitably turns to a shared love – Sir Roger Moore.
Nobody did it better.