Roger Moore, and the best James Bond

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I've not planned my funeral. I'm not the Queen. A procession through the streets of Stockwell would be nice, I suppose. But when I go, I'd just like everyone to say: "He lived longer than anyone I knew.". -- Roger Moore

The death of the third James Bond naturally brings up that question fans have debated for decades: Who was the best Bond? (Roger Moore was actually the fourth on-screen Bond--the first, Barry Nelson for an American TV Movie, might be so changed from the original as to not count.)

George Lazenby is generally considered the second Bond for his one and only appearance in 1969, but that would be wrong, kind of. David Niven played Bond in a 1967 spoof of Casino Royale. To confuse matters further, in 1964 James Bond was a character on a comedy sketch show, Mainly Millicent. In that case, a full nine years before Roger Moore took over the part in the movies, James Bond was played by ... Roger Moore.

"Maybe someday they'll give me this part in a movie."

So you see, the question of how many actors assumed the role of James Bond is complicated, even if you don't include Bob Simmons -- a stuntman who played Bond in the opening "through the gun barrel" sequence in Dr. No.

For me the question of who was the best Bond is very complicated indeed: The most realistic Bond seems to be Daniel Craig, the best Sean Connery, and my favorite Roger Moore. (My next favorite after Connery and Moore would be Pierce Brosnan, who I predicted would someday play Bond the moment I first saw him on Remington Steele.)

Daniel Craig seemed most like the original Bond, the one from Ian Fleming's books. Plus, his character gets beat up and wounded inside and out, is darker, and generally as close to real life as Bond ever got. That's why he doesn't make my favorites list--not because he or his movies were bad, but because I watch spy movies for escapism and fun, not real life.

Sean Connery was just ... Sean Connery. He's on a gold medal stand, all by himself, not just for originating the movie roll but for doing it with such style. You can believe he's a cold blooded killer, but you can also believe he's having some fun with the role. No one else ever quite matched him. (In my opinion. And no, I'm not going to get into a fight about it, because hey--it's movies.)

Then Moore came along, and instantly realized the inherent silliness of the whole thing ... so he played it with tongue in cheek, which enraged many fans.

Sean's jokes come from left field, and I let people know a joke was coming. I basically said "I'm have a good time doing this, and I hope you're having a good time watching me have a good time.". -- Roger Moore

The first Bond movie I saw was Moore's first, Live and Let Die. You always remember your first. Everything that meant Bond to me was there: The gadgets,  the over the top villains, the jokes, the girls, the chases. The boat chase in that movie stands up to this day, as does the opening song (the first in a Bond movie not sung by a woman).

Irony: Roger Moore hated guns.

To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous. 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 recognized everywhere he goes? It's outrageous. So you have to treat the humor outrageously as well. 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. -- Roger Moore

And there you have it, the reason why I can have more than one favorite James Bond. They weren't playing the same character, not really. Conner, Moore, Craig ... they're playing characters with the same name, but from different worlds. You don't have to debate: Just enjoy their work.

When I was a young actor at RADA, Noël Coward was in the audience one night. He said to me after the play, "Young man, with your devastating good looks and your disastrous lack of talent, you should take any job ever offered you. In the event that you're offered two jobs simultaneously, take the one that offers the most money." Here I am. -- Roger Moore


Dino Manalis Added May 31, 2017 - 8:14am
Roger Moore was the best!
John Minehan Added May 31, 2017 - 10:34am
He was actually a good actor.
I thought his work in The Wild Geese, playing against type as a criminal with certain standards of conduct, was really fine work done at the height of his period as Bond.
His work as Simon Templar in The Saint  is very standard mid-1960s ITV work . . .  done with great √©lan and without "phoning it in" despite the fact that it ran 7 years.
He was not Paul Schofield . . . nor was he Sean Connery (a movie star, who discovered [perhaps to his own surprise] that he was a great movie actor) . . . but he was a professional who made his work seem like fun.   
Joshua Hudson Added May 31, 2017 - 1:53pm
Roger Moore was my favorite bond...But Connery Is Bond
Michael B. Added May 31, 2017 - 7:16pm
I really should read the actual books some day. I vaguely remember reading something about Ian Fleming strongly disapproving of the choice of Sean Connery playing Bond; Fleming apparently pictured Bond as someone average-looking with unsophisticated tastes and manners, but knew how to adapt when his mission required it:
"When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened; I wanted him to be a blunt instrument ... when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God, [James Bond] is the dullest name I ever heard."
Patrick Writes Added May 31, 2017 - 8:37pm
Moore was right. The whole thing was stupid. In those early movies with Connery, he's bedding 3-4 different women in the course of one movie. Since that was pushing the envelope, it worked by way of being shocking. The Cold War was heavy in those days, gadgets were new. 
But by the 70's, seriously? This guy had so much game that he can walk into any bar and walk out with a lady, not only lady, but the either boss's trophy wife / girlfriend or the female spy trying to kill him. He can bed her, get whatever info he wants, then either turn her to his side or purposefully get her killed. 
And this formula repeats every movie (sometimes multiple times within the same movie). By the time you get to the Brosnan movies, they can to stop reusing the formula (in Goldeneye, he only gets 1 woman, in The World is Not Enough HE gets betrayed and nearly killed instead of the other around). 
Moore's movies got bigger and bigger stunts as well (apparently Bond is the greatest skier on planet earth). Roger Moore took the right course in end. Age just caught up with him. 
Cuckoo o'clock Added May 31, 2017 - 10:00pm
I wish I liked James Bond movies but for some resin I just can't follow them! I find myself wishing the movie would end!
Michael B. Added May 31, 2017 - 11:38pm
Resin....good one Cuckoo, lol.
Lady Sekhmetnakt Added Jun 1, 2017 - 12:09am
I like Bond movies because they are basically like superhero movies to which I wrote an article about loving them. Bond is a lot like the superheroes of the movie Watchmen, more believable and realistic, at least as far as heroes in cinema go. The bad guys have more believably as well as I see it. 
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:04am
He was certainly fun to watch, Dino!
John, I agree, great actor -- although he tended to say otherwise, which just endeared him that much more to his fans. I need to go watch The Wild Geese again, it's been awhile.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:04am
Joshua, that's exactly my reaction too.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:07am
Michael, the books are worth reading, but very different from the movies -- which isn't all that uncommon, I suppose. I understand Fleming eventually came to like Connery's portrayal of the character, but Connery was definitely different from the way Bond was written. It makes me wonder what my reaction would be if one of my novels got turned into a movie ... I like to think it would be "ka-ching!"
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:09am
You're absolutely right, Patrick: the Bond movies were over the top and ridiculous. That's what I loved about them. I do remember thinking years ago that in order to maintain all those mad Skills Bond had in so many different areas, he'd have to train and practice 24/7.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:14am
I can understand your reaction, Cuckoo ... kind of like I'd feel about being forced to watch Nicholas Sparks movies. Thank goodness we live at a time when there's so much entertainment that no one really has to watch something they don't want to--at least, in theory!
Mark Hunter Added Jun 1, 2017 - 1:16am
I also love superhero movies also, Jenifer. I think, in a way, Bond is the spy version of Batman, with all the gadgets and over the top action ... just the way I like it.
Michael B. Added Jun 1, 2017 - 11:51am
Yes Mark, I think "ka-ching" is the ultimate persuader! I think when someones buys the movie rights to a book, they can pretty much do what they want with the material. Many authors have took the money but publically or privately disowned whatever movies were created from their work. From what I've seen, it's actually fairly rare for an author to adapt his or her work into a screenplay.
Mark Hunter Added Jun 2, 2017 - 12:07am
It does happen, but usually after the author becomes a huge success. We've been watching "American Gods", which is about as quirky a TV series as you can get -- it's clear Neil Gaiman had a lot of say in that adaptation.
At my rate of book sales, the amount of say I'd have in a movie deal would be essentially nil. I'd have to decide whether to take the money, or wait until I became successful enough to have more say in future projects--which isn't likely for any writer.

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