Thanks to Skyfall, the world has contracted James Bond fever again — and even former 007-er Sir Roger Moore isn’t immune. “It’s absolutely marvelous,” says the British actor of the latest Bond adventure, which opens in the U.S. today. “It’s the best Bond film without a doubt.”
Sir Roger should know. Not only did Moore play the fictional spy in seven big screen adventures but he has also just written, with Gareth Owen, the book Bond On Bond, which details both his involvement with the franchise and the history of the series as a whole.
Below, the urbane actor, now 85, talks about his time playing Bond — and reveals which of his non-Bond costars could put a baby to sleep with a single boozy breath.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you come to write Bond On Bond?
ROGER MOORE: Well, so, you pick up a pen…[Chuckles] No, the publishers of the last book I did, My Word Is My Bond, thought that it would be rather good timing to do it at the same time as the 50th anniversary celebration [and of] the new Bond. And I’m delighted that it’s the same time as not only the new Bond but the best Bond.
You write in the book that you met Bond movie producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli while gambling in a London casino. That’s very James Bond-ian. What was your game of choice?
Well, then we played chemin de fer. My game of choice was craps. I love rolling dice. But I was very unwise to do all that gambling. It was expensive. But I learned my lesson.
You also recall that you were asked to get your hair cut to play Bond. Were you indulging your inner hippie-child at the time?
No. I’d finished 13 and a half months of doing the Persuaders series with Tony Curtis. The character I played, I let his hair get longer and longer. Those were the days when I had enough hair for it to be wavy and grow long. We also indulged in quite a lot of champagne on the set of Persuaders so I gained a little weight.
When I got around to doing Bond they did think that my hair was a little long and that I was a little overweight. So I started working out like bloody mad and starving and getting my hair cut. I finished up saying, “Couldn’t you get a thin, bald man to start with?”
The Man With the Golden Gun may be favorite Bond film. What was Christopher Lee like to work with?
Oh, Christopher’s lovely. I met him first in 1948. I’d just come out of the army with 30 other hopeful young actors playing stage-door Johnnies in a film called Trottie True. I remember Christopher looking down his nose at me and saying, “If you’d been in the forces with me, you would have stood to attention whenever you spoke to me!” There was another friend of mine, who’d been in the army with me, who said, “Shall I nobble him?” I said, “No need.”
On the set of The Man With the Golden Gun you teased him about the fact that he was famous for playing Dracula?
Yeah. [Laughs] As we walked into the cave in Pei Pei Island all these bats came flying out, and without hesitating, he put up his hand and he said, “Not now!” The he looked down at me and said, “You’ll use that against me, won’t you?” “Yes!” In the book I said that he looked down at me rather sheepishly. He was furious about this. He called my assistant at Pinewood and said, “I have never looked ‘sheepish’ in my life! I looked at him coldly!”
What about Hervé Villechaize?
Herve was a strange, strange man. He was rather oversexed.
I didn’t realize that was possible. But, moving on! A View to a Kill found you working with both Christopher Walken and Grace Jones. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine the three of you on a set together.
I had a very good time with Chris Walken. Very nice fellow. In fact, he and his wife came and stayed with me one Christmas in Gstaad in Switzerland. I wouldn’t give that pleasure to Grace Jones.
Would you care to elaborate on that?
No. If you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything.
I had no idea that, while you were shooting Octopussy, you would have dinner with Sean Connery, who was shooting the rival Bond production Never Say Never Again at the same time.
Yeah. Sean and I had dinner and we’d discuss how our various production companies were trying to kill us.
Did you keep any mementos from your time as Bond? What about the fake third nipple you wore to impersonate Lee’s Scaramanga?
[Laughs] No. I don’t know what happened to those. I think Christopher took those home with him! A lot of clothes I stole. Not stole. Cubby would say, “Take what you want,” which I did. I tried to get the carpets out of the dressing room but they were stuck down too well.
Do you have any projects coming up?
Most of my time these days is spent with UNICEF, raising awareness and raising funds. My oldest [son] Geoffrey is connected with The Saint (the ’60s TV show version of which starred Moore) and it’s quite possible that might get going before Christmas, as a [new] TV series.
What would your involvement be with that?
My involvement would be to sit back and wish them every success and maybe wander through as some odd character.
Outside of Bond, could I ask you tell one story about Lee Marvin (who appeared with Moore in 1976’s Shout at the Devil)?
Lee? He was a great, great, great man. Funny. Funny as hell. Controlled his drinking [pauses] up to a point. When he would go on a blinder, his eyes remained blue but his breath reeked of vodka.
When we were shooting in South Africa, we were in this odd location in the middle of the jungle and the house we’d built was where [my character] had fathered a child with his daughter. I don’t know how people do it — they let their few weeks-old babies be filmed. But, anyway, we had this little three-week-old baby that was supposed to be ours. Lee lurched towards the child and picked it up in his arms and, oh my god, it was screaming. I was so worried — the baby’s head was flopping — that Lee would drop it. But then the baby stopped crying and seemed to sleep peacefully. What it was, he’d taken a deep breath of Lee Marvin’s alcohol-soaked breath — and gone straight off!