AS he stepped onto the stage of the Festival Theatre, before he had uttered a single word, rapturous applause welcomed Sir Roger Moore.
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The man who has played James Bond for longer than any other actor, had arrived in the home city of his predecessor Sir Sean Connery, and was quick to acknowledge the fact.
“I was really nervous about coming here tonight because this is the birthplace of... Harry Lauder,” he quipped, later adding, that when he was filming Octopussy, at the same time that Sir Sean was filming the rival Never Say Never Again in 1983, the pair would “meet up once a week, have dinner, and discuss how the producers were trying to kill us.”
Although visibly frailer than in his 007 days – well he is 86 years old – Moore’s trademark charm, humour and self-deprecation remain.
Joined on stage by Gareth Owen – the ghostwriter of his autobiography My Word Is My Bond and Bond On Bond, Moore’s 50th anniversary affectionate look-back at the James Bond films – Sir Roger entertained, recalling stories of his life and career.
Owen gently bringing him back on track when tales of his co-stars and films and TV series took him off at a tangent.
A comfortable double-act, Sir Roger delighting the audience with feigned hurt each time Owen points out a job from which he was “sacked”.
Whether describing the eccentricities of Tony Curtis, with whom he starred in The Persauders – he does a very accurate impression of the star – or recounting tales of his first job as an extra on Anthony And Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, he never misses a chance to play down his fame: “I either had a very long spear or a very short toga,” he chuckles, as he recalls how the director of that movie encouraged him to go to RADA.
Candid, honest and at times blunt, he fielded questions from the floor with ease.
“What do you consider your biggest personal failure and how did you come to terms with it?”, asked one fan.
“Not being a very good husband,” replied the actor, “And I dealt with it by marrying again.”
The laughter quickly disappeared however, as he closed the evening with details of his work with UNICEF, a timely reminder of the real world outside the back lot, and perhaps his greatest role to date.