Roger Moore: ‘bagpipes always make me cry’

Sir Roger Moore. Pic: Comp
Sir Roger Moore. Pic: Comp
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THE name is Moore, Roger Moore. Or, to be more correct, Sir Roger Moore, for many the ultimate James Bond, having played Ian Fleming’s spy for longer than anyone else who has packed the famous Walther PPK or enjoyed a Martini shaken, not stirred.

At the grand age of 86, the man who replaced Sean Connery as 007 is heading to the Capital for one night only to entertain his fans at the Festival Theatre.

“I was last in Edinburgh 30 or 40 years ago for a charity event, it’s a pretty city,” recalls the gently spoken legend. “And one of my favourite programmes to watch is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo - bagpipes always make me cry.” With a chuckle, he adds, “and I do like Sean.”

Next Monday, Sir Roger will be well and truly in the spotlight at the Festival Theatre.

An Evening With Sir Roger Moore will find him discussing his life and career, sharing inside stories and exclusive anecdotes about his TV series The Saint and The Persuaders, through to his Hollywood blockbusters and, of course, the Bond films.

The son of a policeman, Sir Roger’s boyhood dreams, however, were of following in his father’s footsteps, albeit for quite the wrong reasons.

“When people used to say to me, ‘What work are you going to do when you leave school?’ I’d say, ‘I’m not going to work, I’m going to be a policeman like my father, because for about 20 years of his service he was a plan drawer and would work at home.

“If the sun was shining, he’d take me swimming. So I thought he didn’t really work. I rarely saw him in a uniform, although I did find his hat very useful when local bullies were around outside the flat - I’d put my father’s hat to the window.”

Many years later, despite having made a number of films in Hollywood, it would be television that made the young Moore a household name, with lead roles in series such as Ivanhoe, Maverick, The Saint and The Persuaders, in which he played Sir Brett Sinclair opposite movie star Tony Curtis.

“That was fun to do, a very expensive series. The producer Lew Grade had sold the series to America after I’d said I wasn’t doing any more television. He called me one afternoon and said, ‘I want to see you in my office tomorrow morning’.

“When I arrived I saw it was about The Persuaders. He said, ‘You can have either Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson or Glenn Ford to work with.’

“I said, ‘But this is immoral, you’ve sold me in something I said I didn’t want to do.’

“Well, figures were discussed, a cigar was shoved in my mouth and there was no argument. I loved Lew, we didn’t sign a contract, we just went ahead with it.”

Two months before filming of The Persuaders began, Sir Roger met his co-star for the first time.

“Lew wanted me to go with Bob Baker, the director, and Terry Nation, the story editor, to speak to Tony at his magnificent mansion in California.

“Now, Lew had said to me, ‘Roger, whatever you do, do not smoke in front of Tony. He is the spokesperson in America for the Anti-Smoking League. You must not smoke.’

“After we’d been there for two hours, talking to Tony, I said, ‘Look Tony, I know we’re not supposed to smoke in front of you, but Bob wants to light his pipe and I know Terry’s a smoker, and, quite frankly, I’d wouldn’t mind a cigarette.’

“Tony looked over his shoulder and shouted to his then wife, ‘Lesley, where is that ashtray we used to have?’

“Where is that ashtray we used to have!,” he repeats, to emphasise his next statement: “Two months later Tony gets busted at London Airport for coming in with marijuana.”

Laughing, he reveals that he soon discovered another of Curtis’ little idiosyncrasies.

“He was averse to sticking to the script, so it was a good exercise in ad-libbing,” he says.

“He wouldn’t carry a plot line because ‘plot lines are boring’. So I had to carry them, but I didn’t mind, it was fun. I enjoyed working with Tony.”

However, it is as secret agent James Bond, a role he played between 1973 and 1985, that Sir Roger is best known, and with a self-deprecating chuckle, he reveals that despite impressions to the contrary, in real life he was never really cut out for a career in espionage.

“About the only acting I did in Bond was trying to look like a hero and not blink when guns went off,” he confesses. “I hate explosions, because, during reserve training after my National Service, we had to shoot with Sten guns. The sergeant gave me a gun, which I put up to my shoulder... It had a block breech... an explosion went off, frayed the end of the gun and I looked like Sammy Davis by the time I’d finished - my hair was standing on end and I lost my hearing for a few days.

“So I am very allergic to bangs. On anything I did, where I had to fire a gun, they had a hell of job getting a shot of me in which I wasn’t blinking.”

Perfect casting for James Bond then.

He laughs again, “Absolutely perfect. Nothing but explosions. When we were doing the scene in The Spy Who Loved Me, where the whole headquarters under the ocean gets blown up at the end, I had to get out with the girl, Barbara Bach.

“She sees my wardrobe man come up to me with a couple of things which I put in my ears – earplugs. ‘So I won’t hear the bangs,’ I tell her, to which she replies, ‘I thought if I stood near you I’d be safe.’

“I’m James Bond,” I say, “they’re trying to kill me, so whatever I do, stay with me. Don’t delay. I’m the one they want to kill.”

While James Bond may be the role Sir Roger is best known for, and series like The Saint and The Persuaders still rerun on telly to this day, there’s no hesitation when asked of which role he is most proud, and it’s not one you would expect.

The 1970 film The Man Who Haunted Himself tells the story of Harold Pelham, who encounters a duplicate of himself in the aftermath of a car crash.

“It’s my favourite because it was one of the few pictures I was allowed to act in because I was given a moustache,” he says candidly.

“I played two aspects, the good and evil sides, of the same person. It was a fascinating story and I had real satisfaction from being able to play the emotions - normally, the heroes I played didn’t have any emotion at all.

“Only when you are allowed to put a false nose on or wear a beard and have something to hide behind do you get to do real emotion.”

An Evening With Sir Roger Moore, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Monday, 7.30pm, £25, 0131-529 6000