This year not only marks James Bond’s 50th anniversary onscreen, but also 40 years since Sir Roger Moore accepted the role that Sean Connery defined.
© Danjaq LLC, United Artists
Roger Moore played James Bond between 1973 and 1985.
Moore’s first outing as the famed 007 came in 1973’s “Live and Let Die.” He appeared in a total of seven of Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s films, concluding with “A View to A Kill” in 1985, the most of any Bond actor to date.
Moore, now 85, visited NBC News to talk about his new book, “Bond On Bond,” and his thoughts on the newest film, “Skyfall.”
NBC: Do you still feel a connection to the James Bond series?
Moore: Yes, certainly. [“Skyfall” producers] Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson are friends of mine. I’m always interested in how production is going. I have two sons who both worked on Bonds from time to time. So yes, we’re part of the family.
NBC: You’ve said in the past that Sean Connery will always be the best Bond, but you recently commented that Daniel Craig is now your favorite.
Moore: If I had been able to see “Skyfall” before finishing the book, I would have then had to have written a chapter about Daniel Craig, who is a superb Bond. I think it has guaranteed another 50 years for the franchise.
NBC: What would you have said in that chapter?
Moore: I would have liked to talk about his performance in “Casino Royale.” His bravery in looking like he knew what he was about in “Quantum of Solace,” which I didn’t understand. I don’t think anybody did. But with Sam Mendes directing, “Skyfall” to me is just an extraordinary piece of motion picture.
NBC: Do you look at any of the other Bond movies and say, ‘I think I did a better job portraying the character?’
Moore: No, I would never say that. If I happen to see one of mine playing on television, if my wife wants to see it, I think I could have done everything better.
NBC: Are you proud of the films you made?
Moore: I’m happy that I lasted long enough, that I fooled them long enough.
NBC: An article published in British GQ this month said, “No one can agree on who the best Bond is. However, ask people which actor is their favorite, and most say Sir Roger Moore.” It says you’re handsome and funny, which hadn’t been seen since Cary Grant.
Moore: Well I have to agree. Cary was actually a good friend of mine. He was a lovely, warm, funny man, and a marvelous actor.
© Danjaq LLC, United Artists
Roger Moore in 1985's "View to a Kill."
NBC: “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes said in an interview that he feels Bond movies aren’t rooted in the novels, but in Hitchcock films. He said “North by Northwest” could be seen as the first true Bond film, that Cary Grant played the antecedent of the Bond character.
Moore: He could be right, come to think of it.
NBC: If Cary Grant had played Bond first, would you have been comfortable following in his footsteps?
Moore: No, I would have been terrified. I think that’s one time when you say I’m not going to live up to the expectations that he would produce for his heir. But he had the epitome of sophistication. Cary’s humor was completely scatological. He loved whoopee cushions. He just adored that sort of thing.
NBC: Going through some of the earliest reviews of the Bond films, they often mention the color photography or landscapes in some way. It takes much more than that to bring in audiences today, doesn’t it?
Moore: Well certainly. In the '50s and '60s. travel was out of the reach of most people. They couldn’t go to exotic locations, which the Bond films used. Now they can go to those places, so Bond has had to step up its game a little.
NBC: You wrote in your book that “Skyfall” should be “enjoyed in a theater with 350 of your local neighbors.” That reminded me of an article I read, expressing concern that the modern movie experience is no longer social. Instead of going to theaters, people are simply streaming movies on computers. It’s become solitary.
Moore: I think people are missing a great deal. I don’t think there is anything quite the equivalent of dressing up, though people dress down now to go. I don’t like everybody sitting around having their dinner sitting around me. Popcorn rustling. But they’re certainly improved since back in the days when I first came to America in the early '50s. People smoked in the cinemas. And the cigars, terrible King Edwards, would stink. You came out of the cinema really smelling.
NBC: You’ve said that “A View to A Kill,” your last Bond movie, was unnecessarily violent. Do you think it’s really that bad now, compared to today’s movies?
Moore: I think violence has become pornography, actually. The amount of violence, I don’t particularly enjoy it. I suppose that’s ridiculous, coming from somebody who’s done nothing but films where there are explosions and guns.
NBC: What do you think it says about today’s age, if the movies are that violent?
Moore: I don’t think they have to be that violent. One tries to out-do the other. Also, there’s a little too much fantasy for me, with steel men... I like good old-fashioned romantic comedies. Cary Grant movies.
NBC: “Skyfall” has been getting great reviews. Do you think the reception has anything to do with them bringing a bit more humor back into the films?
Moore: There are all sorts of things as to why it’s getting such good reception. Adele’s music track goes back to the John Barry style. It’s not stealing from John Barry, but you’re thinking, ‘this is a Bond film.’ It has locations not seen very often on the screen. There’s extraordinary stunt work, like the whole cycle chase and the fight on the train. Great stuff.
NBC: You attended the “Die Another Day” premiere in 2002, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Bond on screen. It’s now been 50 years. Do you think Bond is in a better place now than it was then?
Moore: It certainly is now. My reaction when seeing “Skyfall,” I emailed Barbara Broccoli and said how [her parents] Dana and Cubby would be so proud of what you’ve done with “Skyfall.” It’s another 50 years of life guaranteed to Bond.