Roger Moore signed copies of his book “Bond on Bond” last month in London. | Stuart Wilson~Getty Images
Updated: December 19, 2012 10:35AM
The James Bond film franchise has just turned 50, and the actor who served longest in the role, Roger Moore, gets in on the action with a new book celebrating the series.
In “Bond on Bond” (Lyons Press, $29.95) Moore reflects on his 12-year tenure and offers thoughts, mostly generous, about the other five actors who have played 007.
Speaking by phone from the St. Regis Hotel in New York (where Bond stayed in the novel “Live and Let Die”), Moore said the publisher of his autobiography, “My Word Is my Bond,” approached him about writing another book focusing on 007 to coincide with the 50th anniversary hoopla. “They thought it might be a good time to bring out a book about my opinion of Bond,” Moore said.
He writes his opinions in a tongue-in-cheek style that reflects his portrayal of Bond. Moore frequently refers to Bond as “Jim” or “Jimmy,” and he doesn’t worry if this will further infuriate Sean Connery purists who complain Moore never took the character seriously. “That’s the way I played it,” he said. “That was my reaction to the character I was expected to play. He wasn’t a real spy. The idea that he’s known by every barman in the world, that he has a taste for martinis shaken not stirred.”
Moore was known for pulling pranks on his cast mates, especially Desmond Llewelyn, who played gadget master Q. He would trick Llewellyn into believing his dialogue was changed at the last minute. Moore confirmed that Llewellyn fell for his practical jokes every time, film after film.
“I think I would have been inclined to hit me,” Moore said, “but he always took it in good spirits. He really was a dear man.” Llewelyn died in a car accident in 1999.
In the new book, Moore remarks that recent Bond theme songs have been forgettable. He said Adele’s “Skyfall” theme breaks that trend. “The song is absolutely marvelous. It has the complete John Barry flavor. Unmistakably a Bond song.”
Moore attended a private screening of the new film several weeks ago “when [the print] was literally still wet.” He was “absolutely knocked out by it.” He praised Sam Mendes’ direction and was impressed with the way “Skyfall” presents a new side to 007.
“Bond shows a lot of vulnerability in it, but also that he’s a hard nut,” Moore said. “And I don’t think anybody can do that better than Daniel Craig.”
Talking about the current Bond, Moore sounded like the president of the Daniel Craig Fan Club. “He is Bond,” Moore said. “It’s a brilliant interpretation.”
Moore played Bond a record seven times, from 1973’s “Live and Let Die” to 1985’s “A View to a Kill.” Asked if he believes anyone could top his achievement, Moore replied, “I would hope that Daniel Craig would.”
When Craig was first cast for “Casino Royale,” the news was greeted by catcalls in the British press that he was too blond, too short, too pugnacious. Moore immediately came to Craig’s defense, publicly and privately. He sent a message to Craig through producer Barbara Broccoli. “I told him not to let them get at you. Barbara Broccoli chose you because she thinks you’re right, and I know you’re a damn fine actor.”
In “Bond on Bond” Moore describes his first encounter with Craig. They met backstage in 2008 at a London event celebrating Bond creator Ian Fleming’s centenary. Before Moore could say hello, Craig threw a bear hug around his predecessor.
So far, that has been their only encounter. “Maybe my breath smelled,” Moore said, joking to the last.
Jeffrey Westhoff is a local freelance writer.