When were you first approached about playing James Bond?
Formally, in 1973 for Live And Let Die, though there was talk of doing a film in Cambodia a few years earlier... It all fell through because of the troubles there, and then Sean came back for Diamonds Are Forever.
Is it true that you were originally in the frame to play Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
Possibly, I don’t know. There were many people mentioned, as there were for Dr No.
And is it true that all of your Bond contracts specified that you be given an unlimited supply of Montecristo cigars during filming?
No. Who knows where the story started, but it isn’t true.
How much of your Bond was Roger Moore, and how much was down to the scripts?
The scripts were written to accommodate my lighter, more tongue-in-cheek approach to the role. They knew I liked to play it with a sense of humour, and the scripts reflected that. There were always light-hearted touches added to counterbalance a heavy, serious scene. Some came from the writers, some from the director and some from me. In The Man With The Golden Gun there’s a wonderful line written by Tom Mankiewicz when Bond meets Lazar, the gun maker. Bond points a rifle at his groin and says, “Speak now or forever hold your piece.” It’s a terrific line and one of my favourites.
What about touches you added yourself?
One touch I added in The Spy Who Loved Me was during the pyramids fight with Jaws. We had an Egyptian representative with us, to ensure we didn’t portray their country and the wonderful pyramids in a bad light. They had script approval, in fact. I had an idea for a line when Bond hits a wooden support beam, and tons of rubble falls down and buries Jaws. But they didn’t think the Egyptians would pass it, you see. So, as I walked away from the mound of rubble, straightening my tie, I just moved my lips. The sound man said, “Sorry Roger, didn’t get that.” I told him not to worry about it. In post-production I dubbed in the line, “Egyptian builders!”
What lured you back to play Bond after swearing that Moonraker was your last?
I felt sorry for Cubby. After all, who else would he get to work as cheaply as me?
How many of your own stunts did you do?
Oh yes, I do all of my own stunts... And all of my own lying! No, there are talented guys who do all that, and I don’t want to deprive them of a wage if they’re brave enough to risk their necks making this coward look tough. I do pick-up shots to make it look like it’s me, but that’s as far as it goes.
Was your friendship with Sean Connery ever tested by his decision to do rogue Bond, Never Say Never Again?
No, never. The “Battle Of The Bonds” stuff in the press was all nonsense. Sean and I met up once a week for dinner when we were filming. He was doing his thing at Elstree, and I was doing mine at Pinewood. There was no rivalry. In fact, there was even talk of me appearing in his film, walking across the back of a scene, raising an eyebrow! It was all very amiable... Though I believe Octopussy out-grossed Sean’s film.
Which of your own Bond films is your favourite?
The Spy Who Loved Me. All the elements clicked and [director] Lewis Gilbert shares my warped sense of humour, so it was terrific fun.
I guess Lewis and I had the most terrific fun on the two we did [Spy and Moonraker]. I hate bangs, so he’d reassure me about the explosions by saying, “I’ll be right there beside you...” and then I’d see him at the far end of the stage with a megaphone calling, “Action!” He was a sod like that. And I used to love winding up dear Desmond Llewelyn too. He was such a sucker for it. I’d change all his lines a couple of hours beforehand, or hold up the wrong prompt board with “Bollocks” written on it instead of his line.
What was the toughest challenge you faced in all your Bond films?
Which was your favourite location?
There were so many wonderful ones: Jamaica, India, Northolt Aerodrome... The thing is, when you’re part of a film crew you get very little time to take things in – it’s like a whirlwind. Or in the case of India, more of a torrential wind and stomach ache.
What’s your fondest Bond memory?
Every Friday – pay day.
What do you think of Pierce Brosnan’s 007?
I haven’t actually seen one of his films – purposely, to avoid having to answer questions like this. I did see a couple of reels of GoldenEye during production, as my son was working on that film, and thought Pierce looked good in what I saw. But other than that I’m not qualified to comment.
Do you have any thoughts on who should take over when Brosnan steps down?
My eldest son, Geoffrey, would be very good in the role. He’s made a few films and looks the part – I think he could carry it off brilliantly.