Roger Moore: I was always firmly with my feet on the ground and never forgot my roots.

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English actor Roger Moore was born in London on 14.10.1927. Since early childhood he showed artistic skill and at the age of 15 thanks to his father he was employed as a drawer by company making films in Soho. Slowly he entered the world of theatre and film far from meteoric rise, but slow, steady and hard work. In Czechoslovakia we probably could have seen him firstly in TV series Ivanhoe (1957) which was showed on out TV in early 70´s.Although he made many other films such as The Wild Geese, Escape from Athens, Cannonball Race, The Man Who Haunted Himself he is and always will be mostly remembered for playing James Bond who he played 7x. Since we liked him the most out of all 007´s, we wanted to commemorate him to readers of in a profile where he would disclose something from the beginning of his career and where he would make close- up into the life of film star on top. Sadly, since he died, we had no option but to rely on his wonderful, funny and honest autobiography My Word is My Bond. After reading it, it is obvious he was a fair, charismatic and honest man who had much needed luck in his life, without which the actor can´t crack it.

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Roger Moore was tied with film since very early childhood, when he couldn´t wait for Saturday morning to be able to go to cinema for some adventurous movie, be it Tom Mix, Tarzan or Flash Gordon. Cinema was an escape from reality of hard every day´s life not only for children but also for adults. If a kid had a birthday at the very day, his name was called up and he went on stage and received a gift such as film magazine or ticket for movie next week. Roger himself admitted, he never ever darer dream that he could once be on screen as an actor.

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Came WWII and London was bombed so young Roger with other kids was evacuated outside capitol into different families. His “adopted” family didn´t like him very much and vice versa and he couldn´t wait for the moment when he will be able to return to his parents. Already at that time he showed talent in drawing and he happily showed it his father who was spellbound and passed it with pride to his friends. It led to 15 years old Roger being employed by London company Publicity Picture Productions (PPP) as apprentice-animator. So, he started to fend for himself and helped with family budget. He became a member of Association of Cinematograph Technicians (ACT) where he learnt technology which stood him in good stead later on. He had interesting tasks to make such as create advert titles for cinemas or deliver cans with film into labs. It was here where he met his future buddy and mate David Niven, who worked here as technical advisor. After two years he was sacked for forgetting pick up the film cans.

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It wasn´t long before he met his mates, returning from war atrocities as invalids and they earned money in films as extras. Roger was a handsome bloke so already on second day he was picked up as extra for movie Caesar and Cleopatra. He stood in red toga watching stars Vivien Leigh and Stewart Granger. After few days, second director Brain Desmond Hurst called him and asked if he would wanna be an actor. When Moore nodded in agreement director had a word with his parents and told them their son has a potential and it should be good if they sign him for Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and he will meet the cost. There he was taught the art of mime, fencing, ballet and voice technique and alongside study he continued working as an extra on the film set. It improved his self-confidence and in first term he appeared in three theatre plays.

Year later, when the war ended, he decided to leave RADA and start earning the living by acting. But before that happened, he was drafted for National service and after boot camp he was dispatched to Germany. But since he wasn´t up for marching, he asked for transfer to CSEU and toured Germany and entertained army units playing theatre plays on stage. He was spotted by actor Sanders Warren who probably mentioned him on right places. It led to Moore, after being released from army in 1947, to be called by Pinewood studio and offered a casting for small part in The Blue Lagoon, where the lead was played by Jean Simmons. He wasn´t successful and the part went to somebody else. He was penniless and jobless. It is good to admit that during National service Roger got married.

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Soon he found a job in Intimate Theatre, where he was paid tenner a week. Brian Desmond Hurst didn´t forget him and offered him few small parts in his new film and also BBC grabbed Roger for their radio plays. He couldn´t choose and took everything that came his way e.g., he was on tour for six months with play Mister Roberts, where he had few lines.  Lack of money and work led to the tension between the married couple and they soon got divorced. In 1953 Moore accompanied singer Dorothy Squires into America in hope of securing some acting job in US TV. It wasn´t a big problem for new actors in those days, unlike today and soon he got a part in program Robert Montgomery Presents thanks to agency MCA, that took him under their wings already on the airport after landing. Since he didn´t have American accent, he could play various European characters and became universal TV actor.  Soon he married the singer Dorothy, who he accompanied. He got an offer for lead in a play A Pin to See the Peepshow. First day became also a last day of the performance since there were about eight critics in New York at that time and if the play didn´t have a star name, the tickets didn´t sell that well and quickly, so it all depended on critics if they supported a play or nailed it down. In this case it was the later.

Nevertheless, he was spotted soon by an agent of MGM studio and he signed contract with them. Roger finally arrived to Hollywood which started to have bug rival in TV and studio didn´t allow their contracted actors to play also on TV. Future James Bond used to meet stars like Ava Garner, Lana Turner, Glenn Ford, Debbie Reynolds among others in caffe during lunch and he was in the world he was always longing for.

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His first film was called The Last Time I saw Paris starring Elizabeth Taylor. English newcomer was taught a first Hollywood lesson when he realized there is a strict lady as part of front office censorship. She objected that camera is too high and looks too much and too close to the Taylor´s V-neck. Director objected but lady didn´t budge an inch (she guarded good morale of American society- same happened in communist Czechoslovakia at the same time) and director had to give up and lower the camera. In those days it was common practice that MGM offered seven years contract to their actors with option which meant that they practically owned them and could sack them any time they liked.

Even director had to do what the censor, present on set, told him to do

Actors had guaranteed work for 40 weeks in a year but salary was spread out into whole year so weekly they got 400 dollars. Just to compare, the star of that era Eva Gabor was paid 20 000 dollars per shooting day. In between films studio sent their actors to various castings according to his own requirements. Moore slowly got to know a glittering world of Hollywood which was work and never -ending parties. They were divided according to importance.

Roger recollected that:

Party of A category had just stars, who very seldom came to the party of category B, but contracted actors from this level tried and hoped to get invited to A category party to meet important person who would help them in their career. C category party was attended only by jobbing actors. They were all categorized and rarely they mixed together outside their category. But on se, it was different ball game, lead start was helping newcomers which helped to ease off the pressure and get him quickly into the groove.”

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During first two years he made several films for MGM but none of them was commercial success and studio labelled him as an actor in costume films which started to become out of fashion, but didn´t allow him to accept job on TV. Both sides parted not in very friendly way and sacked actor returned to England. It was the end of 1956.

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On home soil he was soon offered a lead in new series called Ivanhoe, which promised him a year work on TV. When the series finished, it looked as if the film is out of reach for Roger and he will remain mainly TV actor. But luckily the offer from USA saved him and after one film studio Warner Bros offered him seven years´ contract. For the first film under new contract called The Miracle he was recommended by an actor Dirk Bogarde, who wrote Warner Bros a personal letter although those two, haven´t met so far. Unlike MGM Warner Bros produced also TV series so they used contracted actors for further work. Moore soon became part of conveyor belt TV series production with small budget and high working tempo. After two years he refused further TV work since he felt that studio doesn´t count with him for movies.

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He left Hollywood at the beginning of 1961 and relocated to Italy, like Clint Eastwood few years later, and accepted part as Romulus in film The Rape of Sabine Women with international cast. Shooting was very chaotic and result diabolical. After second such bad film he gladly accepted an offer from London studio for lead in new series called The Saint. It became very popular and during second series Roger wanted to try his hand of directing:

I learnt a lot from directors I was working with in England and in Hollywood and I already knew something about cameras, lenses and light, about positioning the cameras and I also felt with actors since I was one of them. What I didn´t know I asked my crew who was always willing to help me. I didn´t like actors´ casting and I usually picked up the actor who I thought is the best for the part. It sometimes showed not to be the truth. But I got better and better and I liked directing only for TV since one series lasted about three months while film with pre- production lasted about seven months and I was not that patient. From these reasons I refused various offers for directing the films in future years. I liked shooting on locations since I had to be very creative, universal, quick and step ahead of others.”

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Successful job one The Saint finished after seven years and alongside that his second marriage with Dorothy, since both sides were building their respective career and almost never saw. But at that time Roger used to meet and see a lot an actress Luise Mattioli, who he married soon after divorce. He got an offer for movie called The Man Who Haunted Himself. Later on, Roger claimed it was one of the few chances he was allowed to actually play since other characters were usually straightforward. Then came successful series called The Persuaders which was big hit everywhere bar America. And then came James Bond.............!!!!

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James Bond Arrives

Moore filmed The Persuaders at the same time and at the same studio in London as Sean Connery Diamonds Forever. Since Connery had enough of Bond and all connected with it, he refused to continue and part went to George Lazenby. But after one film he refused other offers for other parts so Moore was on the list next in line. His quiet life was shifted into fifth gear and he couldn´t believe how many promotional events and press conferences he had to attend.

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When first film Live and Let Die was finished actors saw the whole film on the premiere with the audience as it became a rule that actors never saw any part of film before the public. The rule stood up for future years too. Just for curiosity, it cost 7 million dollars and grossed 126 million worldwide while the last Bond with Daniel Craig called Spectre cost staggering 200 million (and is it really better???).

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During break between two Bonds, Moore accepted a part in a movie Gold which was to be filmed in South Africa. But powerful unions of Film Technicians threatened that if the film will be shot in Africa, where was apartheid policy, all future Roger Moore´s films will be blacklisted. Producer thought about shifting location to Wales but gold mines don´t look same as coal mines so crew decided to ignore blackmailing and went to Africa anyway (it resemble current days when some activist is able to destroy career of any give actor on social media just because he didn´t have same opinion and him/her), employed many black and white Africans and all went without any problems. However, before the final sequence the producer said he can´t afford to make such expensive bit so Roger agreed he will work for free for share of profit. But accountant never showed any profit and it meant Roget didn´t get any payment so he went to court and his lawyer secured rights for negatives so he owned the whole film in the end.

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With success of James Bond movies and inflated bank account came new problems for Roger. British laws said that people earning above certain level have to pay 87% tax which meant from every pound he earned he had to tax 87 pence. Since an actor doesn´t know how long he will be able to play and earn money Roger had to follow further British celebrities such as Sean Connery, David Niven, Michael Caine or Jackie Stewart and went to tax exile. He found a place in Gstaad.

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From every pound I earn I have to tax 87 pence

At that time Star Wars and The Close Encounters of the Third Kind were breaking records in movies, so producer decided to postpone For Your Eyes Only and put forward Moonraker but since script wasn´t ready yet, Moore could accept offer in another film called Wild Geese where he teamed up with Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Both actors had problems with alcohol at that time so they had to accept special condition. Roger recollects that. “Burton could not drink for health reasons but Harris was hired under conditions that director will sign up every day that actor was sober, came in time and knew the lines. Alongside that, his salary was kept in safe to keep him off any temptations. In the end it worked fine and there was no problem whatsoever.”

That fame isn´t universal shows the case which happened to Roger in Venezia. He went onto some charity event and was asked by old lady with posh English.

What do you do here?

We are making a film, madam,” was the reply.

Oh, and what film?

James Bond, agent 007, madam.”

Aha, and what do you do in that film?

Well, I try to play that James Bond, madam,” calmly replied Moore.

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Around that time, he met Steve Spielberg in Paris and he was very interested in directing next Bond movie. Moore was chuffed to bits and went to share news with producer. But he calmly refused the idea with saying that Steve wants big chunk of film profit and no director of Bond series ever got any slice of profit. Spielberg turned his side to it and went to film super successful Indiana Jones films.

Before shooting next Bond film called Octopussy, Moore got a contract with much lower fee that Connery used to have. He asked his agent to tie the knots of the deal which usually worked that agent put price up, producer lowered that and they happily made a compromise. But this time studio made known to Moore that they are casting new faces for 007 so agent didn´t have nerves and accepted offered sum (he had 10% from it). So, Moore became the cheapest Bond in history.

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Once he finished with Bond, Blake Edwards made him an offer for new film about Pink Panther which was to be called A Trace of Pink Panther where he would use surplus of material he had from other parts since Peter Sellers was dead by now. Moore recollects:

"Offer was very attractive 100 000 dollars per shooting day and it was to be five days. Nevertheless, they used me from early morning to deep night and made all scenes in one day so they saved on me 400 000 dollars.”

But film was poor shadow of its past and bombed out.

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Two opposite faces of film business saw Moore while shooting next film called The Naked Face produced by Golan-Globus. It was shot in Chicago by director Bryan Forbes. Producers push him hard to film the lot in two months and not three as planned. Suddenly Moore got a call that his mum had a heart attack in Colchester. While director was sympathetic and told Moore to fly home immediately while he will continue with scenes without him, producers were hard on him why he let his star go, they are in middle of making the movie.

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Forbes replied that Moore´s mother is dying which came on deaf ears so since that time Moore saw producers from different view. His mother survived and he wasn´t sorry that film wasn´t a big success.

Since he already said good bye to Bond, he was surprised when he was given another offer for a new film A View to a Kill, after all he was already 57 years of age. During pre- production work the whole Bond studio decoration caught fire and melted down, due to explosion of gas canister from nearby set of Ridley Scott movie Legend. Reconstruction took 4 months so film was made in segments on various stages in London studio in order to keep on the schedule.

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After film he shook hands with producer Albert R. Broccoli and drew the line behind story called James Bond. Sadly, not so did the press and in Broccolli´s biography, put together after his death, they wrote that he didn´t want to leave the film and had paranoid demands and refused to take part in many events connected with movie. Roger commented on that:

I always insisted on being unspoilt, fair man, who didn´t forget his roots and where did he come from. But I couldn´t be everywhere and satisfy everyone.”

Out of sight out of mind

Moore was relishing his life and was active in various forms in entertainment business but despite that, when he took and offer for the film Fire, Ice and Dynamite, first in five years, press wrote about him that he came out of retirement. This is how it works is film business, “out of sight out of mind” and one is forgotten and retired.

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Roger wasn´t after the money so he was skiing in January and February ion Switzerland, relaxed and swum in France and travelled in summer and if the offer came in off relaxing time, he considered that and accepted it. But in 1991 he got any offer which he accepted and devoted his time to it until end of his life. He was invited by Audrey Hepburn to become an Ambassador of UNESCO. After some hesitation he accepted and travelled around the world and helped kids in need. He also visited Prague where his son Christopher helped to create a film studio. In his biography he didn´t forget to recollect his walks around Old Town and Charles Bridge. But even Agent 007 is mortal and Roger Moore died as its first performer on 23.5.2017 at the age of 89 years.

Photo, thanx: IMDb