Moore, who died in May, 2017 at the age of eighty-nine, began portraying Bond in the film Live and Let Die. In this film, Moore’s Bond greatly resembled the first Bond of Sean Connery. However, as the years progressed, Moore’s interpretation of the character began to take on a more of a “disco” effect. Many people have remarked that Moore was always the “disco Bond” because he played the character a bit lighter than previous installations and that he portrayed him at the height of the disco craze.
Moore’s Bond was not nearly as complex as Connery's or Daniel Craig's portrayals, but for many, including myself, Moore played a great Bond. Despite this playful attitude, there was an element of darkness to the character. Bond’s famous, frequent order of “a martini shaken, not stirred” might indicate that the character struggles with features of alcoholism. Researchers even conducted a scientific study to examine Bond’s alcohol intake. The scientists concluded that Bond’s consumption could lead to many medical conditions and even a premature death.
Moore started his tenure as Bond after shooting on the Diamonds Are Forever film concluded. After Sean Connery starred in the film, producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman failed to convince their star to return to the Bond franchise.
The producers had previously considered Moore for the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a film that starred George Lazenby in the sole time he portrayed James Bond. This film did not resonate with critics. Many felt (and still feel) that the producers made a mistake by letting Connery resign from the role so early. Reportedly, the actor and Broccoli were not on speaking terms, which was not good overall for the franchise. The producers wanted Moore after his appearances on television programs. He appeared in Lord Brett Sinclair in The Persuaders! and as Simon Templar in The Saint.
As the new James Bond, Roger Moore did not wish to repeat Connery’s mistakes. He strove to make the character his own. One of the later authors of James Bond novels, Raymond Benson, stated that Moore's Bond was “a rather smarmy, eyebrow-raising international playboy who never seemed to get hurt.” This was definitely true as a criticism of Moore's Bond. There was not as much at stake for him as there was with previous and future Bonds.
What was kind of interesting was that Roger Moore’s Bond used a Wesson .44 Magnum, a weapon that Clint Eastwood used in the Dirty Harry films. Bond has normally used a Walther pistol, which shows the producers may have been trying to make Bond a bit tougher.
While the Moore Bond was certainly a different flavor from the more traditional Bonds, the actor still left a huge impact on the character and its fans in different ways:
1. Facing The Man with the Golden Gun. This is one of the best Bond movies of all time, and there have been a lot with original stories or adaptations of the original novels. In The Man with the Golden Gun, Bond squares off against the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, who uses a golden gun to scare his enemies. This gun made such an impact that it was later featured in the video game GoldenEye 007. Many of us remember the gun actually from that game.
2. Out of this world in Moonraker. Moore's time as Bond took a strange turn when he was sent on a mission into space. Producers were looking at the science fiction popularity of Star Wars and thought they could take an Ian Fleming novel about James Bond, British rockets, and the threat of nuclear war to create a similar story. Their attempts were not successful.
With a total production cost of $34 million, Moonraker was cluttered with too many things. Famed film critic Roger Ebert expressed the thoughts of many fans when he wrote that “it's so jammed with faraway places and science fiction special effects that Bond has to move at a trot to make it into all the scenes.” The film indeed is a crazy thing to watch.
3. Bond's fight with Jaws. Some of Moore's most memorable moments in both Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me feature Jaws, a large man with metal teeth played by Richard Kiel. Although he was affiliated with the main villains of both films, his role grew more comedic. Jaws’s fights with Bond solidified the villain, metal teeth and all, as one of the highlights of Moore's period in the Bond franchise.
4. The oldest Bond ever. Moore is the oldest actor to play James Bond. Moore was fifty-seven by the time he appeared in A View to a Kill. With his Bond movies making more than $1 billion, you could see why producers kept the very popular character around.
Moore retired from the role in 1985 with A View to a Kill. At the time the film came out, critics were relentless about how old he was playing the character. “Moore isn't just long in the tooth – he's got tusks, and what looks like an eye job has given him the pie-eyed blankness of a zombie,” The Washington Post said. “He's not believable anymore in the action sequences, even less so in the romantic scenes.” While many said that he was too old, many fans disagreed.
Roger Moore built quite a career for himself with the Bond films. Portraying the role for around two decades, he had become the Bond of a generation. As new generations enjoy new versions of the character, many previous generations still remember Mr. Moore's Bond. And so does all of history.
The Spy Who Loved Me is screening at Picturehouse at FACT on Sunday 30 July. Book your ticket here!