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The Bond actors always fell into ‘extended family gathering’ archetypes. Lazenby is the aged swinger; fond of telling you about all the women he’s bedded but likely to start crying about his life after a few hours. Craig is your aunt’s new fella; keeps to himself and can be fun after a few drinks but remains oddly intense and you get the feeling he may have killed a man at some point. Brosnan and Dalton are a couple of cringey dads who would probably spend hours discussing their different approaches to parenting; Pierce is the Embarrassing Dad incarnate who would absolutely break out the ‘dad dance’ eventually while ole Tim would regale you with stories of how well his children are doing owing to his rigorous life-lessons and self-loathing that his own career didn’t go as intended. Sean Connery is the man who advocated slapping women. But Sir Roger Moore always seemed like the wacky uncle you wanted to get stuck with as the evening wore on; the one that’d slip you booze when you were younger and tell you filthy anecdotes when you were older, the kind where the punchline would only ever involve him leaning in and raising an eyebrow before reclining back with a puff of his cigar while all gathered laughed warmly.
So it has come to pass, the first member of one of pop-culture’s premiere Flying Hellfish-like clubs has shuffled off this mortal coil. We’ve lost our first James Bond. It’s no great surprise that Sir Roger departed us first; the oldest, longest serving and most advanced in age while in the role itself, make it fitting that he’d be the first we mourn the loss of. More than any of the other Bonds, Moore probably had the most recognisable persona outside of the role, admittedly this is because he was essentially playing himself while in the role. While Connery will always retain the moniker of ‘the original Bond’, when asked to describe his character people would likely just lapse into a Scottish accent and imitate hitting women. When it comes to Moore though, his particular embodiment of the character has come to typify what many think of as Bond in the popular consciousness.
Any parody, any reference to the character will almost always come bundled with a raised-eyebrow, a near fourth-wall-breaking look to camera and an over-delivered line-read of a bad pun. And that was all Sir Roger. He made no secret of this fact either, he embraced his lack of range as an actor and when hired as Bond he chose to simply continue on in the vein of the character that made him initially famous, that of Simon Templar from The Saint. It was that TV show where he honed his suave, quipping action hero mannerisms before bringing them to Bond and doubling down on them. When asked if his films had basically reduced the character to a parody of himself, he’d have agreed and been quite proud of that. His general lack of fucks was amongst his most endearing traits and one which persisted and strengthened over the years.
For an example of his later life delightfulness, I’d highly recommend tracking down his appearance as a host on Have I Got News For You where he was nominally there to flog his Bond on Bond book – a borderline stream-of-consciousness memoir of sorts about his time in the role and his thoughts on the others by way of wry comments and amusing anecdotes such as the time Grace Jones had a laugh by bringing a huge dildo to bed for their sex scene and how very not pleased he was about that. Watching even this visibly aged Moore, it was clear he’d lost none of his charm or ability to deliver one-liners, while his constant, hilariously brazen and unsubtle attempts to bring up the book at every opportunity are quite bemusing. He embraced his celebrity to the fullest, never apologised for it and was by all accounts a generous and warm man to meet in the flesh.
And yet there was a humbleness, or at the very least a self-awareness, to his seemingly boundless ego. In his early days as Bond, he was quick to point out that all the jibes aimed at him – his eyebrow, his lack of range – were all observations he himself made first. His press tour sound bites were always a hoot and very naturally self-deprecating in a way the manufactured whimsy of modern movie press junkets could never hope to achieve, and he was happy to own the nonsense he’d made and christen himself “the first Bond in space” when rubbishing Die Another Day. He didn’t make many on-screen appearances in the last three decades. He was content to live well in his various homes in the sun owing to his status as a tax exile from the UK – which he was never shy to talk about it – with the no doubt considerable fortune it’d helped him amass. Though some of the few roles he did take speak to this sense of humour he had about himself, why else would he appear in Cats and Dogs 2: the Revenge of Kitty Galore or, lest we forget, Spice World. Because lord knows he didn’t need the money and he’d have been the first to admit it. And all this without even mentioning his many years working for UNICEF.
This isn’t one of those ‘they were taken from us too soon’ situations; he lived a good, full life and all things considered had a relatively peaceful final few months. That his passing garnered the response it did on social media for a man who hasn’t properly worked in the industry for nigh on thirty years is testament to just how much of an impression he left on pop culture generally but people’s nostalgia specifically. RIP Sir Roger Moore.
Eyebrows shall be lowered to half-mast accordingly.
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