LONDON – Roger Moore, who was born on this day in 1927, told me that really he was a frustrated bank robber. ‘It’s only fear that’s stopped me from robbing banks,’ he said. ‘I’d get caught. That’s why I’m a movie actor. I’ve never been caught acting.’
Moore, who died aged 89 on May 23, 2017, gave me one of my most treasured interviews, candid and very funny, on the Pinewood Studios set of his seventh and final James Bond picture, ‘A View to a Kill’, on Dec. 10, 1984. Here are some excerpts:
I suggested that he was one of those actors whose work is described as effortless. Did he resent that?
‘No,’ he said. ‘That’s the way it should be.’
But did he feel he was not given credit for the hard work that made it appear easy?
‘I don’t give a shit. I get paid. If acting shows onscreen then it’s wrong. Film acting is listening and re-acting.’
Had he ever wished his career had gone in other directions. ‘I would be an ingrate, if I did. It’s about those crossroads you come to in life. At the beginning of my film career, literally within the same week as I signed for MGM, I was offered The Old Vic. Well, I might have gone on carrying a spear for 40 years or I might have gone on to be a classical actor. Who knows? I have a feeling I’d have been carrying a fucking spear.’
Moore’s humour was always self-deprecating and I suggested that was borne of a great deal of self-confidence.
He smiled, ‘I presume so. Obviously. I must be self-confident to say this. You see through me.’
Was there a time when he lacked that self-confidence? ‘Oh, yes. I used to be terribly timid. I would rather not eat than go into a restaurant on my own. Even now, I hate that. I sort of covered up my timidity by being ingratiatingly charming. Which is why I got away with murder with teachers at school. Smiled a lot. I recall when I came out of the army and started in repertory, a director, or producer as we used to call them, said, you’re not very good, smile a lot when you come on. So, I smile a lot.’
Had he ever been flat broke?
‘Oh, sure, but I hate doing a story like, oh, god, you have no idea how I suffered. Bullshit! But, yeah, I wasn’t born rich. I’ve always had to work. Our profession is very dodgy and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Quite often you get asked what advice you’d give to young people who want to go into acting and I say, you’ve really got to like it. You’ve really got to be prepared not to have any success and put up with an awful lot of crap from people dropping it on you from great heights. Because even when you’re lucky enough to become successful, they’re still dropping it on you. And they’re trying to knock away the rungs on the ladder underneath you. The first ones are the critics who love to hate you. I would have made an ideal critic. I can be as rude about myself as critics are. And I can be even ruder about them.’