james bond

Was Roger Moore the best James Bond ever? Or the worst?

The history of the 007 franchise would have been vastly different if Timothy Dalton or Oliver Reed had been picked over Roger Moore.

Roger Moore’s obituaries all talk about what a gentleman he was in real life. And so he may have been. But, let’s face it: he was a terrible James Bond. And he knew it. As he once confessed, his range consisted of three basic facial expressions: “Right eyebrow raised, left eyebrow raised, and eyebrows crossed when grabbed by Jaws.”

Moore may have not been the worst of the Bonds – that spot is permanently reserved for George Lazenby, who played 007 unforgettably badly in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – but he came close.

Sean Connery, who is arguably still the best Bond of all time, was once asked to comment on Roger Moore’s version. He diplomatically responded, “Ummm… his is a sort of parody of the character, so you would go for the laughs, at the cost of credibility or reality. [Moore] took a different direction from mine – and he acquired an entirely different audience.”

While Connery punctuated all the Bondian adrenaline and testosterone with a touch of dry humour, Moore pushed the role into farce with his cheesy acting, eyebrow-waggling, atrocious puns and safari suits. After all, who can forget cringe-worthy dialogue like:

Solitaire (in bed with Bond): “Is there time, before we leave, for Lesson No 3?”
Bond: “Of course. There’s no sense going out half-cocked.”

Or this one:

(Bond and Holly Goodhead in a spacecraft, in post-coital languor.)
Minister of Defence: “My God, what’s Bond doing?”
Q: “I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”


(Bond and sexy babe in bed.)
M: “Miss Moneypenny, where is Bond?”
Miss Moneypenny: “He’s on a mission sir, in Austria.”
M: “Well, tell him to pull out. Immediately!”

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

While Connery’s Bond is still probably the gold standard by which Bond is judged, it’s strange to think that when he was originally cast he was considered to be a very risky choice.

Ian Fleming, the author, wanted a major star to play the role, and the actors he had in mind were Richard Burton, Cary Grant or James Mason. But the budget of the first Bond film, Dr No (1962), didn’t allow for that – apart from which the producers wanted an entirely new face for the role. However, given the fact that the character was supposed to be at least 30 years old, finding a good actor who wasn’t already well-known was a difficult task.

The producers did a nation-wide search, even placing wanted ads in the newspapers, and at the end of it they arrived at a former sailor, milkman, coffin-polisher and bit actor. Fleming, when he was introduced to Sean Connery for the first time, was apparently horrified at the thought of this rough young lout (with Scotland forever tattooed on his arm) playing his suave hero.

But when Dr No was released, it was not just a huge box office success, it also triggered a whole new genre of secret agent movies, with titles like OSS 117: Panic in Bangkok, Espionage in Tangier, Requiem for a Secret Agent and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as popular TV serials like Mission Impossible and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Dr No (1962).

However, Connery grew bored of the role after just four films, and a new Bond had to be found. So another major search was launched for a new face, which resulted in George Lazenby, a hunky Australian model, who turned out to be a disaster. So within a year, the hunt for a new Bond began once again.

The three actors who were shortlisted this time were Timothy Dalton, a brooding Shakespearian actor who had got great critical reviews for his role in A Lion in Winter, Oliver Reed, who had recently made his mark in The Assassination Bureau, and Roger Moore, who had starred as a playboy-crook in the long-running TV serial, The Saint (which, coincidentally, had premiered just one day before the first Bond movie).

The one who was finally selected was, of course, Roger Moore – and he took the Bond movies off in a wacky, over-the-top direction. Moore’s logic was that “Bond situations are so ridiculous… you have to treat the humour outrageously as well”.

But, as film critic Pauline Kael put it, “His idea of Bond’s imperturbable cool is the same as playing dead.” Over the next 14 years, Moore’s spoofy style, combined with the increasingly fantastical themes and the goofy gadgetry, turned Bond into a cinematic comic strip, and seriously damaged its brand equity in the process.

A View to a Kill (1985).

When the creaking Moore finally retired from the role – aged 57! – the producers had to do some serious course correction to get Bond back on track once again, closer to Fleming’s original hard-edged vision. And the new Bond was Timothy Dalton, who’d turned down the role 14 years earlier.

Dalton was the finest actor to ever play Bond. He was, after all, a classically trained actor from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art who had earlier performed Shakespeare on stage. Dalton analysed Fleming’s original character in depth, and played him with never-before psychological intensity, making the character ruthless and reluctant in equal parts. He also demonstrated his seriousness by doing most of his own stunts, thus setting the prototype for the 21st century Bond – which has since been fleshed out by Daniel Craig.

The difference, unfortunately, is that Craig is a crappy actor, and looks like a blonde version of Mike Tyson.

If only Dalton had been chosen instead of Roger Moore, 14 years of Bond would not have been losti n the wilderness of comic strippery.

Licence to Kill (1989).

Here is an even more radical what-if. What if, instead of Roger Moore, the producers had chosen the menacing, green-eyed Oliver Reed?

Reed showed great flashes of talent in the 1960s, but unfortunately burned himself out with too much booze and bad behaviour by the time he was 35. But what if he’d been given the challenge of playing Bond?

Might that have given us a Bond successor who was even better than Connery’s original? And an actor who could have been another Anthony Hopkins? That casting decision has been called “One of the great missed opportunities of post-war British movie history.”

Roger Moore may not have been a great actor – or a great Bond – but he was an entertainer who gave pleasure to millions. And he was a thorough gentleman, till the end. We must salute him for that.

Moonraker (1979).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.