Born in South London on October 14, 1927, Roger George Moore was not the strongest boy in the neighbourhood. Struggling with illness, the son of a policeman soon developed a quick-fire wit to counter his lack of physical prowess. A far cry from the opulence of Bond`s world, his father`s meagre Metropolitan salary ensured that the families treat was the now-common baked beans on toast.
Moore`s lower-middle-class roots, however, didn`t keep him from following his dreams. After being briefly evacuated to Worthing, in Sussex, England, Moore returned to London just before Dunkirk and entered a central school where he was finally able to pursue his first love of sketching and art.
The young artist`s first step onto the road that would lead him to take up the Walther PPK happened at the age of 15 when Moore was offered a job in an animated film business. Although he would ultimately be fired from his position, the role taught him vital lessons about editing and direction, skills that would become of great use later in his career.
After parting company with his animating employers, Moore strapped on a toga as an extra in in the 1946 film Caesar and Cleopatra, unaware that the insignificant role would lead him to enter the doors of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he stayed for a day. Call up papers cut short his budding career and after a brief tour of duty in the Army where he achieved the rank of Acting Captain, Moore returned to the real world of being a struggling actor.
The next few years saw Moore working for the BBC before moving to New York to work in live television and onto contract work for MGM studios. Hired as a pretty boy support actor, Moore was soon to become disenchanted with his Hollywood, leaving MGM after Diane, a poor film in which he suffered an injury suited in armour as the King of France. The return to England brought better fortune as Roger landed the role of the Saxon crusader in 13 episodes of The Adventures of Ivanhoe in 1957. Moore`s television career would continue two years later with The Alaskans under contract to Warner Brothers before he was forced to take over James Garner`s lead role in Maverick. Unhappy with the role, Moore went AWOL. On the day he was scheduled to report to wardrobe, Moore instead went gambling in Las Vegas.
Thankfully, the actor was more content with his next role, a part which would make him an everyday name. From 1962 to 1968 Roger Moore was Simon Templar, the rogue adventurer with an eyebrow that went into overdrive and a libido to match. During this time, a certain Cubby Broccoli would repeatedly consider him for the part of Ian Fleming`s James Bond, an idea which found favour from the man with the Golden Typewriter himself, although nothing would come of the suggestion over the next few years. After the final episode of The Saint aired, Moore continued to work in television in Lew Grade`s The Persuaders, playing Lord Brett Sinclair opposite Tony Curtis. The series failed to achieve big ratings when scheduled against Mission: Impossible and Moore was released from his five year contract to ITC.
The timing was perfect. Sean Connery had announced in 1972 that he would no longer don the tuxedo of James Bond and Eon Productions began the search for someone new to play the super-agent. After considering future Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett and veteran actor Julian Glover, later to become villain Kristatos in For Your Eyes Only, Broccoli once again turned his attention towards Moore. So it was that, on Saturday 14th October 1972, Roger Moore spent his 45th birthday as the suave Double-0 agent, fighting the mosquito hordes in a Louisiana swamp.
For an entire generation of 20-somethings Roger Moore was James Bond. Although the agent was a long way from Connery`s early performances, many believed that Moore perfectly captured Fleming`s original vision of the Etonian dropout who would go on to save the free world time and time again. Ironically, the films themselves would continue to move away from the literary Bond as the producers repeatedly stuck to a winning formula and sent the Commander into one outlandish mission after another. Moore himself had trouble seeing himself as the action man. After relinquishing the part, Moore would quip, “It was hard to believe in myself as a hero; in truth I found it rather insane to leap out of aeroplanes and all that.”
After finally passing the torch onto Timothy Dalton, believing that Bond was becoming a rather unattractive dirty old man, Moore would continue to act in lesser film roles. As the years passed the performer would face cancer as well as numerous rumours in the scandal sheets concerning his marriage and relationship problems.
Most recently, Moore`s work with UNICEF, the international organisation committed to helping children world-wide, has caught the public eye. Introduced to the charity by Audrey Hepburn, Moore has become its champion, loyally pledging his time to help raise funds for its work in the third world.
With his film career now restricted to cameos such as a voice over in Val Kilmer`s 90s update of The Saint and the Spice Girls` manager in their merchandising movie, Moore picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the second annual Palm International Film Festival`s Grand Gala in early 1997
On the subject of whether he will follow his predecessor`s example of returning to the Secret Service, Moore continually replies with the self-deprecating humour which has become his trademark, claiming that there is not even the remotest chance of him sipping Martinis again, “unless they have 007 in the geriatric division!”