With 'No Time To Die' fast approaching cinemas, we're looking back over the six actors who played Bond - Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and George Lazenby - and making cases for and against them, as well as their best and worst movies.
Although we associate Roger Moore nowadays with his phase as James Bond, audiences around the time of 'Live and Let Die' was already a known quantity on both sides of the Atlantic. On our side, audiences knew him as Simon Templar, the suave super thief in 'The Saint'. On the other side, audiences knew him from his run on 'Maverick' and 'The Persuaders!' opposite Tony Curtis. In both instances, Roger Moore was playing more or less the same character that he'd play with James Bond.
To Moore's credit, he's never once claimed his performance was anything other than a slight tinkering from these. Indeed, Moore famously quipped that his acting range consisted of "left eyebrow raised, right eyebrow raised." It's in this almost disarming, good-natured humour that we see the first real cleft between the different actors who played Bond. Sean Connery's Bond was confident, yes, but he was completely capable of being an absolute bastard. He'd happily shoot people in the back, abuse women, pay off SMERSH agents who troubled him, and generally did whatever he felt like. It's not to say there weren't seem skeevy moments in Roger Moore's run - the whole thing with Jane Seymour's character in 'Live and Let Die', the very obvious age difference in 'A View To A Kill' - but it was on a much different wavelength.
This went for all of Moore's movies. There was none of the darkened questioning of Timothy Dalton, the sly and sinister of Connery, or Craig's cold brutality. They were light, airy, silly. When he fired off a parachute, a giant Union Jack appeared in the balloon. His Lotus turned into a submarine. His quips were done with much more humour than Connery's offhand jibes, and whenever he did have to off someone, it was done with a certain amount of distaste. In fact, the only time he remotely seemed to enjoy himself was when he dropped Blofeld - who was wheelchair-bound - into a chimney by means of scooping him up with a helicopter. Yes, you read that correctly. In 'For Your Eyes Only', James Bond manages to escape from a helicopter that Blofeld commandeered, then climbs into the cockpit, scoops up Blofeld who's in a wheelchair, and drops him into a factory chimney. That's the opening sequence of the movie, and is completely unrelated to the rest of the movie.
In that spirit, we have to view Roger Moore, and consequently his version of Bond, as perhaps one that was self-aware. Although later efforts by Connery - such as 'Thunderball' - might have yucked things up somewhat, Moore's efforts were comedic straight from the get-go. This was something Moore was all too familiar with. "You can’t be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is. That’s just hysterically funny," said Moore in an interview. The very absurd nature of a world-famous spy was heightened in each of his movies.
'The Man with the Golden Gun' featured an incredible car stunt that saw Bond drive an AMC Hornet - a decidedly un-Bond car, it must be said - over a bridge and consequently corkscrew thing in the mid-air. The stunt is famous for being the first computer-modelled stunt in cinematic history. On-screen, however, is another story. Right as the car makes it 360-degree rotation in mid-air, there's a slide-whistle sound effect that puts the whole thing into 'Looney Tunes' territory. While the director, Guy Hamilton, later admitted that putting that sound effect was his biggest regret as a director, it was in keeping with the outright comedy of it all.
If we view Moore's Bonds as farce and comedy, in the same way we view Adam West's Batman, then it stands to reason that Moore understood the assignment given to him. In fact, Moore was the most knowing Bond of them all. When he looked out across the screen and arched an eyebrow, he was letting us all in on the joke.
So, over to you. Where does Roger Moore place in our poll? Is there a view to a kill, or do you live and let die?