|Roger Moore and Daniel Craig (Handout, WENN.COM)
Roger Moore, who played James Bond seven times in a 12-year cycle, knew he was unique. No one else in the five decades of the “official” franchise ever played 007 with such insouciance, wit and suave English charm. But no other Bond was less likely to use his licence to kill.
“It was a period when it was perfectly all right to be flippant about it,” Moore says now, at 85. “I think today, as you see with Daniel Craig, he is serious! I’m quite willing to believe he is a killer, and he’s a damned fine actor.”
Moore is on the phone from London with a copy of Bond 50 — the stunning new 23-disc Blu-ray box set — in his lap. “I’m sitting here looking at the box now: very elegant, very nice.” With the 22 existing movies and one new bonus disc slotted into two hard-copy books (with a space for Skyfall to be slipped in later), the discs are treasures. In a multi-year project that is finally complete, all 22 of the “official” 007 movies have been meticulously restored by Lowry Digital Images in Hollywood. Nine make their Blu-ray debuts in this set — and as stand-alone Blu-ray releases. The Lowry technicians returned to original camera negatives, gently scanned them into computers and made frame-by-frame restorations.
The images are so clean, detailed and colour enhanced they leave you breathless. No one, including Roger Moore, has seen them this way since the premieres. Actually, Moore says he has rarely seen his Bond movies anyway. “I never really saw them after the premieres. And that’s a long, long time ago, the premieres. But now my wife (Kristina Tholstrup, his fourth wife, whom he married in 2002) has not seen them and she does want to look at them. She doesn’t look at the love scenes, but she looks at everything else.” So the couple is eager to explore.
I suggest that Tholstrup can see what handsome rogue he was as Bond. “Or what a rat!” Moore jokes.
Moore was like that in 1983 when I met him on the London set of Octopussy, his second-to-last Bond. Moore played perfect host, offering tea and joking about playing an action hero. Moore took his work seriously, but not himself nor the movies. “Yes, it mustn’t look hard to do,” he says now of playing Bond. “Everything should look easy. I would say that, if the acting showed, there’s something wrong.”
Playing Simon Templar in The Saint on TV prepared Moore for Bond, but also delayed him because his TV contract held him back. “I had been approached to do it,” he says of being offered the role Australian George Lazenby eventually landed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “But my time was right, I guess, when I finally got around to doing it.” All of Moore’s Bonds made money from 1971-1985. “I was very lucky, wasn’t I?”
Obviously it is not just luck. The whole franchise grossed $4.8 billion over its first 46 years (or $11.7 billion when the box office of older titles is adjusted for inflation). There is no reason to think that number 23, Skyfall, will not push it much higher.
Moore thinks the franchise has been successful, and will continue to be so, as long as Eon Productions maintains the quality level. “I think one of the reasons is that the production company, the one established by Cubby Broccoli, has never cheated the audience. They’ve put the money up on the screen. It really is good against evil and, along the way, you’re going to meet glamourous ladies, see marvellous locations and it’s pure escapism!”