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Roger Moore was the best of the James Bonds for a certain generation of fans

Posted May 31

So far, there have been 24 official James Bond movies and six official James Bonds.

And of those actors, Roger Moore, who died last week at age 89, had the longest run, playing 007 seven times (which seems appropriate) over 12 years, according to cnn.com.

True, Sean Connery played Bond seven times as well, but his final effort, “Never Say Never Again,” was a Johnny-come-lately independent production outside the licensed (to kill) franchise — and it was also a remake of one of Connery’s own, earlier, Bond films (“Thunderball”), according to the Rolling Stone.

Connery is the James Bond of my baby-boomer generation, but if the tributes that have shown up from Generation X and Generation Y fans over the past week are any indication, Moore may just be the most beloved Bond of all.

When the London-born Moore landed the Bond gig, he was already a fairly well-known television star, with lead roles in no less than five TV series, the most well-remembered and longest-running being “The Saint” (1962-69).

And he was just coming off of his fifth series, “The Persuaders” (1971-72) when he signed on to star in the eighth Bond flick, “Live and Let Die” (1973). The film was well-received and Moore was on his way.

His Bond films were more liberally laced with humor than earlier entries, and some critics still complain that with Moore the series became a little too jokey as self-mockery seemed to take over.

Moore’s second Bond outing was “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974), followed by one that is generally thought of as among the best in the franchise, “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977). This was the film that sealed the deal for Moore with critics and fans.

It was a short honeymoon, however, as the next Bond film, “Moonraker” (1979), caused a wide divide between critics and fans. The outer space adventure was (and is) cited by many critics as the series’ worst effort — and yet, it’s also the most successful film of Moore’s tenure, and the fifth-biggest hit of the entire franchise (according to Box Office Mojo).

The next two were viewed as welcome returns to the Bond formula of yore, “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) and “Octopussy” (1983), while Moore’s final Bond film, “A View to a Kill” (1985), ranks with “Moonraker” as one of the least-loved.

It may have been an uneven ride, but to a certain generation Roger Moore is James Bond.

Learning of Moore’s death last week took me back to my term as the Deseret News movie critic in the 1980s when I reviewed the last four of his Bond movies, and of the one occasion when I interviewed him.

As has been noted by others since his death, Moore was quite the jokester, which made being around him a lot of fun. But that didn’t necessarily translate to being a good interview subject.

I was part of a press junket for Moore’s fifth Bond movie, “For Your Eyes Only,” in New York in 1981.

At the time, I was pretty new at the game; this was just my second junket. And when Moore was escorted to our table, he sat down before eight or nine entertainment journalists and immediately began cracking wise, and then he answered each question with a quip.

I laughed along with everyone else, but back in my hotel room, as I played back the interview on my handy-dandy tape recorder, I realized that I had no story. Moore had joked around so much that any real answers were rather terse and buried in one-liners.

I found this rather troubling, but reasoned that since there were so many other celebs at the event — from director John Glen to producer Cubby Broccoli to singer Sheena Easton to several co-stars, including Topol, Julian Glover and Lynn-Holly Johnson — there was plenty to write about.

On the other hand, Moore was the only reason I was there. And I knew that my editor (not to mention Deseret News readers) would expect something from Moore in an interview story about the new Bond movie.

So I decided to just relate what happened, to regurgitate some of Moore’s gags and fill out the rest of the article with comments from others.

After all, if the story wasn’t about Moore, it wasn’t about Bond.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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