Sir Roger Moore chats with Kevin Cooper about his role as James Bond, that infuriating hearing aid, those leading ladies and his forthcoming An Evening With Sir Roger Moore Tour.
Sir Roger George Moore KBE is an English actor whose most notable role is that of the British secret agent James Bond, whom he portrayed in seven feature films between 1973 and 1985. Prior to landing the role his most significant television work came with his portrayal of Simon Templar in The Saint from 1962 to 1969 and starring alongside Tony Curtis in the television drama The Persuaders.
Off screen he is a Goodwill Ambassador for the charity organization UNICEF, and is passionate about reducing the deaths of children worldwide. It is for this role that he was recognised and subsequently made a Knight of the Realm. He has published his autobiography in 2008, and has written other books of reminiscences of his career.
About to tour the UK with his Evening With Sir Roger Moore, Kevin Cooper was delighted to grab a few words with him and this is what he had to say.
Sir Roger good afternoon.
Hello Kevin, how are you today?
I’m fine thank you. May I just say thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
Not at all dear boy. It’s my pleasure.
Before we go on, may I just offer you my congratulations on your 71 years in the business?
Thank you Kevin you are too kind. I started in the business way back in 1944 and my, where did those 71 years go (laughter).
I have to ask, how is life treating you today?
It is treating me very well Kevin in fact it is treating me exceptionally well, thank you for asking.
Would you be kind enough to help me clear up an urban myth which has been circulating for many, many years now, and that is have you ever lived in Nottinghamshire?
No Kevin, never. Robin Hood lived over there in Nottingham but I didn’t I’m sorry to say (laughter). I was Ivanhoe not Robin Hood (laughter).
I have to tell you that I used to watch you in Ivanhoe with my late father.
Surely not Kevin, you can’t be that old (laughter).
That is very kind of you to say, and so I will swiftly move on (laughter). You are visiting the Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 24th October with your show, an Evening With Sir Roger Moore. What can we expect?
Well the surprise is that I am still able to walk across the stage (laughter) albeit very slowly. But without spoiling it for everyone, I do finally get to the other side. And that’s it, I get up and go home again (laughter). To be honest with you Kevin there is an awful lot of reminiscing. I will be looking back over the years; the people who I have worked with, the things that I have done, and the things that I might not have done. Fortunately my biographer Gareth Owen does the show with me, and he knows more about me than I know about myself. He forces me to tell the truth (laughter) which of course is acting (laughter). After we have manged to get through the evening there is then a 30 minute Q & A slot which can be very interesting, especially if I can understand what is being said.
I have to confess that my wife got fed up with me keep saying “what did they say and I beg your pardon”. To be honest Kevin it is a very good ploy; my wife isn’t listening at the moment so I am safe to tell you. When your wife says something that you don’t know how to answer you always say “I beg your pardon” (laughter). Well eventually she got fed up with me and she insisted that I go and get myself a hearing aid. So a hundred years ago now I went off and got my hearing tested down in California and I thought it would be absolutely perfect. However I was informed that I was missing my high register which means that I am very fortunate as I cannot hear women speaking (laughter). So from that point on I was forced to have a hearing aid.
However, what this small, hidden hearing aid does when the batteries are running down it plays the tune Bu Bu Bu Bum, Bu Bu Bu Bum. And as the batteries get lower the Bu Bu Bu Bum becomes more frequent. This happened to me once when I had decided to wear my hearing aid on stage. After I had heard the Bu Bu Bu Bum, I simply couldn’t think of anything else (laughter). It was awful so I no longer wear it whilst I am on stage and I rely solely upon Gareth being able to understand the questions, then I look at him and actually I lip read.
This is your fourth year of An Evening With so you obviously enjoy the concept?
Yes I do Kevin. I love the concept and I find it very interesting because I love to see the reaction from the different audiences. Originally I came up with the idea so that my wife who is Swedish would be able to travel with me and see more of England that she previously had as a child. The reality is that we have seen more of the inside of cars (laughter). However I have to say that we have found some interesting pubs and places to eat along the way.
I am an actor Kevin because I am egotistical. I like people to talk about me almost as much as I like to talk about myself (laughter). As Michael Caine once said to me, “that’s enough of me talking about myself Rog, what do you think of me” (hysterical laughter).
In the four years that you have been doing the show, with the exception of this one, what is the most ridiculous question that you have been asked?
That’s easy Kevin, just how many Bond Girls did you sleep with (laughter). And of course dear boy there is no answer as I simply don’t have enough fingers.
So having established that you have never lived here, will this will be your first time in Nottingham?
Yes that’s right Kevin. However quite often when you are travelling around the country one place tends to blend into another. The old saying that if it’s Tuesday then it must be Bolton is quite true.
And does travelling bring with it any problems?
(Laughter) indeed it does Kevin, indeed it does. It starts in the middle of the night when you wake up and try to find the bathroom and you forget where you are staying. It is so embarrassing when you find yourself in the middle of the lobby (laughter) you simply have to smile and wish everyone a good evening (laughter).
You mentioned pubs, have you heard about The Trip To Jerusalem here in Nottingham?
No Kevin not yet.
It is claimed to be the oldest pub in England apparently dating back to 1189 A.D.
(Laughter) does that mean that I will be young enough to go in there Kevin (laughter).
It is actually built into the rock upon which Nottingham Castle stands. The rumour is that King Richard stayed there on his way to the crusades.
Really, I thought that he would have been far too busy trying to stop his brother John nicking things (laughter). Do I have to go into the pub and ask is the tea made Marion (laughter).
I have to tell you that I have just been watching the very first episode of The Persuaders…
Yes, and it is where they are trying to get Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis) and Lord Brett Sinclair (yourself) together. The line is that they “each have something but mix them both together and you have something quite potent”. I personally think that’s not too dissimilar to the chemistry that you and Tony had on-screen. Would you agree with that?
Do you mean that we were potent Kevin (laughter). We had fun doing it and we bounced of one another. However we were entirely different individuals which was exactly what Danny and Lord Brett Sinclair should have been. They were complete opposites.
I have to ask, did you and Tony get along because I have read so many conflicting articles?
Well it sells newspapers Kevin; are they friends, are they lovers, do they hate one another? We got along very well together except that we should have finished filming in twelve months and it actually took another month and a half. Not because Tony didn’t know his lines; he simply wouldn’t say them (hysterical laughter).
Obviously I can’t speak to you without mentioning James Bond. You made seven movies as Bond, do you have a favourite?
Well Kevin I had the best time whilst making The Spy Who Loved Me. I loved the locations; I loved being in Sardinia and Luxor. However I enjoyed them all as I enjoy everything that I do especially going to bed (laughter).
All young boys dream of being James Bond. As an actor was it a role that had always appealed to you?
Apparently I was on the short-list from the very beginning and I was told that I was one of Ian Fleming’s choices for the role. I find that a little strange Kevin because Ian Fleming was dead by the time that I played Bond (laughter) and he didn’t know me. After Sean (Connery) had made four or five movies I was asked again because both Harry Saltzman and (Albert R) ‘Cubby’ Broccoli were close personal friends of mine. I used to play cards with Harry at least twice a week and backgammon every day with Cubby. So I was in debt to both of them and so they both knew that they would get me to work for them on the cheap (laughter) just to pay off my debts.
So I started thinking about playing Bond but I certainly wasn’t banking on it. After finishing The Persuaders I was on the board of Faberge together with running their film company, Brut Films, throughout Europe. I managed to put together A Touch Of Class with Glenda Jackson and George Segal which was an Oscar winning movie. And then all of a sudden Bond came back. Harry called me and said that Cubby wanted me and Cubby called and said that Harry wanted me. They both played the game that I was too fat, too thin, or my hair was too short, then too long and it all happened very, very quickly.
One day the phone rang in my house in Denham. We had moved into that property a couple of years before, and in those days you inherited the telephone number that was there already. My telephone number was Denham 2007 so when the phone rang I answered 007 (laughter) and both Harry and Cubby said that sealed it; they wanted me for the part of James Bond and that was it.
Coincidentally my favourite Bond movie was your first, Live And Let Die.
Really Kevin. Well it was a very well made movie apart from the fellow playing Bond (laughter).
I found it to be a lot lighter and also with a sense of humour. Was that a deliberate decision on your part?
It was Kevin yes because I couldn’t see Bond quite as seriously as he was being taken really. The idea of having a spy who was recognised everywhere that he went and who liked his Martinis shaken not stirred, well in my opinion that is not a spy (laughter). I read the script and I knew that Bond was always going to win (laughter). I always thought that you should play that sort of thing with a nudge-nudge wink-wink to the audience.
I have to ask you, you have played alongside some of the world’s most beautiful leading ladies. Do you have a favourite?
Yes I do Kevin but I couldn’t possibly tell you because the others would be very upset if they should come across my answer (laughter).
On that note Sir Roger it has been a real honour to chat with you and I will be pinching myself for ages. Good luck with the tour.
Thank you Kevin and I look forward to seeing you in Nottingham.