Born Roger George Moore, the son of London policeman George Moore and housewife Lillian Pope. Although an only child, he had a happy childhood, with many friends and a cousin who stayed with the family for a while. His mother was an enthusiastic roller skater and used to take Moore with her to the skating rink in Tulse Hill.
An academically bright young man, he attended Hackford Road elementary and then Battersea Grammar School, always doing well and usually coming within the top three of his class. He developed a love of swimming and showed talent as a sprint swimmer. Living through the blitz on London during World War II, he remembers their garden fence railings being taken down to melt for munitions and thinking how strange it was that their fence would be made into bombs and bullets to kill people. He became a prefect and developed a love of artwork and drawing, deciding to become an artist of some sort.
After leaving school at age fifteen, his first job was with Publicity Picture Productions in London. They made animated cartoon films and Moore worked as a tracer and filler-in, as part of the animation process. It was at this time that he joined the studio worker’s union, A.C.T.T., of which he is still a member. After being fired from Publicity Picture Productions, he did some work as an extra with Caesar and Denham Studios.
Moore’s film debut was playing a Roman soldier in their production of ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ (1945) with Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh. Having never imagined himself an actor, Moore rather took to the idea, when approached by the film’s director, Brian Desmond Hurst, who had noticed his potential. He offered to arrange a place for Moore and to pay his tuition fees at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was a fantastic opportunity and Moore accepted. Whilst waiting for his place at the Royal Academy, he continued working as an extra in films such as ‘Perfect Strangers’ (1945), with Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr, ‘Gaiety George’ (1946) and ‘Piccadilly Incident’ (1946).
At age 18, Moore went off to do his National Service and trained as an Officer, serving in the entertainment branch and enjoying the camaraderie he experienced in the army. Following his Officer training, he was posted to Germany where he experienced a bad motor accident that split open his jaw and head. After months spent recovering in a hospital in Hamburg, Moore went back to Britain on home leave and at age 19, married his Royal Academy classmate sweetheart, ice skater Doorn van Steyn on 9 December 1946 at the Wandsworth Town Hall.
Following his release from the military, Moore had a number of small roles in theatre productions and also worked as a model, whilst struggling to pursue his film-acting career. In 1949, his marriage was going through a rocky patch, particularly when his touring with theatre productions meant he and Doorn were apart much of the time. They were finally divorced in 1953. Moore had met singer Dorothy Squires at a party at her home whilst he was still waiting for his divorce to be finalised. The couple became official once the divorce came through and they moved to America, primarily for Dorothy to promote her new record, ‘I’m Walking Behind You’, but Moore decided to use it as an opportunity to try his acting luck with a different audience. They were married on 6 July 1953 in Jersey City.
Within a few days of their arrival in America, Moore was offered a role in a television play, ‘World by the Tail’ (1953) with Diana Lynn and Phyllis Kirk. He was then surprised by calls from Warner Bros., Paramount, MGM, Fox and Columbia, saying they wanted to meet him. He was also offered contracts with the Royal Shakespeare Company. On friend Noel Coward’s advice, he accepted the one with MGM and went on to work in television in New York and Hollywood.
Around this time, he was sent a cable from MGM, saying he must report in three months time to make a movie. It was to be his debut as a featured player in a film, as tennis pro Paul Lane, opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson in ‘The Last Time I Saw Paris’ (1954). His next film was ‘Interrupted Melody’ (1955) with Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford followed by a role as a highwayman in ‘The King’s Thief’ (1955) with David Niven. ‘Diane’ (1956) was Moore’s debut as a leading man, co-starring with Lana Turner. It was also his last film with MGM, as he then signed a contract with Warner Brothers.
He did some acting back in England in 1957 and 1958, while Dorothy had work in America, Australia and other parts of the world, so the couple were often apart. It was around this time that Moore met actress Luisa Mattioli on set whilst making a film in Italy. He claims it was love at first site and that they were able to communicate even though she spoke no English and he no Italian. Warner then cast Moore in a number of television shows like ‘Ivanhoe’ (1958) and ‘The Alaskans’ (1959). However, he gained most recognition from his role as James Garner’s cousin, Beauregarde, in ‘Maverick’ (1957). After that, he broke his contract with Warner.
Moore’s big international breakthrough came in 1962 when he won the role of suave spy, Simon Templar, in ‘The Saint’ (1962). It was a British made television series based on The Saint novels by Leslie Charteris but also appealed to the American and other markets, finally making Moore a household name. In 1967, the series began being filmed in colour and Moore directed some of the later shows. Tiring of the role, he ended his run with the show in 1969 as a big star in the UK. Alongside his Templar role, Moore continued to make films and work in television.
Once again, he had been spending more time with his work than with his wife. In fact, he had been living with Luisa Mattioli for a number of years, as man and wife, and they had two children, Deborah Moore (b. 1963, now an actress) and Geoffrey Robert Moore (b. 1966, now a restaurateur). Even although the relationship had irrevocably broken down, Dorothy Squires resolutely refused him a divorce all through these years but finally relented in 1968 (she died in 1995 of cancer).
On 11th April 1969, Moore married Luisa Mattioli and they later had a son, Christian Moore (b. 1973). He went straight to work on two more films, starring as Gary Fenn in the spy caper ‘Crossplot’ (1969) and as Harold Pelham in ‘The Man Who Haunted Himself’ (1970). It was this more challenging role as Pelham that showed Moore’s acting talents lay beyond the light-hearted roles he has thus far played. Moving back to television, he starred with Tony Curtis in ITC TV’s cult series ‘The Persuaders!’ (1971). The show proved popular in Europe but didn’t really catch on in America and was cancelled.
Having already been in more than twenty largely mediocre films, as well as numerous television series, Moore’s big scoop finally came in 1973, when he was offered the role of James Bond in ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973), taking over from Sean Connery. Cinema audiences were wary of the change, as Connery had become the iconic Bond, but Moore’s urbane portrayal of the character won their hearts. In fact the movie grossed more outside of the US than ‘Diamonds are Forever’ (1971), Connery’s last Bond film. Wrapped up in his success, Moore wrote a book about his experiences during the filming of ‘Live and Let Die’, based on the diaries he kept. The book ‘Roger Moore as James Bond: Roger Moore’s own account of filming Live and Let Die’ was published by Pan Books, London in 1973 and acknowledged Sean Connery’s contribution to the Bond legend.
Moore was onto a winner, playing Bond in a light-hearted way, a bit ‘tongue in cheek’, and went on to star in six more Bond films over the next twelve years. They were: ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ (1974), ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ (1977), ‘Moonraker’ (1979), ‘For Your Eyes Only’ (1981), ‘Octopussy’ (1983) and ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985). Moore was in fact the oldest actor to debut as Bond, he was 46 at the time of ‘Live and Let Die’ (1973) and when he made his last, ‘A View to a Kill’ (1985), he was 58 and looking a little too old for Bond. He was also beginning to feel uncomfortable playing love scenes with women young enough to be his daughters. Connery had been 52 for his last Bond film ‘Never Say Never Again’ (1983). Moore officially announced his retirement from playing Bond on 3rd December 1985.
In between the Bond movies, he had successes in films such as ‘That Lucky Touch’ (1975) with Susanna York; ‘Shout at the Devil’ (1976), based on the Wilbur Smith novel of the same name; war drama ‘The Wild Geese’ (1978); adventure/thriller ‘North Sea Hijack (1979); and ‘Escape to Athena’ (1979) with David Niven, Telly Savalas and Stefanie Powers. In 1980, he won a Golden Globe award for World Film Favourite, Male. Moore’s appeal was riding the crest of the wave but his big break into the US market came with ‘The Cannonball Run’ (1981), about an illegal cross-country car race, in which Moore parodies his Bond role. A huge hit in America, the film had a huge cast of stars including Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Fonda and Jackie Chan.
Following the end of his Bond role, Moore’s film work diminished somewhat and he was cast in a number of box office flops, such as ‘Feuer, Eis & Dynamite’ (1990) (Fire, Ice and Dynamite), comedy ‘Bullseye!’ (1990) with Michael Caine, ‘The Man Who Wouldn’t Die’ (1994) (TV) and as Lord Edgar Dobbs in ‘The Quest’ (1996) with Jean-Claude van Damme. He had second-rate roles in ‘Spice World’ (1997) and ‘The Dream Team’ (1999), an American television series. Despite his film work having slowed down, he was still very much in the public eye, on television chat shows and hosting documentaries and award ceremonies. His personal life was somewhat troubled and, after 27 years of marriage, he and Luisa Mattioli divorced in 1996.
However, on the brighter side, in 1999 Moore was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). That same year, he received an honorary doctorate from Ryerson Polytechnic University, Toronto. On 14th June 2003, he was made a Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) at the Queen’s Birthday Honours, making him Sir Roger Moore. He was awarded this honour mainly for his charity work rather than his contributions to the world of entertainment, which pleased him immensely. Since 1991, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, having succeeded Audrey Hepburn in this role. In May 2000, he received an International Humanitarian Award from the London Variety Club for his work with charities. Onto his fourth marriage, Moore wed Christina ‘Kiki’ Tholstrup on 10 March 2002. The couple are still together and have homes in Switzerland and Monte Carlo.
Moore’s health has given him concern at times, throughout his life. As a youngster, he battled to keep his weight down and took up smoking cigarettes until 1971, when he stopped whilst on the set of ‘The Persuaders!’ after Tony Curtis gave him a lecture about how bad it was for him. In the 1960s, he experienced problems with kidney stones. In 1993 he underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer, which he found to be a life-changing experience, as facing one’s mortality often is. On 7th May 2003 he had to have a pacemaker fitted after collapsing during a matineé performance of ‘The Play What I Wrote’.
Despite his box office popularity in the 1970s, as well as having a huge international fan base, Moore has never been wholly respected critically. It is perhaps due to the fact that he has always been a bit of a joker and enjoyed playing more light-hearted roles. Indeed, some view him as more of a personality than an actor. He will however always be remembered as the suave James Bond who replaced Sean Connery and as Simon Templar, The Saint.
Being in his late eighties, Moore’s film and television work has slowed down considerably but he continues to appear regularly on chat shows. He was in a 2002 episode of American television series ‘Alias’, did voice work in the film 'Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore' and appeared in a commercial for the London 2012 Olympics, dressed as James Bond, alongside Samantha Bond, who played Miss Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan series of Bond films. It seems that Sir Roger Moore now uses his public image chiefly to promote the charitable work he does for UNICEF. An extremely handsome man, he has maintained both his looks and his humour in a career that has spanned more than six decades. Here’s hoping that for many years to come, we still get to see the man with the raised eyebrow.