A wry, old dynamo named James Bond happens to be stirred, not shaken, by Skyfall. In fact, he feels it’s the best Bond film ever made. I’m talking about Sir Roger Moore, who played the unflappable agent in seven films, from Live and Let Die to A View to a Kill, and who reigns as the longest-running Bond to date (and that includes Judi Dench.)
The 85-year-old icon swept into town to promote his new book, Bond on Bond: Reflections on 50 Years of James Bond Movies, and, naturally, we totally Bonded.
Chatting with me from the St. Regis (where he was staying under an assumed name), Moore said: “I think the Bond films are in a slightly different realm with Skyfall. It’s suddenly become the best Bond for me. Daniel Craig is a marvelous actor and very convincing. I played Bond as a lover and Sean Connery played him as a killer, but now I’m convinced that the killer is Daniel Craig. And he’s also vulnerable.”
But Moore was a fan before Craig even sipped his first screen vodka martini. He said that when the hate campaign against the actor began in 2005: “I used to send him messages through a friend, saying ‘Don’t let the bastards get at you.’ I don’t see why they attacked him. He’s terrific.”
So true—and Craig is never the least bit self-conscious about showing off his tight body in the pursuit of mystery solving. He’s 007 and a half. But Skyfall happens to have a bisexual villain (rivetingly played by Javier Bardem with frosted hair and taunting hands). Is it OK for LGBTs to like Bond films? “I’ve never heard any gay friend who said he didn’t like them,” related Sir Roger, who sounds so authoritative you can’t really argue with anything he says.
The four-times-married star remembered that when he landed the role way back in 1973, his old TV producer, Lew Grade, warned him, “It will ruin your career, my boy.” “So it did,” Moore deadpanned to me. “It ruined it.”
Not quite. Moore’s septet of Bond films made him even more wildly famous. He recalled that after his first one, Live and Let Die, “they had options to do three with me. They sort of got stuck. I’m just too appealing!” typically flipping from self-deprecation to mock self-congratulation. But come on, Sir Roger. Why the long face? “I’ve got a lot to be self-deprecating about,” he claimed in defense. “And it helps. I figure I’ll say something wrong about me before anyone else does.” It never seems to occur to the man that no one would.
A long-running presence who has won a couple of who’s-your-favorite-Bond polls should probably have a healthier ego, especially because his name has long been synonymous with urbane, cheeky charm. Moore did concede that his Bond memories are rosy, not bitter. Still, one dark moment was having to push a Thai boy off the boat in 1974’s The Man With the Golden Gun. “I’m not proud of that,” he admitted. “Twenty-one years since starting as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, it struck me as terrible to knock a poor child into the water. The director, Guy Hamilton, was always anxious to make me look a little tougher. I twisted Maud Adams‘s arm in the same movie, and I thought I’d break it. He was trying to get a rough element in me, which was very unlikely.”
It came more naturally to a previous Bond, George Lazenby, a frisky, inexperienced model who demanded the role in 1969 and somehow got it. Amid the violence, gadgetry, and beautiful women, Lazenby did OK, but Moore told me Lazenby became problematic off-screen, later blaming it on having been told by a producer to act like a movie star!
Not so Sir Roger, who has made a franchise out of his own humility. Granted, he might have been a little profligate in the spending department. In fact, when I asked him what his legacy will be, Moore replied, “He should have saved his money.”
A star of a way younger franchise—Twilight—gets a moderately budgeted art film in On the Road, Walter Salles‘s atmospheric adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel about postwar drifters exploring, creating, and having lots of sex. Kristen Stewart plays the lady love of the Neal Cassady character and told a screening crowd last week that she would have done anything in this movie—even crew work—just to be involved with it (short of pushing a Thai boy into the water, I guess).
At the after-dinner at Circo, the leather-jacketed actress told me she loved the book when she first read it as a freshman. “It made me realize you get to choose the people you surround yourself with,” she remembered. “It’s easy to get comfortable and a little bored with your friends.” “I feel like I’m boring you right now,” I cracked, and she laughed and said, “What are you talking about?”
Talk about a good sport! The anti-Lazenby, Kristen went table to table and greeted every person, even posing for photos when requested. Director Salles praised her affinity for “roles that trespass borders,” as well as her avid sense of commitment. He told me he cast Kristen before Twilight, but she stayed attached to the project through the years. Did her price zoom up? “No,” he said. “No actors were truly paid on this film. They worked on scale.” I hope she at least got a vodka-martini doggie bag from Circo—though there was no bag big enough for the elephant in the room: her endlessly intriguing love life.