LONDON: British actor Roger Moore, who played James Bond over two decades with a suave wit, died Tuesday aged 89, drawing tributes for his portrayal of the womanising superspy as well as for his charity work.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer,” his children said in a statement published on Twitter.
“We are all devastated,” Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian said, adding: “Thank you Pops for being you, and for being so very special to so many people.”
Moore shot to fame as the smooth-talking adventurer Simon Templar in British television show “The Saint” in the 1960s, and also starred alongside Tony Curtis in “The Persuaders” in the 1970s.
But it was not until 1973, at the age of 45, that he won the role that for many fans would come to define him, as Ian Fleming’s fictional secret agent James Bond.
Moore made his debut as 007 in “Live and Let Die”, following it with six more films, only bowing out with 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”
Known for his ironically raised eyebrow and deadpan quips, Moore’s take on Bond was more tongue-in-cheek than that of his manly predecessor Sean Connery.
“I’m not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs,” he once said.
But with seven appearances as the character he fondly called “Jimmy Bond”, he outgunned Connery and all the other actors to have played 007.
A genuine movie star
Moore was also one of the last of the old-school movie stars, who counted Frank Sinatra and David Niven among his friends and lived in luxury in Switzerland and the French Riviera.
In later years he became known for his humanitarian work, notably through his activities as a UNICEF ambassador, helping raise funds for under-privileged children.
“With the passing of Sir Roger Moore, the world has lost one of its great champions for children -– and the entire UNICEF family has lost a great friend,” said the UN agency’s executive director Anthony Lake.
Moore’s children said he considered the UNICEF work — for which he was awarded a knighthood in 2003 — his “greatest achievement.”
“The affection our father felt whenever he walked onto a stage or in front of a camera buoyed him hugely and kept him busy working into his 90th year, through to his last appearance in November 2016 on stage at London’s Royal Festival Hall,” they added.
“The capacity crowd cheered him on and off stage, shaking the very foundations of the building just a short distance from where he was born.”
They said their thoughts were with his fourth wife, Kristina, adding that there would be a private funeral in Monaco.
‘My Word Is My Bond’
Born Roger George Moore, on October 14, 1927 in the London suburb of Stockwell, he was the only son of a police constable and his wife, and had a happy childhood.
“I’ve not done badly for a boy from Stockwell, where I used to gaze at the silver screen in wonderment, little realising I’d be a part of this magical world,” he wrote in his autobiography, “My Word Is My Bond.”
Duran Duran, the British band that provided the eponymous theme tune for “A View to a Kill”, Moore’s last turn as Bond, wrote in a tweet: “#RIP Roger.”
Moore had found his own humorous way to sum up his final bow as Bond, which came when he was 57 years old.
“The girls were getting younger and I was just getting too old,” he said at a ceremony to award him a star on Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame.”
Paying tribute, Hollywood star Russell Crowe remarked on Twitter that at the age 10 he tried to dress like Moore’s breakthrough character Simon Templar.
“Roger Moore, loved him,” Crowe tweeted.
Pinewood Studios, the British filming location west of London for most of the Bond films, described Moore as a “force of nature”, adding that “his humour and spirit will be missed by all of us.” AFP