When I was a young lad of about seven or eight years old, my father took me to see a movie called The Spy Who Loved Me. I knew nothing about what I was in for, but my father was very excited, and he promised a good time to one and all. He had, after all, been watching Bond movies for a decade and a half, and he would finally have the opportunity to pass this time-honored ritual down to his progeny.
The movie started with a downhill ski chase, which was at that time the most impossibly thrilling thing I had ever seen. From that moment, I was hooked. But there was more! There was the psychedelic credit sequence. There were people being eaten by sharks. There was a giant Yeti of a henchman named Jaws. It was everything I imagined a movie could be and more, the cinematic equivalent of a first kiss, with a little bit of over-the-bra stuff thrown in.
I knew nothing about this “James Bond” person, why he had all these nifty gadgets, or why all these hot chicks seemed determined to engage in sexual congress with him, hazy at best was my understanding of such matters at the time. All I knew was that I was probably too young to be watching it, which made it deliciously thrilling, even when the story made no sense and the acting was hot garbage.
From that moment on, Roger Moore was James Bond to me. I came to understand later that most people considered the role to be Sean Connery’s, to the point where many of those people considered Moore’s detached and somewhat contemptuous take on the role to be nothing short of sacrilege.
I didn’t care. Moore’s debonair portrayal of the British secret agent became the definitive one for me, and even though I went back later and watched the Connery films and enjoyed them, he was just “the old James Bond” to me. Moore would always be my first, my last, my everything.
From then on, every two years, when a new James Bond movie was released, my friends and I would diligently report to the movie theater to see it, even when it was a joyless exercise like For Your Eyes Only. We knew that with Moore playing Bond, we were in good hands.
Moore eventually faced facts and stepped out of the role after 1985’s A View to a Kill, his seventh outing as the British super-spy. By then he was almost 60, and simply too old to play the role without the assistance of an army of stuntmen. Furthermore, the sight of him engaging in the physical act of love with such women as Tanya Roberts and Grace Jones was getting to be laugh-out-loud funny, if you weren’t gagging on the imagined odor of old man smell mixed with Old Spice “Swagger” and day-old musty nuts.
After Moore hung up his vodka martini, other actors filled the role, but they could never fill his shoes. Timothy Dalton looked the part, but he was too dour to make an engaging protagonist (and yes, I know that’s how Bond is in the books, thank you for your time).
Dalton was followed by Pierce Brosnan who, I’m sorry, just wasn’t Bond. I tried to give him a chance, but my couple of attempts at giving him a fair shake collapsed as I tried to figure out why Remington Steele was in this James Bond movie. Roger Moore had provided me with the definitive portrayal of Bond, and I just couldn’t let it go.
I was finally able to accept Daniel Craig as Bond, but that was primarily because he put his own spin on the role. Perhaps more to the point, he started playing Bond almost 30 years after my initial introduction to the character, and by then I was ready for something new. It also didn’t hurt that the first 20 minutes of Casino Royale contained one of the most thrilling chase sequences ever committed to film. But I could only accept Craig as Bond because he had changed what Bond was – he wasn’t trying to live up to Moore’s definition of the role.
When it comes to Bond as the debonair and tuxedoed gent who dispatches the bad guys with a quip and beds the ladies with a wink, there is only Roger Moore. And despite the fact that he’s been out of the spotlight for years, the world seems a little less refined today, a little less sophisticated, and a whole hell of a lot less amusing.
To Roger Moore, a man who could capably carry a movie called Octopussy without breaking a sweat, I pour one out in your honor, and I hope that Q remembered to equip your coffin with an ejector seat if your enemies come looking for you.