Roger Moore at the Barbican: A Report
A short season of screenings dedicated to the career of Sir Roger Moore took place at The Barbican in London between Thursday 21 October and Sunday 24 October 2004. Episodes from Sir Roger’s popular ITC action series The Saint and The Persuaders!were shown along with lesser seen cinematic outings The Man Who Haunted Himself and The Naked Face. Obviously the knighted actor’s tenure in the role of James Bond was not ignored and Saturday afternoon saw The Spy Who Loved Me presented on the screen at The Barbican Cinema 1. The season kicked off in the most spectacular manner possible with an appearance on stage by the man himself on Thursday evening. Prior to the screening of The Man Who Haunted Himself the foyer was awash with admirers of Sir Roger’s work. Such was the interest in the evening that it would appear to some there were more people present without a ticket for the event than those with. A few meagre return tickets satisfied some optimistic early arrivals but many disappointed fans were turned away as the event was a complete sell-out having been so for some months.
Jaz Wiseman of The Morning After, the official appreciation society of The Persuaders!, generated much interest with a display of memorabilia relating to the Basil Dearden helmed fantasy thriller as well as with copies of his magnificently produced club magazine. Other luminaries from recognised fan circles included Henry Holland of the CULT TV organisation, Dave Worrall of The James Bond Collectors Club and Graham Rye of The James Bond 007 International Fan Club. These long-term enthusiasts mingled with general members of the public but all were similarly eager to catch a glimpse of the man responsible for breathing life into a string of heroic characters during the past five decades.
Following a very well received screening of The Man Who Haunted Himself, known to be one of his own favourites, Sir Roger Moore took the stage to the rapturous applause of the filled-to-capacity auditorium. Accompanied by his PA and biographer Gareth Owen, Sir Roger appeared at ease and comfortable with the audience who sensed they were about to embark upon a very enjoyable journey through an illustrious career. Given his professional position the rapport Gareth enjoys with Sir Roger is unsurprising. Nonetheless the interview was handled magnificently with sensitivity, humour and enthusiasm and for this Gareth is to be heartily applauded. Sir Roger imparted stories from his youth as an evacuee during World War II, as an artist and animator, a soldier, a male model and finally as a struggling extra in the British film industry. His wicked and sometimes bawdy sense of humour peppered the conversation when he mentioned for example the “short toga and long spear” he sported in a variety of costume dramas. Despite still remaining an incredibly handsome and charming man Sir Roger took every opportunity to mock himself. It is this self deprecating humour which has served him so well during his lengthy career and it took very little time for the three hundred strong audience to become completely entranced by his very genuine personality.
Given the array of talent with whom he has been fortunate enough to work over the years Sir Roger’s skill as a mimic has been honed to perfection and the audience were treated to some remarkable impressions of, most notably, Michael Winner, Noel Coward, Michael Caine and fellow ‘Persuader’ Tony Curtis. Memories of an amusing incident during the making of The Man With The Golden Gun allowed Sir Roger to further regale us with his impersonations of Herve Villechaize and Christopher Lee who, spoofing himself in the role of Dracula, once commanded a group of bats back into a cave when they flew out toward the crew during location filming in Phuket.
With Gareth effortlessly guiding Sir Roger every aspect of a phenomenal career was touched upon from the days of Ivanhoe and Maverick through to his duties as a UNICEF ambassador, a role for which he perhaps displays the most pride. Even his recent health problems were discussed with no small candour yet still Sir Roger joked as he related the frightening story of his collapse on stage during a performance of the Morecambe and Wise tribute production The Play What I Wrote.
With the fascinating interview continuing longer than may have been planned Gareth quickly threw the gauntlet out into the audience for a brief question and answer session. Sir Roger fielded admirably everything from “Did you once live in a house in….(Insert location as desired!)?”, to “Who was your favourite ‘Bond girl’?” This particular question was handled with perfection when Sir Roger explained that he was too gentlemanly to name one but noted that Maud Adams had indeed appeared with him twice! An interesting question revealed that Sir Roger regards the eccentric hero Ffolkes in North Sea Hijack as one of his favourite roles. A young lad from the audience was clearly awe struck to actually be speaking to his idol when he asked, “What was your favourite gadget in the 007 films?” Sir Roger’s reply, after first ascertaining the boy’s age, was the magnetic watch he had so adeptly used to undress Madeline Smith in Live and Let Die. Other interesting anecdotes were shared with Sir Roger offering Ewan McGregor as a potential replacement for Pierce Brosnan in the role of James Bond after having met the Scottish actor who now works himself for UNICEF. A delightful interlude to the session occurred when an elderly gentleman sitting in the best seat in the auditorium, front row centre, suddenly got up and politely explained to Sir Roger “I’m sorry but I have to leave now.” Sir Roger immediately leapt from his seat, shook the man’s hand thanking him for coming and asked his name. The unfazed actor then led the audience in a spontaneous round of applause for the old gentleman who waved back to the crowd and left. Another example of why Sir Roger is so well regarded amongst the show-business fraternity. He really does seem to be a very, very nice bloke.
With the evening coming to a close Sir Roger brought the house down by offering upon the request of a member of the audience one of the most beloved lines in cinema ,”The name is Bond, James Bond”. The audience rose to it’s collective feet and Sir Roger enjoyed a much deserved standing ovation. A few lucky front row attendees obtained autographs as Gareth and his ‘guvnor’ left the theatre and then they were gone. Upon leaving the auditorium there were few who were not grinning broadly. We were truly privileged to have been able to share some time with a man who deserves
without question the mantle legend.