Last night I had the tremendous pleasure of being in the audience for “An Evening with Sir Roger Moore” in Oxford. Before Sir Roger entered the stage few could fail to spot the wonderful Union Jack cushion on stage which prompted me to tweet:
“I want the Union Jack cushion Sir Roger Moore is presumably sitting on tonight. Might be collectors item after tomorrow”.
Interestingly the cushion and the Scottish vote was one of the first topics he started on. Directing the flow of interview questions at Sir Roger’s biographer and assistant Gareth Owen. The pairing made for some fun banter.
The first half covered Moore’s early career and seemingly haphazard foray into acting. A lot was made of the number of jobs he was sacked from, to humourous effect by Gareth. Moore counted many stories about the studios, his TV career on shows such as Ivanhoe, The Saint (I had no idea he tried to buy the rights) and The Persuaders!. He also spoke a bit about directing episodes of The Saint and Persuaders!, a side of Moore which isn’t widely covered. It included a number of anecdotes of trying to get Tony Curtis to play ball such as re-recording dialogue.
Then came the interval, when you could grab some obligatory refreshments.
Sir Roger arrived on stage early in the second half to announce some terrible news: “Gareth Owen is still in the building”. This half covered the Bond films in more detail. Many of the already documented stories came out (talking about sex maniac Hervé Villechaize antics on The Man With The Golden Gun, working with Maud Adams, Madeleine Smith and the magnetic wrist watch scene, all the friendly torment he caused Desmond Llewelyn who struggled to learn his lines as gadget-master Q, the time when the explosives went off early during the Stromberg showdown in The Spy Who Loved Me leaving him three holes where most men only have one). The evening was peppered with Moore’s impressions of famous actors such as Richard Burton, Christopher Lee, Hervé Villechaize, Michael Caine, Tony Curtis which were all surprisingly good. He even sent himself up, complete with a halo “Saint” moment on the big screen, a masterclass in ‘eyebrow acting’ and talking about the various parodies of himself from the likes of Steve Coogan and Spitting Image (which he loves). Moore was at his finest when riffing with the audience/Gareth or going wildly off piste at a different tangent only to ask “sorry – what was the original question again?”
Despite all the good humour throughout there was also a hint of melancholy for all the greats no long with us (including the recent loss of Richard Kiel who played Jaws in the James Bond films – the two were good friends). There is a sense that Sir Roger is one of the old guard remaining from a by-gone era. The Q&A was also extremely poignant considering the vast distance many fans had travelled to see Sir Roger speak, including one or two old friends such as A View to a kill co-star Fiona Fullerton. The most affecting moment for me was when the daughter of Film make-up artist Eric Allwright asked a question and mentioned that her dad was also in attendance in audience – Sir Roger was clearly moved by this. His recalling of character actor Percy Herbert was also extremely heart-felt.
At the risk of continuing on this downbeat note, both the first half and second half both ended on a surprisingly serious tone: part one ending on the horrific car accident director Basil Dearden who coaxed the most impressive performance from Moore’s entire career in The Man Who Haunted Himself (one of the few times Moore was required to do real acting), and the second half ending on his introduction and involvement with the charity Unicef.
Despite this, however, it was really an evening of celebration, great humour and the time breezed by like just like an enjoyable matinée (in fact it over-ran by some 40 minutes). Sir Roger was in fine fettle which belied his age of almost 87 to prove to everyone in the audience that nobody does it better.