LONDON (AP) — Sir Roger Moore saw more to life than a well-mixed martini.
“I felt small, insignificant and rather ashamed that I had traveled so much making films and ignored what was going on around me,” he would say years after starring in seven James Bond movies and upon accepting a role that his friend Audrey Hepburn inspired him to take on, goodwill ambassador for UNICEF.
Moore, who died Tuesday at age 89, didn’t seem to take Bond that seriously even while playing him. Burdened with following Sean Connery as Agent 007, Moore kept it light, using a wry, amused tone and perpetually arched eyebrow as if he had landed on the set by accident. Connery embodied for millions the role of Bond as the suave drinker, womanizer and disposer of evil. Moore didn’t so much inhabit the character as look upon him with disbelief.
“To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous,” he once said. “I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet, everybody knows he’s a spy. Every bartender in the world offers him martinis that are shaken, not stirred. What kind of serious spy is recognized everywhere he goes? It’s outrageous. So you have to treat the humor outrageously as well.”
The handsome, dark-haired actor had long, full lives before and after his debut as Bond, in 1973. He was remembered warmly by fans of the popular U.S. 1950s-60s TV series “Maverick” as Beauregarde Maverick, the English cousin of the Wild West’s Maverick brothers, Bret and Bart. He also starred in the 1959 U.S. series “The Alaskans.” In England, he had a long-running TV hit with “The Saint,” playing Simon Templar, the enigmatic action hero who helps put wealthy crooks in jail while absconding with their fortunes. By the time the series, which also aired in the United States, ended in 1969, his partnership with its producers had made him a wealthy man.
He succeeded even as critics scorned. His performance opposite Lana Turner in the 1956 movie “Diane” was likened by Time magazine to “a lump of English roast beef.” In the 1970s, New York Times reviewer Vincent Canby dismissed Moore’s acting abilities as having “reduced all human emotions to a series of variations on one gesture, the raising of the right eyebrow.”
He was more inspired when helping others. He became the UNICEF ambassador in 1991 and five years later attended the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, and disclosed that he too had been a victim.
“I was molested when I was a child — not seriously — but I didn’t tell my mother until I was 16, because I felt that it was something to be ashamed of,” he told The Associated Press at the time.