Roger Moore: Ten things you didn't know about the Bond star

How a failed cartoonist turned into one of the suavest spies around - via a stint modelling jumpers

Roger Moore and Kristina Tholstrup
Roger Moore and his wife Kristina Tholstrup
(Image credit: Valery Hache/Getty Images)

Roger Moore, who has died aged 89, will be best remembered for his suave action roles as secret agent James Bond and the playboy crime-fighter Simon Templar in The Saint.

He was also a renowned philanthropist and a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, but there are many lesser-known aspects of his life.

The spy started out in the army

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Roger Moore was born in Stockwell, South London, in 1927, the only child of George Moore, a police constable at Bow Street, and Lily, the daughter of an army sergeant major. He was called up for national service aged 18, shortly after the end of World War II, and posted to Germany, where he became an office in the combined services entertainment section and was responsible for looking after entertainers for the armed forces.

He tried to make a living as a cartoonist

Before joining the army, Moore was apprenticed to be an animator, during which he met his good friend actor David Niven, who was visiting the studio to give technical advice on a film. However, while Moore showed promise as a cartoonist, he was fired for accidentally destroying some animation celluloids.

He found success with a spear

After Moore grew into a strapping young man, friends suggested he try acting and he scored a role as a spear-carrying Roman soldier on Caesar and Cleopatra, where the film’s assistant director, Brian Desmond Hurst, took a shine to him. Hurst encouraged Moore to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and even paid his fees.

His nickname was 'The Duchess'

It was while studying at Rada that Moore began to cultivate the urbane persona for which he became known. His immaculate appearance led to him being nicknamed "The Duchess" during his time in the army.

He modelled knitwear

Moore struggled to find well-paying acting roles in the early 1950s and would model for knitting patterns and magazine photo-stories. He also worked as a waiter, dishwasher and street salesman.

He fell in love with an older woman

In 1952, Moore met British pop star Dorothy Squires, who was 12 years his senior. "It started with a squabble, then he carried me off to bed," she said. The couple travelled to the US, where Squires introduced him to stars in the film industry and his English charm and good looks were in demand. He won roles alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner. He and Squires were married for 16 years. Moore married fourth wife Kristina Tholstrup in 2002

He directed himself

After regular TV roles in two western series, The Alaskans and Maverick, Moore became a true star playing crime-fighting playboy Simon Templar in The Saint from 1962 until 1969, developing debonair persona that made him seem a natural for the role of Bond. He even directed himself in nine episodes.

He turned down Bond

Moore was not available when he was first offered the role of James Bond due to a scheduling clash with a TV show he was making. He was asked again when Sean Connery stepped down and stepped into the suave spy's shoes for 1973's Live and Let Die. He was also told to lose weight and cut his hair. Ironically, his good friend David Niven was author Ian Fleming’s first choice for the role of Bond.

He had a cigar allowance

In the Bond novels, 007 is a heavy chain-smoker, puffing through more than 70 cigarettes a day. While Sean Connery only lit up occasionally when playing the role, Moore wanted to differentiate himself from his predecessor so instead of cigarettes, he made the spy a cigar smoker. Moore even had a clause added to his contract giving him an unlimited supply of cigars during filming.

He was the busiest Bond

Moore was one of the most prolific actors to have played James Bond and appeared in seven of the spy films, from Live and Let Die (1973) to A View to a Kill (1985). His daughter Deborah also starred in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day.

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