This article first appeared in the May 30, 2017 issue of Variety.
As a boy of 11, I left Ireland for London on Aug. 12, 1964 — the same day Ian Fleming died. That weekend I saw “Goldfinger” with Sean Connery at the ABC Cinema on Putney High Street with my mother, May, and my stepfather, Bill. How could I know then that my life would be entwined by the great alchemy of a cinematic hero such as James Bond? There I sat, that first weekend in my new life in London, motionless and spellbound by the beauty of CinemaScope. I had discovered the movies and Bond, James Bond. However, it cost money to go to the pictures. And that’s when I discovered my first real hero, Roger Moore. Simon Templar, the Saint, all rolled into one man.
Only on reflection do I see how much of an influence Roger Moore had on me as a young Irish immigrant lad from the banks of the River Boyne. I guess the combination of Bond and the Saint ignited a flame for fame in my heart of innocent wonder. I wanted to be up there. Roger as the Saint made me believe in his world. And before I knew it, the man who was the Saint transformed into James Bond, an even greater hero to me as a boy.
Having by now fully immersed myself in the magic of movies, and with my appetite for more informed and character-driven work in films, I guess I slowly dreamt of being an actor as I watched their work, which never really seemed like work to me. Of course, I was only 12 years old. Only now after 40 years as an actor do I know the hard road it takes to be one. It’s only now, after all these years, that I know he was a hero.
He became James Bond — not an easy task for any man. As an actor he must have known the job at hand was Herculean, with an expectant world awaiting; who was next in line? Sean Connery had set the bar high, and George Lazenby, with mighty flair and a valiant heart, had given it his best. Now it was Roger’s turn. He knew his time was now, and he reigned over seven movies as James Bond with exceptional skill and comic timing laced with a stiletto vengeance. He knew his comedy, he knew who he was and he played onstage and off with an easy grace and charm. He knew that we knew.
We fell in love with a magnificent actor. Never forgetting the audience, never letting the begrudgers in, Sir Roger enthralled the world for many years as Bond. Sir Roger played it to the end with impeccable good manners and a wicked sense of irony that was born of years upon the stage. He saved our world, for heaven’s sake, with his movies as James Bond.
He is the only actor I ever asked for an autograph. I was 12 years old, and my mom and dad had taken me to Battersea Park. I lined up by the Ferris wheel and waited my turn to get his autograph. I wanted to be somebody like him. Maybe that’s why I waited. Little did I know my time would come to someday enter onto the stage as 007.
Many years later I was a working actor with a wife and children, and Roger and his Bond came to save the day. My late wife, Cassie, and our family were living in Wimbledon. I had just finished a yearlong run in the West End with a production of “Philomena” directed by Franco Zeffirelli. And then nothing — no work.
One day, Cassie got an audition for a James Bond movie called “For Your Eyes Only,” and bingo, we were off to the races once more. The film shot in Corfu. Cassie played Lisl von Schlaf — not a great name, but what a great time. By then Roger was the man — the world was at his feet. He was most gracious to the children and myself. I was there for less than a week, because I got the lead in a six-part series called “The Manions of America.” That miniseries would lead me to play Remington Steele and then, eventually, James Bond.
By the time I came to stand on the stage as Bond, the performances of Sean Connery and Roger Moore were difficult to shake from my DNA. Roger came down to set one day on “GoldenEye” and wished me well. I was still in awe of the man.
Last time I saw him was at the Albert Hall for a tribute to Cubby Broccoli. What more can one ask for? I am so proud to have known the kindness and humanity of Sir Roger Moore.