Roger Moore and me

Gareth Owen, Roger Moore’s biographer, manager and friend, remembers what it was like having Bond for a boss

“Every day working for Roger was a joy. I first met him 16 years ago. I was writing a book on his films and passed a draft to his PA, Doris, who seemed quite impressed. Roger read it too and gave his approval. When Doris retired, about a year later, she suggested me as a replacement, and he agreed. After that I had a number of different jobs with Roger – I was his manager, his fixer and his biographer – and we worked on four books together. Every day was different, and this is the fascinating aspect of working for somebody like Roger – you get up in the morning not quite knowing what the day will bring.

When Roger was asked to tour with a stage show he said he’d only do it if I did it with him. He didn’t want to go on stage on his own, saying, “I’ll freeze. I’ll need someone to nudge me in the right direction.” So I appeared with him to help encourage him along a certain path, remembering to stop for the interval and to finish in time for people to get the last bus home. We had to get from A to B at these shows, which we always did, but I don’t think we ever took the same route twice. He’d go off on tangents and I’d eventually bring him back and say, “Now, that’s very funny, but I want to talk to you about this.” We felt very comfortable with one another, and I think that came across on stage. I’d gently take the mickey out of him, and he’d take the mickey out of me a little bit too.

Gareth Owen with Sir Roger and his wife, Kristina Tholstrup

We toured the UK every year for five years and I know he enjoyed those shows. I think it’s nice when you get to an age where you don’t want to work every day, but you still want to be able to entertain an audience of 1,000-plus people, and feel the warmth and feel their love. It really gave him a boost.

He was happy to have played James Bond, but it was his work with Unicef that he was most proud of. He used to go on the big field trips, but with advancing age that became a little more difficult. Going to far-flung countries is difficult at the best of times, but when your knees don’t work as well as they used to, and when your back plays up a little bit… Yet he still worked tirelessly to raise funds and awareness.

“He had a great ability to communicate. He had this wonderful way of making things real and that was part of his genius”

I think Unicef valued him enormously because he had a great ability to communicate. He had this wonderful way of making things real and that was part of his genius. He wasn’t just talking numbers or statistics, he was actually saying, “You can save lives if you donate one dollar, and I’ll show you how.” That really brought it home to people.

Before he was diagnosed with cancer, he told me he wanted to finish our final book. The book is all about growing old, the absurdity of ageing. It’s reflective, it’s poignant, it’s fun, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and he touches on mortality towards the end. It’s also very personal, reflecting on memories from his childhood, and it even includes a number of his sketches. It was originally to be called Getting On but the publishers have changed the title. In the last line of the book he signs off with “À bientôt” (“See you soon”). So the publishers decided to call the book À Bientôt.

Since Roger’s death I have been overwhelmed by the amount of emails and letters that have come in. They fall into three camps. There are the people who knew Roger well, and they’ve obviously lost a friend. There are people who just met him briefly in passing – hotel porters, kitchen washer-uppers etc – and these people wrote to say how they had met him once and he was so kind to them. Then there are the people who have written in who never even met him, they just knew his films and grew up with him.  All these people had lost a friend, or somebody they looked up to, or somebody they felt was a part of their lives. He touched many, many people’s lives. I think that’s quite unique, because these days, you don’t often get that outpouring of love.”

 

Roger Moore as The Saint, 1963. Photo: SNAP / Entertainment Pictures / ZUMAPRESS.com

 

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