If the only work of Roger Moore’s you’ve encountered is his 12-year stint playing the British super-spy James Bond, rest assured you’re not missing much. This isn’t as callous as it sounds: Moore, who died on Tuesday at the age of 89, was the first person to assert that his range as an actor was limited, and that he shaped his characters into himself rather than the other way around. “My James Bond wasn’t any different to my Saint, or my Persuaders or anything else I’ve done,” he told The Telegraph last year, referring to the two television shows that preceded Bond. “I’ve just made everything that I play look like me and sound like me.”
So his Simon Templar—honey-smooth and jauntily eyebrowed, hair lacquered into submission—was much the same as his Ivanhoe. Even when Moore accepted a role on the fourth season of Maverick, the most quintessentially American show imaginable, he retained his English accent, and the show was left to weakly posture that his Texan character had simply picked up some British mannerisms after a few years overseas. An American accent for Roger Moore? Preposterous.
Moore, then, was a movie star in the old mold. No method-acting antics or extreme diets for this former knitwear model (he did, reluctantly, lose a few pounds and cut his hair when he was first cast as 007). A Roger Moore character doesn’t exude physical menace at his enemies so much as witheringly reduce them into puddles of regret with his disdain and his impeccable tailoring. Daniel Craig, Moore once told an interviewer, “looks like a killer. Whereas I look like a decrepit lover.” It was this wry gift for self-deprecation, and a refusal to take himself too seriously, that made Moore one of the most enduring, endearing actors of the 20th century. In fully owning his limitations, he only made his uniquely debonair charm more indelible.