As the book Roger Moore wrote before his sad passing is released, his daughter, Deborah Moore, shares heartfelt memories of the man who constantly inspired her.
Whether he was dodging bullets as James Bond, outwitting wrongdoers as The Saint or sat in a hospital bed, Sir Roger Moore always saw the fun in everything, daughter Deborah recalls.
“Dad was such a kind man and had a wonderful sense of humour. Even when he was in hospital in his last days, he had a twinkle in his eye and you could see him flirting with the nurses. I’d have to say ‘Dad, behave!’” she laughs.
Roger Moore was the very model of a gentleman, with this sparkling charm, calm and charisma that won him so many starring roles – not to mention hearts – and left such a gaping hole when he sadly passed away on May 23 2017, aged 89, after a short battle with cancer.
Following his death, colleagues, friends and admirers from all walks of life rushed to pay wonderful tributes to the man no one seems to have had a bad word for. But perhaps the most poignant tribute of all comes from his daughter, Deborah, who now lives her life by so many of the lessons her precious dad taught her.
“Dad taught me to always be appreciative of what you have. In fact, he would never say no to anyone who asked for an autograph. Even if it was at the most inconvenient moment, he’d be so gracious and say yes. I remember he once said ‘these are the people who put me here’ and that’s why he did it.
“He also taught me that it’s so easy to be kind and so hard to be unkind, because he always had so much love and respect for other people. He was such a good man.”
Roger Moore was at the pinnacle of his career when Deborah, now 53, and her two brothers, Geoffrey and Christian, were growing up. But his family always took priority. “He’d usually take us on film sets with him when he was working because, being such a family man, he didn’t want us to be split up. As we were quite young – I was ten when he got Bond – we were taken out of school for a few months and a tutor would come with us so we didn’t miss out on classes. I remember when we went to Jamaica to film Bond – it was all very exciting.”
Deborah even joined her dad once onscreen when she made her acting debut in an episode of The Persuaders. “They needed a little girl to be in this episode and so I was taken out of school for the day to come and film with him. It was great and by then I definitely had the acting bug,” says Deborah, who went on to become a professional actress.
Home life, too, could be fairly star-studded and a young Deborah remembers the likes of Cilla Black, Jess Conrad and Michael Caine popping round to their house for dinner or a card game when she was little! “To me, it was all just normal,” says Deborah.
But despite his stratospheric fame, Roger loved nothing more than just being an everyday dad to his children. “His favourite thing to do with us when we were young was to take us swimming, especially when we went out to Italy, where my mother (Roger’s third wife, Luisa Mattioli) was from. It was right by the sea, so every morning we’d get up at the crack of dawn together and go out for a swim. It was wonderful.”
She also learned from an early age the humility that made her father such a down-to-earth, approachable gent. “I remember going to stay with my grandmother and grandfather – his parents – in south-east London and on the way to the greengrocer’s, we’d stop by the park. And one day my grandmother gave me a right clip round the earhole because I was coming down the slides going, ‘guess who my dad is? My dad is The Saint’. I was just incredibly proud and boastful of the fact my dad was well-known, but I never showed off like that again.”
Another aspect of her dad’s life that made Deborah enormously proud was his humanitarian achievements with Unicef which, in his mind, always overshadowed his acting successes.
“He first got involved in Unicef through his close friend, Audrey Hepburn, because he admired the work she did with them. So he went along to a Unicef conference with her and immediately decided he wanted to be part of it. He cared hugely about what was happening in the world and got very upset about injustices, particularly towards women and children.”
Over 26 years he and his fourth wife, Lady Christina Moore, travelled all over the world to champion children’s rights and see Unicef’s work in action. In 2012 he raised £723,600 for the organisation by holding an auction of Bond memorabilia and a month later he received the first-ever Unicef UK Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It was his way of giving back,” says Deborah. “And he actually turned down a lot of work because of his Unicef commitments. He even used to get a little bit annoyed when he went on talk shows and found it hard to get around to talking about the charity. He’d always come away and say, ‘oh I wish I’d had more time to talk about Unicef.’”
As he aged from a dashing Mr Bond into a suave older man, Deborah says her dad’s capacity for generosity became even greater. “As he got older his personality didn’t change but he became even more tolerant and understanding of things that upset people for no reason.”
And it’s these changes in later life that are very much the subject À Bientôt, the book Roger wrote before he passed away, and that’s released this month. Something of a wry observational comedy, he takes a tongue-in-cheek look at everything from modern manners to technology frustrations, aching joints to ‘senior moments’, as well as looking back nostalgically at his childhood of rag and bone men and mum’s apple pies.
“I sort of knew he was writing a book before he died but I didn’t read any of it until a few months afterwards,” says Deborah, who has written a touching foreword to the book.
“The first time I read it in full I could just hear him talking,” she smiles with a shimmer in her eye. “I was on the train home from visiting a friend of Dad’s and as I was reading the last chapter where he talks about the friends he’s lost and about death, I just couldn’t stop crying.
“It’s a really difficult bit to read because Dad didn’t think he was ever going to die. We all thought he was going to get better like he had done the last time he was poorly, so it came as a terrible shock when he passed away.
“Since he died, I find there are moments when I’m fine and then I go ‘oh I must ring Dad‘ and realise I can’t. All my life I was a daddy’s girl and dreaded the day I’d lose him. I often said to him, I hope something happens to me before you because I don’t think I could live in this world without you. So I was scared when I realised he wouldn’t survive this awful illness that I was going to become a mess. But I’ve since found an inner strength and I feel like Dad’s gone to a better place, with his mates up in the heavens. Now I have pictures of him everywhere and I always feel like my dad is sat on my shoulder helping me out.”
So looking down from his spot in the sky with all his cronies, I ask Deborah what she thinks her dad would hope we’re all saying about him. What would he want to be remembered for? “I think he’d want to be remembered for trying his best in everything he did, for trying to make the world a better place and for making people smile.”
Well, he certainly did that alright! Rest in Peace Mr Bond, it’s been a true pleasure.
In his own words….
An extract from the final chapter of À Bientôt:
“Still hanging on after all these years has made me realise and appreciate all the good luck, the fun, great fortune and the major milestones I’ve been part of, both professionally and personally […] Though perhaps the greatest sadness in getting older means outliving loved ones, friends and colleagues. It’s not easy to see your mates leave for the great cutting room in the sky, though admittedly I’m in no rush to join them […] Does mortality worry me? Yes, in all honesty, it does, as I think it does everyone. It’s the unknown really, that’s the worry. I’d certainly like to think it is years away yet, and that I’ll face it with all the dignity a coward can muster.”
- Interview by Katharine Wootton
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