In his memoir, “My Word Is My Bond,” Roger Moore shares previously untold stories from throughout his career, beginning with his years in the studio system in Hollywood working alongside silver screen icons such as Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant and David Niven, followed by his famous turn as James Bond in the 1980s and ’90s — a role he held for more films than any other actor. In this excerpt he writes about his childhood and what compelled him to pen his memoir.
Foreword: Memoirs of an aspiring actor
For years, people have said to me ‘Write your book,’ and for years I said, ‘No, there are too many people I’d have to write about, and even if they’re dead, what I might say would be an intrusion on their privacy. And apart from that, I’m too lazy.’
Irving ‘Swifty’ Lazar persuaded my friend Michael Caine to write his book, and tried the same tactics with me. Unfortunately, Swifty is now dead. He had said, ‘I’ll get you a ghostwriter.’ Well, maybe he is that ghost now; it would be nice to think so. He was a great character, miniature in stature but a giant of a human being.
In 1992, I decided to put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, to be more accurate. I thought I’d start by relating my many childhood illnesses and operations. Illness is a theme that you’ll find permeates my writing – and I’m only on the first page. I tapped away at 6,000 words or so on my laptop and then, later that year, tragedy struck. There we were, just before Christmas, at Geneva airport, having flown in from London; I stayed in the baggage area to claim the luggage, leaving my former wife, Luisa, to go through to the car with the carry-on baggage ... which turned out to be carry off baggage, as it happens. Distracted for a moment, and believing that our driver had taken care of putting the small things in the back of the car, Luisa settled down happily to await my arrival with the other luggage.
Imagine our horror when we discovered that the driver had not put the bags in the back at all. Instead they had, we presumed, been put in the back of some other vehicle and were well on their way to make some airport thieves’ Christmas a happy one. We spent the next two hours reporting our loss to the police: jewels, cash, gifts, all gone. It was much later that I realized I had also lost my precious words.
In the years since then I’ve resisted returning to the keyboard. No, that’s not strictly true. I haven’t resisted, but rather have always been kept busy with so many other things that the idea of sitting down to put finger to keyboard was not one I could entertain ... or at least that was my excuse. However, with renewed encouragement from my darling wife Kristina, my daughter Deborah and my dear friend Leslie Bricusse, I have decided it is now indeed time to make time and stop making excuses.
When, on the eve of my eightieth birthday in October 2007, I announced that I was starting work on my story again, I was adamant that it would be a fun book with no recycled scandal, tittle-tattle or dirt dishing — the expected inclusion of which had worried me so much when I tackled my earlier version. But, dear reader, that isn’t to say this will be a ‘fluffy’ book. I want to tell things as
I saw them: relay the funny stories and recall the many wonderful characters and friends that have enriched my life. When I have nothing nice to say about a person, I’d rather not say anything at all (unless pushed to say a few words by my editor!). Why give them the publicity, I say? No, I’d far rather fill these pages with words about me. This is, after all, a book about me: a suave, modest, sophisticated, talented, modest, debonair, modest and charming individual — of whom there is much to write.
Throughout my tenure as James Bond, there were many wonderful scripts to work with, and one of my favourite lines from any Bond film came from Tom Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplay for “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Trying to find out where the million-pounds-a-hit assassin Scaramanga is, Jimmy Bond tracks down gun-maker Lazar and aims a gun at Lazar’s crotch saying, ‘Speak now or for ever hold your piece.’ Fearful of losing my piece, I feel it’s time for me to speak ...
From chapter one:
Another momentous event in my eighth year was learning the truth about Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve I always slept in the same bed as Mum and Dad so that, come the big day, we could share the joy of opening our presents together (actually, it was more a case of them seeing my joy on opening the presents). This particular year I wasn’t asleep when ‘Santa’ came in to lay out the presents and, unbeknownst to Mum and Dad, I was watching them through the mirror on the wardrobe door as they tiptoed around, stuffing one of Dad’s socks with nuts, tangerines and sweets. Next morning, they feigned surprise at seeing all the presents, but I knew ... oh yes, I knew it was them! I wasn’t the least disappointed that Santa didn’t exist. On the contrary, I was thrilled that my parents would do this for me; that it wasn’t someone else who gave me all these things, it was them.
Still in my eighth year, I complained to Mum that my ‘wee man’ was sore. I was hauled off to the doctor and had to stand with my trousers around my ankles while the offending portion of my anatomy was bounced on the end of a pencil. The decision was taken that, for hygiene’s sake, I would be circumcised. That, I knew, was something they did in the Bible: I’d heard it mentioned in the morning lesson during prayers at school. The word always made the girls snigger.
Knowing I probably wouldn’t get any ice cream this time either, the only appealing thing about the whole episode was that we would have to take a bus ride to Westminster Hospital. In those days the famous hospital was across the road from Westminster Abbey.
Once again I experienced what was to become a familiar routine of being dressed in a surgical gown and bed socks. Then came the oh-so-hateful sickly-sweet smell of chloroform, the tumbling down of the yellow and red rings, accompanied by rapidly increasing boom-bams!
Awakening in a large ward, I found myself in a bed at the very far end of what I discovered was the male, not the children’s, surgical ward, next to an extremely tall window from which I could see across to Westminster Abbey. I could also hear the regular booming of the bell from the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster, better known as Big Ben. I had a sort of ‘cradle’ over my nether regions to ease the discomfort of the bedclothes coming into contact with the aftermath of the unkindest cut of all.
Having vomited for what seemed an eternity after the surgery, my body was left aching and, eventually, starving. No food that day, they said; all that was allowed was that my fevered lips were moistened occasionally with damp cotton wool. Next morning, the ward became a hive of industry: beds being made, pillows plumped up, bedpans and bottles being shunted around and then, the breakfast trolley! Tea was poured from a white enamelled jug with a blue lining, why that particular piece of information springs to mind, I have no idea. Maybe to delay the memory of the porridge? Ugh. A thin gruel-like mixture with a knob of margarine floating on the surface which, in turn, supported a blob of ‘strawberry’ jam. Not Mum’s cooking, that’s for sure.
At tea time the man in the next bed to mine told the nurse to give me one of his boiled eggs; a luxury supplied by his family. Picking the top off the egg I discovered that it was very runny, hardly boiled at all.
My nose wrinkled with disgust and I must have a let out a sigh of discontent, as it resulted in a torrent of abuse from my neighbor, who went on to tell me that I was an ungrateful little sod and to get on with it. I did. You would think that after that humiliating experience I would never ever complain about the way my eggs are cooked. Wrong! Three score and ten years later, I still complain in hotels if the eggs aren’t right.
When it was time to leave the hospital, after thanking the nurses and my generous neighbor, as we boarded the bus home Mum told me that, as I had been a ‘good boy’, she had a surprise for me: a new pair of roller skates. I couldn’t wait to try them out ... and it was with knees wide apart, trying to protect my very tender member, that I shuffled and rolled my way around the Square before having to surrender and wait for happier and less painful times.
The one advantage I had over the other boys in my gang was a bandage on my pecker. A flash of that bandage was enough to gain much respect. There is a lot to be said for a little suffering. For the week or so that I bore my bandage, I was the leader of our gang. Whenever there was any query as to who was boss, a flash of that bandage swiftly saw me confirmed.
Excerpted from “My Word Is My Bond” by Roger Moore. Copyright (c) 2008, reprinted with permission from HarperCollins. To read more, click .