Sir Roger Moore, the English actor with the longest-serving tenure playing James Bond, has died. He was 89 years old. According to a statement released by his children, Moore passed away Tuesday in Switzerland following a “short but brave battle with cancer.”
Between 1973 and 1985, Moore starred in seven James Bond films, including Live or Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Octopussy. His take on the British spy was more of a playful playboy than other incarnations of Ian Fleming’s iconic character. He was quick with a one-liner or a nifty gadget as the situation called for, a happy-go-lucky Bond with an equally sharp mind and wit. With his raised eyebrows and disarming charm, he would woo a woman as quickly as he would drop a man from a rooftop.
Moore’s casting as Bond came over 20 years into his career, at the age of 45. He got his start in the industry working as a knitwear model in the early 1950s. At the age of 17, he signed a seven-year acting contract with MGM, but was released after just two years following the failure of films like Interrupted Melody, The King’s Thief, and Diane. Another long-term deal with WB would eventually follow, but Moore spent much of the next 12 years working in television. From 1958-1959, he starred as the title character in Ivanhoe; Robert Brown, who would eventually play M in the Bond movies of the ’80s, was a regular on the show. Next came The Alaskans, followed by the frontier classic Maverick, which saw Moore take a role originally intended for another future Bond, Sean Connery.
Moore’s most successful TV role came as Simon Templar in The Saint, a show he also produced and directed. Another part originally intended for Connery, the six-season crime adventure series made Moore a household name in America. Not long after, Moore appeared alongside Tony Curtius in The Persuaders! , a role which made him the highest paid TV actor in the world, as he earned a then-unheard sum of £1 million for the 24-episode series.
Though he was unaware of it at the time, Moore had been considered for the role of Bond in the first 007 film, Dr. No, as well as the first post-Connery film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. At the age of 45, he was finally cast as 007 in Live and Let Die (1973). He would go on to play Bond longer than any other actor, starring in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985). He retired from the part at 58 years old, and he is still the oldest actor to hold the role.
He starred in a number of other movies during his 007 years, including The Cannonball Run, a meta role which saw him play a millionaire so obsessed with Roger Moore that he had plastic surgery to look like him and constantly acted like his version of Bond. After A View to a Kill, he took a five-year hiatus from screen acting, returning in 1990 in Fire, Ice & Dynamite. He would go on to have roles in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s The Quest, Spice World, and Boat Trip. He increasingly took on voice work, including as a radio announcer in Val Kilmer’s feature adaptation of The Saint. He also starred as Jasper in the 2016 TV movie remake featuring Adam Rayner.
Throughout his career, it was Moore’s work with UNICEF for which he was most proud. Audrey Hepburn had inspired him to join the international organization, and he became a Goodwill Ambassador in 1991. Eight years later, his work led to him being named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire before advancing to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2003. The fact that he was knighted for charity “meant far more to me than if I had got it for acting,” Moore said. His acting earned him accolades, as well, culminating in the laying of his own Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2008.
Beginning in 1978, Moore lived in tax exile from the UK. He split his time between Monte Carlo, Monaco, Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and a home in the south of France. He was made a full resident of Monaco after Prince Albert II named him a Goodwill Ambassador to the country. As per his own wishes, he will be buried in Monaco during a private funeral.
Read the full statement from his family below.