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Bond star Roger Moore dies aged 89

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Former James Bond star Sir Roger Moore has died in Switzerland at the age of 89 after a short battle with cancer, his family has announced.

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A message shared on the actor’s official Twitter account read: “With the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated.”

A statement attached to the post added that the actor had died in Switzerland “after a short but brave battle with cancer”.

“The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone.”

The longest-serving 007, Moore played the suave spy in seven films between 1973 and 1985, dispatching dozens of villains and bedding a succession of beauties along the way.

However, decades before he became an international sex symbol, Moore was already well known to British housewives – as a knitwear model.

“Never knock a knitting pattern,” he once said. “Especially if you’re being paid for it.”

As charming off-screen as he was on, Moore always took his fame with a pinch of salt, and met jabs about his acting ability with good-natured humour.

The actor once quipped he used just three expressions to play Bond: “Right eyebrow raised, left eyebrow raised and eyebrows crossed when grabbed by Jaws.”

It was his own fault, he later admitted, when the British satirical puppet show Spitting Image lampooned him as The Man With the Wooden Delivery.

Roger George Moore was born in south London in 1927, the only child of a policeman and a housewife. He left school at 15 and became an animator and diagram artist before studying for a short stint at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

He made his film debut in 1945 as an extra before being conscripted into the army for his national service. When he came out, he continued to scrape a living from modelling and small parts in films.

His first lucky break came in the 1950s, when he won a contract with the prestigious MGM film studio in Hollywood. It was not until 1958 that he made his name playing the title role of the British television series Ivanhoe.

Bigger roles soon followed. Moore played the title character in the US television series Maverick – a job turned down by his Bond predecessor Sean Connery – and also starred in The Saint and The Persuaders.

Moore was 45 – the oldest actor ever to play Bond – when he took over from Connery.

But that did not prevent him from defeating the ruthless Mr Big in Live and Let Die and starring in a further six films, concluding with 1985’s A View to a Kill.

The role saw him romance Bond girls Britt Ekland, Jane Seymour, Barbara Bach and Mary Stavin.

But when asked who the best Bond was, he usually named Connery, though he was also generous in his praise of the latest 007, Daniel Craig.

“I think that Sean was obviously the great Bond,” Moore said.

“He was obviously the right person, he brought the right personality to the performance, otherwise Bond would not have gone on past the first six that he did. He was a tremendous Bond.

“Today, I think we’re very lucky to have Daniel Craig because he is quite extraordinary. I always say that Sean looked like a killer – but Daniel Craig would finish it off.

“When I saw Casino Royale, I thought that Daniel Craig did more action in the first seven minutes than I did in seven movies.”

After handing over the role of Bond to Timothy Dalton, Moore went into semi-retirement, living a millionaire’s life and travelling between his homes in Los Angeles, Switzerland and France.

In his later years, Moore dedicated much of his time to charity, campaigning for children’s welfare in his role as a UNICEF ambassador from 1991.

He received a knighthood for the work in 2003, which was just as well, he reportedly joked, since he would have had to wait “500 years” to be honoured for his acting.

That same year he received the German Federal Cross for his involvement in tackling the trafficking of children, and in 2008, France gave him the title Commander of the National Order of Arts and Letters.

Just 19 when he made his first trip to the altar, Moore married four times. He left his first wife Doorn van Steyn for the singer Dorothy Squires, whom he married in 1953.

That marriage also turned sour, and Moore left her for the Italian actress Luisa Mattiolo, with whom he had his three children.

It was his longest marriage, but, after 30 years, Moore had an affair with her friend Kristina Tholstrup, the Swedish multi-millionaire who went on to become his fourth wife in 2002.

He credited her with bringing tranquility to his life and called her his soulmate.

“I wasn’t a particularly good husband, but I’m an OK father and an OK grandfather,” he once told the Daily Mail.

His later years were plagued by ill health. He made a full recovery after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993, a disease he regularly described as “a pain in the arse”. Moore collapsed on stage in New York in 2003 and had to be fitted with a pacemaker.

When asked about mortality and his illnesses in a 2014 BBC interviewer, he said, “I don’t think I’m frightened, I think it’s going to a big adventure.”

Moore is survived by his fourth wife, Scandinavian socialite Kristina “Kiki” Tholstrup, whom he married in 2002, and by his three children from an earlier marriage, Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian.

-DPA and Reuters

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