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Friday 22nd October 2004

An Evening with Sir Roger Moore

Last Sunday I was absent-mindedly flicking through the pages of the Barbican's cinema program for October - I don't live far from the concrete fortress, and have a made a resolution to make more use of it. I was slightly disappointed that I had missed 'Travels in Greeneland', a season of films based on novels or screenplays by Graham Greene, and turned over the page to find out what seasons were currently running. A Roger Moore season.

My excited fingers fumbled over the keys, but I eventually managed to phone the box office. Unsurprisingly, all tickets for 'An Evening with Roger Moore', in which a film was to be shown followed by an interview with the man himself, were sold out. I despondently booked a couple of tickets for a showing of The Spy Who Loved Me and consoled myself with the thought that there was no way I could have acted earlier to get tickets. When they were freely available, I was probably still cooped up in North Korea, where I imagine they haven't even heard of Lord Rogerson of Mooreshire - although my guide there was aware of the North Korea element in Die Another Day, despite not having seen the film.

I didn't give up. Over the next few days I pestered the box office for returns, and e-mailed the marketing department at work to see if they could get any tickets. Eventually, Leo and I decided to simply head down to Cinema 1 on Thursday evening and hope that there would be some no-shows. But then, yesterday afternoon my phone rang. It was the woman from marketing. She'd come up with the goods - plus they were press tickets, so I didn't even have to pay.

The evening started with a showing of The Man Who Haunted Himself, a psychological thriller from 1970. Roger Moore plays an uptight City gent, who is involved in a car accident, and briefly dies on the operating table before being resuscitated. Once he's up and about again strange things start to happen - he is reminded of events and conversations he's sure he hasn't experienced, he is charged with business deals and negotiations he doesn't recall and a beautiful photographer swears blind that he is having an affair with her - sadly for Roger he can't even remember any details of this. Either he's going mad or there's a doppelganger on the loose. It's an engaging film, shot through with some fascinating footage of London in the early '70s. Roger and a debonair moustache turn in an impressive performance, which should silence those detractors who say he can't act.

A recent article contains his rather touching account of that performance:

When asked about the film nowadays, I always reflect that it was one of the few times I was allowed to act. It's a terrible admission from someone who has made a living from walking in front of cameras. Though, in my defence, I'd previously been cast in roles that required a relatively straightforward approach, either as a romantic lead, heroic lead - or just holding a spear, as I did in my first movie. I'd never been dramatically stretched, as they say.

The credits rolled, the lights came up and Roger entered the auditorium. He walked past my seat, down the stairs and on to the stage where he chatted to his biographer, Gareth Owen, for an hour or so, before the audience were invited to ask questions. Sadly I wasn't given the opportunity to ask any of the array of questions I had for him (What was it like working with the Richards Burton and Harris? Are you still interested in animation and cartooning? What do you think of John Sessions's depiction of you in Stella Street And, (after reciting some specific lines from Octopussy) what do you think of my impression of you?) I also couldn't thank him for escorting me around the Forbidden City last month. Some of the questions that were asked were well presented and interesting. Others, including one asked by the obligatory stalker (not me), were a complete waste of time and were along the lines of 'You once turned on the illuminations in Morecambe in 1974, do you remember a small boy who looked at you a bit funny?' Morons.

So he chatted amiably for another hour or so, about his work for UNICEF, Bond, his on-stage collapse and told and re-told countless anecdotes about his mostly dead actor friends. He came across as a warm and genial man, genuinely self-deprecating and surprisingly down-to-earth. For a 77 year old he has plenty of energy and enthusiasm and took every question, moronic or otherwise, with good humour and charm. It was an excellent evening and I was very lucky to get tickets. All being well I'm off to see him read Kipling at the British Library next week as well.

67 - posted at 13:49:34

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