Sir Roger Moore, best known for his portrayal of action hero James Bond, has died at the age of 89, his children announced on Twitter. According to his three kids, Moore succumbed to cancer in Switzerland on Tuesday.
“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer,” they wrote in the tweet. “The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words alone.”
“We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement.
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“The affection our father felt whenever he walked onto a stage or in front of a camera buoyed him hugely and kept him busy working into his 90th year, through to his last appearance in November 2016 on stage at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
“The capacity crowd cheered him on and off stage, shaking the very foundations of the building just a short distance from where he was born.
“Thank you Pops for being you, and for being so very special to so many people. Our thoughts must now turn to supporting Kristina at this difficult time, and in accordance with our father’s wishes there will be a private funeral in Monaco.”
Born on Oct. 14, 1927, Moore spent the majority of his early life in the military and attended drama school after his commission ended. He also modelled knitwear on the side, earning him the nickname “The Big Knit.”
Moore signed a seven-year contract with MGM Studios in 1954, but didn’t find much success in their films.
“At MGM, RGM (Roger George Moore) was NBG [no bloody good],” he said of his time with the studio.
After another long-term contract — this time with Warner Bros. — Moore pivoted and focused more on getting TV gigs, eventually making his name known in shows like Ivanhoe, Maverick, The Alaskans, The Saint and The Persuaders!
After fellow Brit Sean Connery starred as James Bond for the last time in Diamonds Are Forever, Moore finally found the door open for playing the iconic role.
Moore’s relaxed style and sense of whimsy, which relied heavily on the arched eyebrow, seemed a commentary on the essential ridiculousness of the Bond films, in which the handsome British secret agent was as adept at mixing martinis, bedding beautiful women and ordering gourmet meals as he was at disposing of super-villains trying to take over the world.
“To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous,” he once said. “I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet, everybody knows he’s a spy. Every bartender in the world offers him martinis that are shaken, not stirred. What kind of serious spy is recognized everywhere he goes? It’s outrageous. So you have to treat the humour outrageously as well.”
While he never eclipsed Sean Connery in the public’s eye as the definitive James Bond, Moore did play the role of secret agent 007 in just as many films as Connery did, and he managed to do so while “finding a joke in every situation,” according to film critic Rex Reed.
In the 1970s, film critic Vincent Canby would dismiss Moore’s acting abilities as having “reduced all human emotions to a series of variations on one gesture, the raising of the right eyebrow.”
Moore was the third actor to play the British secret agent in seven films from 1973 – 1985, including Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me.
With the U.K. still reeling after Monday’s Manchester Arena explosion, some celebrities found time to tweet their condolences.
Farewell dearest Roger. All our love, Andrew and Madeleine
— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW) May 23, 2017
RIP Sir Roger Moore. My first Bond and one of the first actors that I loved as a kid. And a lovely, funny, warm person to boot. Farewell.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) May 23, 2017
As if today wasn't already sad enough.
RIP Sir Roger Moore, 89.
A wonderful actor & lovely man. pic.twitter.com/MHi2A6jvTQ
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 23, 2017
He continued to work regularly in films after handing over Bond to Timothy Dalton, but never with the same success. His post-Bond films included such forgettable efforts as The Quest with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Spice World with the Spice Girls.
In 1991, Moore became a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, having been introduced to the role by the late actress Audrey Hepburn. As Hepburn had, he threw much of his energy into the task.
“I felt small, insignificant and rather ashamed that I had travelled so much making films and ignored what was going on around me,” he said in describing how the work had affected him.
In 1996, when his UNICEF job took him to the World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, he disclosed that he too had been a victim.
“I was molested when I was a child — not seriously — but I didn’t tell my mother until I was 16, because I felt that it was something to be ashamed of,” he told The Associated Press.
He gave no details, but said it was important to encourage young victims not to feel guilty.
“They’re being exploited. We have to tell them that,” Moore said.
Moore received the Dag Hammarskjold Inspiration Award for his work with UNICEF and was named a commander in France’s National Order of Arts and Letters in 2008, an award he said was worth “more than an Oscar.” That same year he published an autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, which included details about his work on the Bond films, his friendship with Hepburn, his encounters with Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and other stars, and his health struggles — including a bout with prostate cancer, which he beat.
Moore was divorced three times, from skater Doorn Van Steyn in 1953, English singer Dorothy Squires in 1969 and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli, the mother of his children Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian, in 2000.
He married a fourth time, in 2002, to Swedish socialite Kristina Tholstrup.
— With files from The Associated Press