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(Credit: Alamy)

Film

Roger Moore's questionable comments on feminism

In one telling interview, Roger Moore was asked to explain whether he thought James Bond was an antique. Clearly upset by the question, Moore asked the interviewer to clarify their position. “The way he looks at women,” replied the interviewer. Moore looked puzzled: “What is antique about looking at women?” Moore replied, either not understanding the line of questioning or doing his best to ridicule it. “Was Bond supposed to look at boys?” he asked. No, he wasn’t. Moore, snapping back into the room, began to realise the conversation he was entering: “Ah, you’re talking about all the feminism nonsense aren’t you?” he blurts out. Bond, Moore felt, was one of those “old fashioned heroes” that were on the decline. And with that, the Bond actor returned to his drink.

Watching the clip in 2022, the comments can be read as chauvinistic, catty and laced with ignorance to the many women who were determined to be heard for their intelligence and not their sylph-like body. These days, the Bond series is commanded by Barbara Broccoli, who is determined to flesh the Bondverse out with intelligent women, many of them superior to the lead in their abilities to tackle villains. In Casino Royale, we watched a Bond for all the vibrancy of a French woman who killed herself to preserve her integrity; in Skyfall, we saw a Bond follow the orders of a woman who doubled as his boss and a surrogate mother; and in No Time To Die, we witnessed a Bond who is intimate with one woman only…the one he gets pregnant.

How very different Bond appeared to the world in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a man on a quest, desperately attempting to bed four women a film, preferring the vicinity of the bedroom to the battlefields. Like Sean Connery, Moore was a Bond of sex-showcasing a red-blooded agent, thirsty for the next body to share. It was only by the time Timothy Dalton hopped onboard that the culture had changed, leading a more romantic Bond to share himself with a woman as long as she made the move on him.

Bond was moving with the times, but Moore represented the views of another era. He couldn’t be less different to Daniel Craig. Barring an English passport, the two men have virtually nothing in common. In a 2015 interview, Craig described Bond as a misogynist, before explaining he had no intention of making a fifth film. Critics picked up on the comments, and some felt that his misgivings hindered his performance.

So, that might explain why Moore defended Bond’s gender politics. He was keenly aware that to the public at large, he was Bond and although they might not expect him to kill for a living, he had to embody the part in every other way. And that meant defending Bond’s politics whether or not he agreed with them. In later years, Moore showed a more liberal view on the world, no doubt buoyed by the influence of Unicef, the charity organisation he now led.

Like Daniel Craig’s Bond, he worked in close tandem with a strong, intelligent woman, this time in the guise of Audrey Hepburn. And like the character he played, Moore changed with the times.