They say when death is imminent your entire life flashes in front of your eyes. The only thing flashing before my eyes was a large, corrugated iron shed sticking up out of the Louisiana bayou, which I was approaching at a fair old 60mph in an out-of-control boat. I knew I was going to hit it – and there was nothing I could do about it. I wound up in a heap on the floor, clutching my mouth, my knee throbbing, my shoulder numb, and what felt like fifty-four thousand teeth in my mouth all at once being slowly mangled up into little bits of gravel. Here I was, just about to start playing James Bond, with no teeth. How on earth did I get myself into such a situation?
It began on Sunday, October 8 1972, when, as the new James Bond, I left England in a blaze of publicity for the first location in New Orleans.
New Orleans, they say, is different. We arrived. We agreed – it is. My wife Luisa and I felt it straight away. It is a different scene and it is even a different kind of heat.
Wednesday morning began with a rehearsal on the Irish Bayou for the fifteen-minute chase sequence; a highlight of Live and Let Die. I practised taking a boat fast, at 20, then 30, then 40, then 50, then 60mph around sharp U-bends. I pushed my luck and we limped back to shore with a badly holed boat and likewise body. I was piled into a car, still in my swimming shorts, and driven back to New Orleans.
My teeth, I felt, were the most important, so I saw a dentist first. A quick X-ray showed a fractured front tooth, which by then was hurting like mad. Then I was carted off to a clinic, where the doctor gave me the good news that my leg wasn’t broken and Luisa gave me the bad news that my pants were dirty. After what I had just gone through I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
When I first knew I was going to do Bond, Harry Saltzman, who co-produces the Bond series with Cubby Broccoli, said it must be kept top secret, but he wanted me to meet the director, Guy Hamilton, away from the office where we would not be seen. We met at Scott’s in Mayfair, in true Bond-style, over a dozen oysters and martinis. I confessed to Guy that in reading the script I could only hear Sean’s voice saying: “My name is Bond.” In fact, as I vocalised to myself, I found that I was giving it a Scottish accent. Guy said: “Look, Sean was Sean and you are you, and that is how it is going to be.”
Day Two. D-Day plus one, or B-Day for Bond plus one. It’s my birthday. Happy birthday.
Waking up this Saturday morning to the six o’clock alarm was a nasty shock. I limped around the room on my paralysed leg, trying to do my morning work-out. I was in such a black mood that I started giving Luisa hell. I suppose I was resenting the fact that my leg was hurting and she hadn’t mentioned that it was my birthday.
The place where we are shooting today is part of the great state of Louisiana, which is known as the sportsman’s paradise. It is the mosquitoes who get all the sport, picking us up and spitting us out. Somebody told me they saw a mosquito carrying a sparrow. I know it’s not true because I saw it. It was a pigeon.
Yesterday, the first day, I felt rather like a new boy with the crew because most of them had worked together before. It took them a day to discover that I wasn’t completely chicken.
B-Day Four. I spent the afternoon in a very expensive fashion playing gin rummy with Harry. I have a feeling he only asks me to play to get my salary back.
B-Day Eight. Every day brings new journalists, and there are so many here now they outnumber the mosquitoes. The pressure of being Bond grows daily. Not in playing the part, but in being the actor playing the part. How much time am I going to spend actually acting?
B-Day Ten. To my horror, on the set the other day I heard Harry bawling “N-----”. He was not trying to start a race riot, but simply calling to our English props man, “N-----” Weymouth, a nickname he has answered to since the days of silent cinema. I pointed out that it might be better to find him another name here in the racial hotbed of Louisiana, so we have settled on “Chalky”.
B-Day Twelve. Paul Rabiger, our make-up man, was telling me about other Bond films he has done while he was working on me this morning. He has been on every one except the first – Dr No – and consequently has made up all the leading ladies; and when you meet a girl every morning at around 7 a.m. without her make-up, it’s like being married to her.
Speaking of leading ladies, Paul agrees with Guy, Tom Mankiewicz and myself that it would have been more interesting if Solitaire, our present leading lady [Jane Seymour], had been black, as she was in Tom’s original screenplay, but United Artists would not stand for it.
The children arrive tomorrow, and I wonder if Geoffrey will realise I am Bond when he sees me in action. Just before we left England he asked:
“Can you beat anybody, including a robber?”
“Oh, yes,” I replied confidently.
“Supposing James Bond came in,” he persisted.
“Daddy is going to play James Bond,” I explained.
“I know that,” he sighed impatiently. “I mean the real James Bond, Sean Connery.”
B-Day Twenty-four, the last day of shooting in New Orleans. The weather turned suddenly colder today, but the chill in the air warmed under the sunny smile of Gloria Hendry, whose entry into the hotel courtyard was straight out of a Bond movie. When she walked part of her seemed to move in the opposite direction. The overall effect is – wow! She is to play Rosie Carver, a double agent bedded by Bond.
The rest of the day proved to be just as interesting, if in a different way. Jim Garrison, the District Attorney, who conducted his own investigation into the assassination of Kennedy, invited me, along with a couple of FBI agents, to his office to view some film. I am not at liberty to disclose what I saw, but it left no doubt in my mind that it was not Oswald who fired the fatal shot. Garrison’s assertion is that Oswald was not acting alone, but as part of a CIA conspiracy. An interesting end to 007’s five weeks in Louisiana.
B-Day Twenty-five, and our first location in Jamaica was a small silver crescent of sand at the foot of a steep cliff. Had I not known the crew was all British now, I would have guessed when I arrived on location this morning at 7.45. Tables, neatly cloth-covered, lined the roadside, and the crew to a man were drinking tea.
Luisa, knowing tomorrow is my love scene with the voluptuous Gloria Hendry, has been plying me with questions all evening.
“You do love me, Roger, don’t you?” she asked.
“Of course, I do,” I replied. “I shall just be doing a job. It’s my work.”
“Yes. I know,” sighed Luisa, and, lapsing into Italian, said: “Non voglio che hai piacere nel lavorare.” Literally translated, “Don’t enjoy your work too much.”
B-Day Twenty-six, and I was wide awake before six, studied my lines for the day and then took off for the swimming pool to do my physical jerks. I was not there first. Creasing the pool with a rhythmic crawl was the lovely Gloria. She must have thought I was raving mad with my running, toe touching and knee-bends. She left and I bid her a cheerful goodbye, as she needs more time in make-up than me, and I repaired to my apartment for two three-minute eggs, before leaving for the location and the love scene.
I will not bore you with the details, except to say that Gloria put her heart, body and soul into her work. Speculation on what happens after love scenes on film sets is, I believe, rife. Do they continue in private, or do they stand up and slap each other? The truth is much more mundane and usually along the lines of what happened to Gloria and me today. We shared a car for the drive back and chatted about everything under the sun, except what had happened earlier.
B-Day Thirty-one. I talked to a charming lady from Woman’s Own, Iris Burton, and if it was not the most in-depth interview I have given on this picture it was certainly one of the most enjoyable. The question that still rolls at me as relentlessly as the camera is: “How is your Bond going to be different from Sean Connery’s Bond?” I am absolutely fed up with being asked that and I have, at last, thought of an answer. I will ask writers how their column is going to be different from everybody else’s column.
B-Day Thirty-two. Our Jamaican naval escort, which streamed off mysteriously yesterday, was back on our starboard side today after a drama of dimensions near to the cloak and dagger heart of Bond himself.
Included in the number of people who were privy to the information that the patrol boat was seconded to us, were, it seems, a group of ganja, or marijuana, smugglers. They planned that while – quite literally – the coast was clear, with the patrol boat being busy, a consignment would be shipped out. Equally aware of the opportunity were members of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s narcotic squad, who were involved because they knew the shipment was destined for the United States.
One report says the agents disguised themselves as part of the film unit and, complete with a camera, waited offshore in a boat while the patrol boat lay in wait nearby. Whichever way the ambush was laid, it worked. The FBI boarded a yacht, found a colossal nine tons of ganja, and arrested the crew. The ganja, which had been paid for in Jamaica, was taken ashore and burned.
B-Day Thirty-six; or, better, C for Crocodile Day. After weeks of waiting, we meet at last. The location was a crocodile safari farm about twenty miles from our villa, run by Ross Kananga, an American. (Tom liked the sound of his name and has called one of our characters, Dr Kananga, after him.) He has over 1,300 crocodiles and alligators and the unique ability to coax them to him by imitating their mating calls. Ross, whose father, a crocodile wrestler, was killed by them, has spent his life with them and has the scars to prove it, but he still holds them in some bewildering form of affection. When Guy was at the farm for a recce weeks before we began shooting, he asked Ross how he could tell the difference between the males and the females, and Ross said: “Oh, that’s easy. The girls have such pretty, petite faces.”
This morning, I was bleary-eyed at the early start, but I soon woke up when we passed a sign that said: Beware Crocodiles Crossing; then stopped at another that warned: Trespassers will be Eaten. That was not a bluff, as somewhere among the log-like mass in the swamp is Bongus, a 13-foot-long, 1,500-pounder, who once ate four fishermen.
B-Day Forty-five. In today’s sequence, Jimmy Bond and Solitaire are spotted by Kananga’s men and hide under the nets that camouflage the illicit poppy crop. We were to face special effects bangs, flashes and machine gun bullets for most of the day.
Jane knew that the bangs were coming, but we did not warn her about the machine gun rattle so that the camera would capture her surprise. It worked. When the machine gun went off, Jane bored into the mud like a bloody mole and managed to give herself a crack on the head.
We had to do shot after shot, and at one stage she was really scared. It was like being sent time after time to the dentists. In the script, I hold her hand and I could feel her pulling back. Guy certainly got a fear-filled performance from Jane, and she bore the bangs, flying mud and hot flashes like the professional she is and still looked lovely at the end of it.
Thirteen hundred ferocious crocodiles made B-Day Forty-seven a day to remember. We shot the scene where Bond, encircled by crocodiles, escapes from the island near the shed where Kananga’s workers are packing heroin. Before we began, Ross moved 96 crocodiles from the area where we are working, and he says he knows the exact number that lived there. But they burrow tunnels and stay submerged for months, so I hope Ross has his arithmetic right and there is not the odd one basking below. The crocs have this petrifying practice of lurking log-like all day, but moving imperceptibly nearer as the day wears on. As we finished today and “Crackers” (as Derek Cracknell, first assistant director has been dubbed) called: “It’s a wrap, fellows,” a log came alive and moved rapidly towards the camera, leaving a wake like the Queen Mary as if he said to himself: “Christ! There goes my tea.”
B-Day Forty-nine. A black-faced Father Christmas in a red robe, sweating under his white wool beard in Montego Bay’s steamy main street this afternoon, did nothing to persuade me that Christmas is coming. But it is, and Luisa is adding to our 24 pieces of luggage (only two of which are mine) with Christmas gifts. The children are looking forward to going home to the pony and the dog; I am looking forward to Sunday papers, English marmalade, frosty mornings, and seeing my mother and father.
At Gatwick Airport, we flew through barely passable fog to land in the dark. It was cold and damp. Icy mist issued forth from our freezing lips as we descended the plane’s steps; but what the hell! It’s home … and Christmas.
B-Day Fifty, and back to work after the Christmas holidays. It was a bit like the first day of term at Pinewood Studios as I discovered my dressing room and located make-up and hairdressing. The unit were all muffled up against the early morning cold; their Jamaican tans already beginning to fade.
It was a pleasant and restful Christmas. At 10 a.m. the morning after our arrival from Jamaica, I woke to an English breakfast, and by 12 noon Luisa and I were having our Yuletide argument in Hamleys, in Regent Street, about what Father Christmas was going to bring the children. After an hour of getting jostled to death in the toy shop, we went on to the hallowed hush of Asprey’s, where I didn’t get jostled to death but my wallet did.
Cooking Christmas dinner is my speciality, and I do it every year, so Fortnum & Mason was our next stop for firm Brussels sprouts, jars of Stilton cheese and all the little delicacies that make my English Christmas. We were joined for Christmas lunch by Kirk Douglas and his wife, Anne. We also saw Michael Caine and Shakira, and were delighted with the news of their forthcoming nuptials.
B-Day (or Bidet) Fifty-one was bath day for Bond, who, settled into his hotel bungalow, decides to shave while soaking in the suds. As he gets in the bath, the audience sees a serpent sliding down a pipe to attack his hind quarters; but before it can strike, someone enters the bungalow and Bond leaps out of the bath.
When ladies do a bath scene, they have a closed set and nobody is allowed on. With me, however, everybody and his auntie came on, and, modesty apart, every time someone opened the door a vicious north-westerly draught cooled my bubble bath. If I didn’t catch pneumonia leaping about in a draught soaking wet, I was in severe danger of electrocution from all the lights, cables and plugs surrounding my slopping bath water. It was freeze to death or frizzle to death. Ah, well. Bond lives dangerously.
After a day in the bath, my face covered in lather, I was cleaner than I have ever been in my life; I had used three pots of shaving cream and my skin was beginning to wrinkle like a prune. When I got home, dear Luisa, with my best interests at heart, said she had prepared just the thing to relax me before dinner – a nice hot bath.
B-Day Fifty-eight was my big love scene with Jane. Despite the fact that her father-in-law, Richard Attenborough, is one of my best friends, and her husband has had dinner at our house, it was still an enjoyable experience, even if she was wearing thick tights and knickers under her flimsy negligee! It reminded me of something Joan Collins said when she came to lunch one Sunday with her husband, Ron Kass. Doing a love scene with a leading man she detested, she armed herself with tights and the heaviest pair of football socks she could find.
B-Day Fifty-nine. I got out of bed, did my work-out, had a shower, had a shave, brushed my teeth, got dressed, ate my breakfast scrambled eggs, got into the car, drove to the studio, took my clothes off, and got back into bed with Jane Seymour. It’s a hell of a way to earn a living!
B-Day Sixty-four. We are having dramas with the Live and Let Die première date because the Duke of Edinburgh won’t be available on July 12, nor will Princess Anne, or Prince Charles, who is at sea for six months with the Royal Navy. It looks like the date will have to be changed.
B-Day Sixty-six and I have just spent a romantic weekend in Paris with Luisa. We enjoyed a splendid dinner at a little Parisian haunt of ours around the corner from the Hotel George V, or the George Sank as the Americans call it. The weekend wasn’t all pleasure. Harry asked me if I would visit the Crazy Horse and look the girls over for a likely lass to play a scene in the picture that calls for a busty beauty. Ever devoted to duty, I stoically sat through two hours of striptease, and Luisa very kindly came along, too. I passed my opinion to Harry and told him if really necessary I would go back and have another look with him. Oh, the burdens of Bond! In Paris, we saw the controversial Last Tango in Paris, which is not showing in England yet. My verdict: a blue movie starring Marlon Brando.
Paul McCartney has written the [Live and Let Die theme] song, and I had lunch today with the man who is arranging the music, George Martin, who was responsible for so many of the Beatles’ hits. It is a tremendous piece of music, and I will stick my neck out and say that three weeks from its release it will be number one in the charts.
B-Day Seventy was a Royal Command Performance. Princess Alexandra, the Hon Angus Ogilvy, and their eight-year-old son, James, who had asked to see 007 in action, paid a visit to the set and watched me do my stuff as Bond. I offered to show James my Smith & Wesson, and told him it was among the most powerful guns in the world. He touched it very gingerly, as if terrified it might go off in his face. I told him that if anyone got bumped off around the studio this afternoon I now had his fingerprints on the butt. I am always amazed at the memories of the Royal Family. I introduced Luisa to Princess Alexandra, who said: “Oh, yes. I haven’t seen you since the World Wildlife Party at the Talk of the Town.” Pity she remembered, really, since Luisa was standing there today in a full-length mink coat.
B-Day Seventy-two, The search I started in Paris for another Bond bird was still on. My nominees, Madeline Smith and Vivien Neves, were brought down today to meet Guy and Harry. Both girls worked with me on The Persuaders! Vivien Neves is famous for being the first nude to appear in an advertisement in The Times. She arrived in a blue Levi outfit and a suntan from a recent photo session in Israel. It was cold, and the buttons of her denim jacket were done up to the neck, where they were feeling the strain. Come to that, so were the crew! They had just recovered from Vivien’s impact when Madeline walked in. The choice between such equally beautiful girls could not have been easy, but Madeline ended up a few inches ahead.
B-Day Seventy-five was the day I bedded my third Bond bird; a lovely Italian secret agent played by the voluptuous Madeline Smith. It may seem like money for jam pressed close to the beautiful Madeline and taking her clothes off into the bargain, but on the twentieth take, your arm is aching, you’ve got cramp in your left foot, and your right knee is going to sleep. Part of the trouble was that Madeline’s dress just would not fall far enough down; probably due to her self-supporting anatomy.
When I arrived home from the studio, the children asked me, as they always do, “What did you do today, Daddy?” I wasn’t quite sure what to tell them. I could hardly say, “I was in bed with a lady this morning, and I made twenty attempts to take her dress off this afternoon.”
B-Day Seventy-six. A much-depleted party boarded the Pan Am jumbo jet for New York compared with the Live and Let Die full team, which had winged back from Jamaica in December. New York, and I prowled around our apartment in the early morning dark looking for Cary Grant’s old pretzels. I was so hungry, I would have eaten anyone’s old pretzels, but the odds on finding Cary’s were better because he has lent Luisa and me his 27th-floor apartment in the Warwick Hotel while we are in New York.
B-Day Seventy-seven: Driving uptown to Harlem was an eerie experience. There is no welcome for whitey there; suspicion stalks the streets, and, contrary to our usual experience, no crowd collects to stand and stare at the film crew at work. The streets look empty and forlorn, given over to grinding poverty, soaring crime, and the deathly delusion of drugs. The block beseeches demolition, and by the look of the charred black buildings and twisted fire escapes someone has already made a bid to burn it down.
I will inter B-Day Eighty-one as best forgotten. In today’s scenes, Bond, just arrived from England, is met at the airport by Charlie, a CIA driver. They set off, Bond in the back seat, towards Manhattan. On the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, a pimpmobile with Mr Big’s henchman, Whisper, at the wheel, draws level. A tiny, thin metal dart slams into Charlie’s temple. As he slumps over the wheel, Bond dives over the front seat to get control of the car, but Charlie’s foot is stuck on the throttle.
The car lurches wildly for the centre wall dividing the traffic, and screams straight for a steel fence separating the road from an exit rampway. Bond succeeds in pushing the driver’s inert body aside and, with a last-gasp effort, spins the wheel. The car bursts through the fence, over the pavement, hurtles up and down hotel steps and crashes into a fire hydrant. Bond emerges stirred and shaken, but otherwise unharmed.
In the good old days, this sort of thing was filmed on back projection with little likelihood of danger to life and limb, but that is not the way they do things on a Bond movie in 1973. There I was, screeching on two tyres at 60mph towards steel fences, tearing into traffic and bouncing off bumpers. I think I know now how racing drivers and bullfighters, or anyone who dices with death for a living, must feel when they face the moment of truth. Adrenalin pumps through your veins like a recharge.
I experienced it first in Portugal at a farm where bulls were raised for the ring. An official guest, I was invited into a working arena where a bull was being put through its paces and the proceedings televised. My mouth felt dry and my knees weak as I walked to the centre of the ring, where a bullfighter handed me a cape and shouted incomprehensible Portuguese instructions, as the maddened animal pawed the ground then rolled its bloodshot eyes. For the first time, I went on an adrenalin trip – a sort of undiluted courage injection that comes at times like these and helps you rise to the occasion. I certainly needed the adrenalin today, and we must spend another day tearing about in cars to complete the sequence; I cannot say I am looking forward to it.
B-Day Eighty-four. At seven o’clock this evening, the phone rang. It was “Crackers”, saying with qualifying caution learned from years in the picture business: “All being equal, that is, if the rushes are okayed tomorrow afternoon from London, you are finished on the picture.”
This was it, then, the party was over. I felt a terrible sense of anti-climax. Feeling numb, I mixed myself a very stiff drink.
Luisa and I are leaving for California; the Broccolis have kindly loaned us their house in Beverly Hills, Hollywood, where I have been asked to present the Oscar for “Best Actor”. Without wishing to sound too partisan, I hope I hand it to my mate, Michael Caine, who is nominated for his performance in Sleuth.
Later, Joan Collins and Ron Kass are bringing our children to join us at Leslie and Evie Bricusse’s house in Acapulco, where I will recuperate from the rigours of Bond. After jetting the bayous in boats, whizzing around in a wingless plane, courting bites by crocodiles, and crashing cars, I will always wryly recall my last line in Live and Let Die. Delivered to the driver on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive expressway, it was: “Easy, Charlie, let’s get there in one piece.”
Give or take a tooth, I did.
Extracted from The 007 Diaries, by Roger Moore. The fine press edition is available from The History Press (thehistorypress.co.uk) for £350. Save £50 with checkout code BOND