There was no sign that Roger Moore would bring to life the ultra-smooth sex symbols James Bond and Simon Templar as he worked in one of his earliest roles as a knitting pattern model. Though not yet an international star, he was known to legions of British housewives as the handsome and sensible young man in homemade creations which Practical Home Knitting assured were perfect for "young men still under 20, no matter how conservative they may become later."
Truth in advertising aside born on October 14, 1927, Roger was technically a 20-something the modelling stint was an important landmark after his budding career was sidetracked by service in the military during WWII. "Never knock a knitting pattern," he said later. "Especially if you are being paid for it."
Roger's dapper Hollywood persona gave no clue to his working class roots, nor the fact that he left school at 15 to begin his first job. Putting his artistic talent and a certificate from the Royal Society of Arts to good use, he took a position as a junior trainee in animation. When he was "let go", it proved a blessing in disguise as, on a friend's recommendation, he landed a series of film extra roles in the mid-Forties. When one director asked him if was interested in being a full-time actor, "it didn't occur to me not to be interested," he recalls.
That same director paid his way to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and by the Fifties Roger's film profile had moved up several notches. His first romantic lead came in the Lana Turner romance, Diane, and was followed by a number of TV productions including 1957's Ivanhoe and in the adventure show The Alaskans.
In the course of the next decade Roger's career looked set to remain with television. He starred in one season of the Western Maverick before hitting the big time in 1962 playing Simon Templar, better known as The Saint. When the weekly series ended in 1969, he returned to the big screen on a couple of occasions, but returned to TV with The Persuaders.
His final transition into a major silver screen player, however, could not have gone more smoothly. In 1973 he made his debut as world famous gentleman agent James Bond, picking up where his much loved-predecessor Sean Connery left off. Live And Let Die and the six subsequent films brought Roger international fame and made him forever Bond, despite the fact that he took on other roles in between. The only English actor to play the character, he last starred in the role aged 58, in 1985's View To A Kill, after which he passed the torch on to fellow RADA-trained actor Timothy Dalton.
After so much success with Bond, what made him move on? "An accumulation of having done more than I had anticipated," he says, "and figuring I was doing good to have survived seven movies. And figuring I'd better get out while the going was good."
Roger's post-Bond career found him back on the small screen, mostly hosting special programmes and appearing in the occasional made-for-TV flick, though he has also turned in the odd feature film appearance, such as that in 1997's Spice World. But he has also chosen to dedicate much of his time to his work with UNICEF, continuing the commitment shown by his close friend and fellow Goodwill Ambassador, the late Audrey Hepburn.
And to hear Roger tell it, the sole reason he keeps his name in the papers is to aid the charitable cause. "The important thing is that I sort of keep my name alive to attract media attention," he said in 2002, adding that recognition helps when "talking about something seemingly as dull sounding as immunisation, or polio or iodine deficiency, or the 100 and one things that there are to talk about with the problems for children in the world today."
"If I hadn't played Bond I probably wouldn't have been that much use to UNICEF. One serves the other." His extensive philanthropic work with the organisation helped earn him a CBE in 1999.
During his path from knitting pattern model to Bond to champion of UNICEF, Roger hasn't been short of female company. He's made four trips to the altar the first, in 1946, to Doorn Van Steyn, lasted until 1953, the same year he married singer Dorothy Squires. Though the actress was Roger's wife for 15 years, his longest marriage was to third spouse Luisa Mattioli, whom he divorced in 2002, 33 years after they tied the knot. He has three grown children with Luisa: daughter Deborah, an actress, and two sons, Geoffrey also an actor and Christian.
These days Roger shares his life with his fourth wife, socialite Christina Tholstrup, whom he wed in secret on March 9, 2002, in Copenhagen, Denmark.