Octopussy: Roger Moore stars as James Bond in 1983 trailer

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Today, at 2pm, David Niven will hit BBC 2 screens in the 1946 epic A Matter of Life and Death. 20 years after this movie hit the silver screen, Niven would go on to play James Bond in the 1967 hit Casino Royale. But behind the scenes, he would later become great friends with one of the biggest 007 stars of all time: Sir Roger Moore.

Although Sean Connery had started the official EON James Bond franchise with Dr No back in 1962, Niven played Sir James Bond in the spy comedy/parody movie adaptation of Ian Fleming’s original novel, Casino Royale. In the flick, he worked with some major Hollywood stars, including Deborah Kerr, Orson Welles, Woody Allan and Peter Sellers.

Years later, Moore and Niven worked together in a couple of films, including Escape to Athena and The Sea Wolves. On the sets of these movies, they got to know one another very well.

Niven died on July 29, 1983, aged 73, after suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Moore remembered the star fondly in 2014. He said: “The saddest thing about ageing is that most of my friends are now ‘in the other room.’ I miss David Niven the most. I still can’t watch his films without shedding a tear.”

Moore played James Bond in seven films from 1973 to 1985, but his friendship with Niven was not just a professional courtesy. He revealed he even owned a large keepsake to remember Niven even decades after his death. “There’s a bronze bust of him in my study,” he said. “Given to me by his son, David Jr.”

Niven was never forgotten as James Bond – even if his film didn’t sit squarely within the franchise’s “official” run of movies. In fact, he was the first person Ian Fleming wanted as 007 in a film adaptation of his character.

Moore was also never forgotten as one of the most prolific Bond actors to date. Before he died on May 23, 2017, he looked back on playing the role for almost 15 years.

Moore said: “Being eternally known as Bond has no downside. People often call me Mr Bond when we’re out and I don’t mind a bit. Why would I?”

Just before his death, Moore spoke fondly of the other Casino Royale Bond: Daniel Craig.

He even called the British star the “best” version of 007.

Moore said of Craig: “I think that he [Daniel Craig] is the Bond. He’s quite brilliant. I wrote to [Bond bosses] Barbara [Broccoli] and Michael [Wilson] and said… they’ve guaranteed Bond another 50 years of life.”

Moore went on to call Craig’s Casino Royale “tremendous”. He said: “I thought his action was quite extraordinary – he did more action in the first 30 seconds of the film than I did in 14 years of playing Bond. To me, he looks like a killer. He looks as though he knows what he’s doing. I look as though I might cheat at backgammon.”

Moore’s death was announced on May 23, 2017. He died of cancer in his lung and liver. Craig paid tribute to the star by posting a photo of the pair of them together on Instagram. He captioned the image: “Nobody does it better.”

Fellow former Bond Pierce Brosnan also paid tribute to Moore, saying: “You were a big part of my life, from The Saint to James Bond. You were a magnificent James Bond and one that lead the way for me, the world will miss you and your unique sense of humour for years to come.”


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