Bond legend Roger Moore loved a cheeky double entendre but he wasn’t kidding about this Moonraker misfire that left him extremely red in the face.
Moore remains best known for playing the lightest and least serious 007 of the franchise. His films famously end with lines like Moonraker’s “I believe he’s attempting re-entry” or “she’s just coming, sir” from The Man With The Golden Gun. But when he called one famous sex scene “the hardest of my career” there was no pun intended. And that was after another moment in the same film that left his face bruised and beaten. (TRIVIA: That cable Jaws munches through in the clip above was actually made of licorice.)
Moonraker was the most expensive Bond film ever made at that point, its £30million budget was almost as much as the first eight films put together. The producers wanted to capitalise on the recent Star Wars phenomenon and rejigged their planned order of adaptations from Ian Fleming’s novels, moving up the space-race-based story.
This gave Moore an unprecedented challenge, dealing with scenes set in zero-gravity simulators and a malfunctioning gondola that turns into a hovercraft. But it was the climactic sex scene that tested the actor the most.
When Bond goes to investigate the estate of villain Drax, he gets trapped in a spinning zero-gravity simulator which henchman Chang tunes up to dangerous speeds. Moore’s face was bruised rather badly shooting these scenes due to the intense blasts of air used to replicate the effects of spinning.
This caused a headache for the make-up artists which was matched by the struggles of the wardrobe, hair and make-up teams when Bond’s tricked-out gondola failed to turn into a hovercraft on the first four attempts. Each time the actor was dumped into the Venetian canals, to the entertainment of watching tourists and despair of the crew who had to dry Moore off and restyle and dress him over and over.
Moore, however, took it all in his stride and was highly regarded by the cast and crew for his professionalism, good humour and generosity of spirit.
Like every other Bond Girl of the Moore era, Chiles – whose character gloried in the outrageously naughty name Holly Goodhead – has only ever been full of praise for the British actor, on and off set and in and out of their bed scenes.
It was their final one that caused Moore enormous difficulty. Fondly known with tongue firmly in cheek as the “attempting re-entry” scene, it shows Bond and Goodhead caught in a zero-gravity naked clinch as their shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
Moore later revealed that filming the scene was one of the hardest of his entire career: “I was hanging there, with all the blood rushing into my nose and eyes.”
Despite being in extreme pain and discomfort, as always, the actor never complained. He famously always did his best to make life easy for the cast and crew, often serving tea to his co-stars, including to Jane Seymour when she actually fell asleep in bed while filming an interminable love scene for Live and Let Die.
Chiles herself later said: “When I joined Moonraker, it was already Roger’s fourth Bond film but he never acted the star. He’d always include me in dinners and drinks with his family after filming.
“We filmed in glorious locations, in Paris, Venice and Rio de Janeiro, and most of my scenes were with Roger, including a couple of love scenes. Even in those, Roger would be joking to keep the mood light. It was never drudgery with Roger.”
However she revealed that beneath the smooth exterior, the actor had some insecurities.
Chiles said: “The debonair, suave Bond you saw on screen was all Roger. Off screen, he was pretty much the same guy. He was elegant, kind and a very dear person, though I think that was partly a defence.
“Bond had its critics, and many had questioned Roger’s acting. But he would joke about that. When honoured by the Friar’s Club in New York, he told them: ‘Say whatever you want about how bad my acting is, it won’t hurt my feelings, because everybody else has said it before.'”
Chiles’ career was on the rise before Moonraker, with prominent roles in Death On The Nile, The Great Gatsby and The Way We Were. It wasn’t playing a Bond girl that stalled her future prospects.
The actress’ brother Clay was battling Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the late 1970s. Straight after completing Moonraker she rushed home to donate platelets, but he died in 1979. Chiles took at three-year break from acting and found it difficult to regain the momentum she had lost.
Nevertheless, she worked in television and film throughout the next two decades. Shortly before retiring in 2006, she married Richard Gilder Jr, and American businessman and philanthropist. They were together until his death in 2020.
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