Kabir Bedi remembers Roger Moore: ‘He would joke about everything’
As Bond fans mourn his death, Roger Moore’s ‘Octopussy’ co-star shares his memories of working with the actor
Kabir Bedi worked with Sir Roger Moore in Octopussy (1983), the sixth of seven films in which the British actor played James Bond. Bedi, who played a Sikh henchman, had a famous scene where he fought with Bond on top of a moving train with a sword in hand. He spoke to us about how Moore, with his wry humour, made the iconic character his own. Moore died on 23 May at the age of 89.
“Of the five months over which Octopussy was shot, Roger and I spent two months together. A lot of scenes were shot in London’s Pinewood studios, where a lot of historic Bond films—and the famous train fight scenes from Octopussy—were shot. We also filmed a major part in Rajasthan.
We were staying at the Taj Lake Palace, where the villas overlook the lake. There was a beautiful oval pool surrounded by hotel suites, where we would gather in the evenings after the shoot and sit and chat.
Roger was an introverted man. He wasn’t very forthcoming in the beginning and it took me some time to break the ice and get to know him. Roger’s mother was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and he was interested in hearing about my parents’ participation in the freedom struggle. He knew that I was famous in India, and in Italy for The Black Corsair, and he treated me like an equal. He would try to help out other actors in a scene, and I don’t remember him losing his temper even once.
Now, I am a fan of Sean Connery. I have grown up watching those movies and he remains the definitive Bond for me. But what Roger brought was a wry sense of humour and a lightness to the role, a tradition which was carried forward by Pierce Brosnan. We didn’t see the more muscular Bond making a comeback until Daniel Craig. Roger would introduce unexpected humour into scenes, because he would joke about practically everything.
There is a scene in Octopussy where he comes across a tiger in the jungle. He sat and spoke to it like he is talking to a dog. There was another moment during the shoot which I remember for his impish humour. I was wearing an elaborate turban which was completely white. It almost looked like a bandage. When he saw me on the set, he asked, ‘Are you feeling better now?’
Moore’s sense of humour was very British. But he was more European than English or American, especially in the later stages of his life, after his marriage to the Danish Kristina ‘Kiki’ Tholstrup. That last marriage, I believe, gave him a lot of happiness. We in the movies move on after working on one project. Roger and I had exchanged some messages later and would find out about each other through mutual friends. I didn’t know about his cancer, though.
If you scratched the surface, Roger could also show a profound philosophical side. I remember taking walks with him in the English countryside, talking about love, birth and death.”
—As told to Sankhayan Ghosh