The Wrexham-born manager of Sir Roger Moore has paid tribute to the James Bond star calling him “a wonderful man”.
On Tuesday, Sir Roger’s children announced his death at the age of 89 in Switzerland, saying: “He passed away today ... after a short but brave battle with cancer”.
The actor was best known for playing the third incarnation of Ian Fleming’s famous spy, as well as his roles in hit TV shows The Saint and The Persuaders.
Gareth Owen, 43, worked with Sir Roger since 2002, managing matters relating to his production company, his personal life, UNICEF work and negotiating acting deals and contracts.
Gareth also worked on four books with the actor, who first approached the Bangor University graduate after he had written a guide to Sir Roger’s films.
“The reaction to Roger’s death has been overwhelming,” said Gareth.
“It’s clear from everything across the newspapers, TV and social media just what a well-loved person he was and how he managed to touch so many people’s lives.
“I even heard Piers Morgan paying tribute and calling him a very natural person and when such a hard-nosed journalist as him says nice things about you, you must have done something right.”
Gareth met Sir Roger after the Welshman began writing a book on his favourite actor and the films he’d starred in.
He said: “Roger wasn’t keen to get involved at first but in the end he really liked the book.
“His secretary Doris Spriggs was retiring and I got a phone call to see if I’d like to come in and help run his office.
“It was a PA role at first but I was soon working on his books, appearing at the stage shows with him as an interviewer and negotiating his contracts.
“In the end I was travelling the world with him and we developed a very deep working relationship which became a deep friendship.”
Many of the tributes to Sir Roger have mentioned the comic element he brought to the character of James Bond and Gareth agrees this was one of the actor’s many talents.
“I grew up with him on the screen and he was very much ‘my James Bond’,” said Gareth.
“Watching someone from an early age, they become indelibly imprinted on your mind and that’s what it was like with Roger.
“He never took the role too seriously and the reason for that was that it amused him that this supposedly brilliant spy could walk into any hotel bar in the world and they’d know his name and how he wanted his Martini.
“You can’t really believe this is an undercover spy and so he always played him with a twinkle in his eye, which at the time I think was much needed after the harder edge of Sean Connery’s Bond.
“Roger always used to say that if he and Sean were in a bar together chasing a girl, Sean would’ve hit someone to impress her while he would have made a joke and he wanted to bring that to the character.
“He was very much an English actor in the tradition of David Niven or Cary Grant but he was also a true professional who always learnt his lines, turned up on time and was always the first to welcome anyone on set.”
Although the details of Sir Roger’s film career are well detailed, less well-known was his love for Wales, which began when he married his second wife, Welsh singer Dorothy Squires.
“When we were on tour a few years ago we were in Manchester and had a few days off when Roger said he’d love to see North Wales,” said Gareth.
“He and his wife Kristina stayed at the Pulford Grovesner in Chester and visited Betws-y-Coed and ate at the Machine House in Rossett and the Hand Hotel in Llangollen.
“He was very impressed when staff at the hotel remembered he liked diabetic marmalade when he returned a few years later.
“He loved the area and thought North Wales was very beautiful.”
Gareth is now preparing to finish work on a number of projects he and Sir Roger had set out on as well as working closely with the actor’s family to ensure his memory and archive is maintained.
“Only two weeks ago we finished a book which was to be published on his 90th birthday and we are also looking to continue his work with UNICEF.
“He knew when we were on tour that everyone wanted to hear the old stories about Hollywood but he always made sure he mentioned UNICEF as well.
“He knew he was lucky to be successful but he also knew he could use that success to open so many doors and raise funds for so many good causes.
“There was never a dull day with Roger.”
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