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By Richard Johnson—-

 Don Topping —

Last Tuesday, British actor Roger Moore — who is best known for his role as the world’s best-loved spy, Agent 007 James Bond — died in Switzerland at age 89.He had been battling cancer.

Moore’s debut as Bond came in 1973 with Live and Let Die, which was shot in Jamaica as well as in the United States — Harlem, Manhattan in New York, and Louisiana.

It is reported that while searching for locations in Jamaica, the crew discovered a crocodile farm owned by Ross Kananga, after passing a sign warning that trespassers will be eaten. The farm was put into the script and also inspired screen writer Tom Mankiewicz to name the film’s villain after Kananga. Locations included the Swamp Safari crocodile farm in Falmouth, Trelawny; The Green Grotto Caves in St Ann, and selected areas in Hanover.

Broadcaster Don Topping, as well as veteran actor Munair Zacca were among the locals cast in this, the eighth in the James Bond series. Topping, who is now retired and lives in Orlando, Florida, remembers clearly, what was his second movie role.

“Director Guy Hamilton had seen me in The Harder They Come, so I just got a call from him one day saying he would like me to be in this new James Bond film. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. It is funny that I should have been cast as a nightclub emcee as that I how I started out… working at the Yellow Bird Club in Montego Bay. So they sent me the script so I could learn my lines. I never envisioned myself as an actor as from my days in school I always had a problem learning lines, but I soon realized that movie actors do not have to memorize long lines as films are shot in various takes,” Topping told the Sunday Observer.

Roger Moore & the cast of "Live & Let Die"

Roger Moore & the cast of “Live & Let Die”

He is quick to note that he did not share a scene with Moore ,despite how it appears in the film.“The scene was filmed at the Ruins in Ocho Rios. I brought my own wardrobe. I took three options and the crew decided what worked best. We shot it in one evening — numerous takes. Moore had shot his scene earlier and was gone by the time we were on set. I delivered my lines the best way I could.”

Topping was mindful not to tell too many persons that he was in a James Bond film until the release. He was aware that his performance could have easily ended up on the editing room floor.

“Once the film was released, I started getting a lot of calls from friends overseas. I remember a friend who was living in New Zealand at the time calling to say how surprised she was to see me in the film and asking why I didn’t say I was in a film, but I know how that can go.”

For Topping, the experiences of working on Live and Let Die and The Harder They Come were completely different. For one, the James Bond flick was completely scripted as opposed the the style of director Perry Henzel.


Don Toppin

Don Toppin

“At the time, Perry was experimenting with a technique developed by an Italian director. He would give you the scenario and have you act it out in your own words. So that is what I was doing when I played opposite Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come. There was a script for Live and Let Die,” Topping explained.

These days Topping, whose radio moniker was El Numero Uno, still voices radio commercials and hosts events, when they come around. A tennis buff, he is no longer able to play the sport due to an injury but noted that he stays fit by power walking and swimming.

Jamaica and the James Bond series have always been intertwined. Ian Flemming, creator of the character, wrote the first set of books here on the island. Dr No, the first film in the series which starred Sean Connery and Ursula Andress, was filmed here in 1962. Local actor Reggie Carter has the ‘distinction’ of being the first person to die in a James Bond film.

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