Luisa Mattioli, Italian actress who was Roger Moore’s wife during his years of global stardom as James Bond – obituary

Luisa Mattioli and Roger Moore at the Monaco Red Cross Ball circa 1983 - James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images
Luisa Mattioli and Roger Moore at the Monaco Red Cross Ball circa 1983 - James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images

Luisa Mattioli, who has died aged 85, acted in films in her native Italy in the 1950s and 1960s before becoming the third wife of Sir Roger Moore, the screen personification of James Bond in the 1970s and 1980s.

After 30 years together, he abruptly left the marriage and took up with a family friend, prompting his wife in fury to alter the title of her putative memoir from Living With a Saint to Nothing Lasts Forever.

The two had met in Rome in 1961. Moore, then 34 and the elder of the pair by a decade, had begun to make his name on television as Ivanhoe. Nonetheless, eager for work, he had accepted the lead in an Italian-made sword-and-sandals film, Romulus and the Sabines, in fact to be shot in Yugoslavia.

Luisa Mattioli, who had a smaller role as Silvia, interviewed Moore for television before production began. Neither spoke the other’s language, but according to Moore’s autobiography, My Word is My Bond (2008), this did not hamper proceedings, nor their rapidly growing appreciation of each other.

So smitten was Moore that he agreed to stay on in Rome and feature in a partisan drama, Un branco di vigliacchi (1962), in which Luisa Mattioli had been cast. Shadows, however, soon loomed over their gnocchi.

Luisa Mattioli outside her home at Denham, Buckinghamshire, in 1973 - Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
Luisa Mattioli outside her home at Denham, Buckinghamshire, in 1973 - Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Moore, who had first been married to the ice skater Doorn Van Steyn, was at the time the husband of eight years of the hugely popular Welsh singer, Dorothy Squires. The Shirley Bassey of her day, she and Moore, her junior by a dozen years, had a tempestuous relationship, and perhaps fortunately no children.

The actor, who claimed to have also suffered domestic abuse during his first marriage, related how Dorothy Squires had once broken a guitar over his head. Having intercepted compromising letters to Moore from Luisa Mattioli – one version was that she had them translated by Italian nightclub doormen – the singer confronted Moore, who had delegated to his GP the task of telling his wife that he was leaving her.

Dorothy Squires was reported to have smashed the French windows of the house in London that Moore and Luisa Mattioli were sharing, badly cutting her arms in the process. When the police were summoned, she told them: “It’s my heart that’s bleeding.”

Luisa Mattioli with her husband Roger Moore in 1969 - Alamy
Luisa Mattioli with her husband Roger Moore in 1969 - Alamy

She then refused to give Moore a divorce and sued him for loss of conjugal rights – he ignored a judge’s instruction to return to the marital home. She later sued Kenneth More for libel when, at the Bafta awards, the actor accidentally introduced Luisa Mattioli to a live television audience as his near namesake’s wife.

Although because of her devout Roman Catholic upbringing Luisa Mattioli had at first agonised over living with the married Moore, she patiently bore the tribulations that followed.

The last of her score or so of screen appearances came in Bikini Pericolosi (“Dangerous Bikinis”) in 1963, the year that she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Deborah. She would become an actress herself, though known best perhaps as the face in the 1980s of Scottish Widows’ advertising.

Their first son, Geoffrey, later an actor and restaurateur, was born in 1966, and the family settled at Denham, Buckinghamshire. Cilla Black lived next door and John Mills was also a neighbour. Moore found fame on the small screen as professional smoothie The Saint, and after eight years Dorothy Squires agreed to a divorce, although she would continue to file suits against Moore and others until prohibited from doing so as a vexatious litigant.

With Kenneth More as best man, Moore and Luisa Mattioli were then married in April 1969 at Caxton Hall, Westminster; a largely female crowd of 600 onlookers wished the couple well.

Il ratto delle sabine (aka Romulus and the Sabines), 1961
Il ratto delle sabine (aka Romulus and the Sabines), 1961

Luisa Mattioli was born on March 23 1936 in San Stino di Livenza, near Venice. Her childhood was dominated by the war years. After finishing her education, she studied at Rome’s film school, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, making her screen debut at 20 in Napoli sole mio! She also worked as a television presenter.

In 1973, the year that their second son, Christian, a producer, was born, Moore made his debut as James Bond in Live and Let Die. His wife encouraged him to get his hair cut and to lose weight for the role. Global fame brought new problems – she once said that she ensured she had the aisle seat on flights “so Roger was always protected”.

In 1978, primarily for tax reasons, the family settled in Gstaad, Switzerland. They travelled frequently, however, and Luisa Mattioli became a familiar face from appearances at film premieres and the like.

Moore’s final eyebrow-raising turn as Bond came in 1985, by when he was nearing 60. Eight years later, a bout with prostate cancer that he described as “emasculating” prompted him to take stock of his life.

Bikini pericolosi (1963) was a comedy featuring Luisa Mattioli
Bikini pericolosi (1963) was a comedy featuring Luisa Mattioli

Although the characterisation of Luisa Mattioli as fiery was simply journalistic shorthand, Moore wrote in his memoir that after he returned home from treatment to “another row” he took “the coward’s way out” and left home rather than have “yet another confrontation.”

His wife recalled, however, that he had told her of his unexpected decision in a telephone call. Her real ire, however, was reserved for Kristina “Kiki” Tholstrup, with whom Moore set up home in Monaco. A Swedish-born Danish socialite, herself recuperating from a double mastectomy, she had known Moore and his wife for many years.

It was now Luisa Mattioli’s turn to refuse to grant her husband a divorce. Moore’s children were also reported to have refused to speak to him for a time. Not until nine years had passed were Moore and Kiki Tholstrup able to get married in Copenhagen, by when Luisa Mattioli had received a settlement of £10 million.

Moore, who was knighted a year later in 2003, had however the knack of not forfeiting entirely his former wives’ affections. He paid the medical bills for Dorothy Squires, who was by then virtually penniless, when she was dying, and was said to have re-established friendly relations with Luisa Mattioli before his own death in 2017.

Their children survive her.

Luisa Mattioli, born March 23 1936, died October 6 2021