There are actors, and then there are legends: Sir Roger Moore has long been an iconic figure of the big (and little) screen, thanks to the phenomenal success of The Saint in the sixties, then as the longest-running Bond actor across seven thrilling 007 films in a dozen years between 1973 and 1985.

But now he's preparing to return both to his original home country — England, where he was born in Stockwell in south London 87 years ago (and will turn 88 on October 14, four days before his latest tour begins) — and onstage, where his career as an actor actually began, when he embarks on a UK tour of his show An Afternoon with Sir Roger Moore.

He trained at London's most prestigious drama school RADA, and reflecting on his early stage life, he tells me how glad he was that he never won the first film contract he was after. After his obligatory term of national service in the mid-1940s, he says, "Coming out of the army, I thought I was going to have a great big film career as I was highly recommended for a Rank contract, but they were just cutting back at that point on their contract list. That was very fortunate, actually, as I would have gone straight into film and not had the chance to do weekly rep, which of course is the best training of all — it trains the mind."

In fact he'd done some theatre before his military service: "I did a couple of plays back in '44 and '45 — Feydeau's Italian Straw Hat and Klabund's Circle of Chalk, which was directed by Christopher Fry, no less. Then I started a season of Shaw in Cambridge, but the army caught up with me and I was carted off to Bury St Edmunds for six weeks training. They didn't know what to do with me so they gave me a commission and I was posted off to Germany where I spent the next three years. In the last year I was transferred to the CSE — the Combined Services Entertainment — and the colonel allowed me to do a play to get my hand back in before I came out. I toured Germany, Austria and Italy in a play called The Shop at Sly Corner."

He returned to Britain and the theatre, but then won a 7-year film contact with MGM, about which he has famously previously said, "At MGM, RGM (Roger George Moore) was NBG [no bloody good]." But his career then started gaining traction via a series of television roles in shows like Ivanhoe, The Alaskans and Maverick, before the worldwide fame would arrive with The Saint, which he starred in for six seasons across most of the 1960s.

How did he keep the show and the character fresh? "I never thought about it! You just have to look at the lines, say them, and don't bump into the furniture! It was always a complaint, usually from actresses that I've worked with, that I used to fool around too much — not with them, I hasten to add, but having fun! I always see the fun in everything going on around me. Invariably in the 60s everyone who had a drinks cabinet had a soda siphon in it, and we'd invariably have a lot of them on set for The Saint — the camera crew knew they were in trouble when I came on with the soda siphon handy." He certainly made a splash in that role, and then of course as a legendary James Bond. Does he miss those days? "I'm nostalgic for Friday pay day — and so is my agent and bank manager! But I'm also very grateful. I had a good time doing them and here's to the next!"

He makes light of a suggestion that he's retired: "I've only retired as James Bond!" He missed the stage, though: "But the longer it went on without doing a play, the more nervous I got. When you're filming or doing TV — which is the same thing except you have to do it faster — in the back of your mind is that you can always re-voice it or re-shoot it if there's a noise or a plane going over. I was always petrified in the theatre that if the audience coughed or a phone rang I'd stop!"

In fact a different event stopped him in his tracks when he was on stage in The Play What I Wrote in New York, the comedy show based on Morecambe and Wise's television shows that he made guest appearances in, which was also in the West End: "I had a little brush with heart problems and collapsed onstage," he tells me. "I was very fortunate and I had a pacemaker put in within 14 hours. My father had one before me — I didn't get his, by the way! I remember having to remind him that five or six years were up and he needed to have the battery changed but he'd say, 'I think this will last me out — I don't want to go to the expense of another battery!'"

Right now, Sir Roger's own battery is going full strength.

"My wife says why am I doing this tour, it's so tiring — but I enjoy the contact with an audience. And I'm always curious to see if they'll applaud or not. I worry that when Gareth Owen says, 'Here's Sir Roger Moore', they'll say 'So big deal — bring on Sean Connery!"

But they don't — and instead are treated to a rare encounter with a genuine star. And it can be unpredictable:

"I can wander off and talk about anything I like, within reason! Sometimes I use 4,000 words when one will do, and at other times I forget what the one word is, so I never say it!" He also invites questions from the audience. Is he ever surprised by their questions?

"No, but I look surprised! In The Fugitive, there was detective chasing a doctor who was innocent but accused of murder, and the actor who played him said the one thing he got tired of was having to look surprised when someone said 'he went that way!' I got used to that whenever people would ask me where my halo was! You have to look as if you've not heard it before." by Mark Shenton London-based theatre critic.

An Afternoon with Sir Roger Moore, the legendary film star who played the iconic role of James Bond, visits the Theatre Royal Bath on Friday 30th October tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at