NOBODY does it better. Or, at any rate, nobody does it half as thoroughly - background research into journalists, that is. In order for this interview to take place on his recent trip to Hong Kong on behalf of UNICEF, Roger Moore required the following information: (1) circulation of this newspaper; (2) readership profile of this newspaper; (3) editorial content of this magazine; (4) how many years your humble reporter has been a humble reporter; (5) what sort of pieces she writes; and (6) how much she earns. No, actually, that last one isn't true but you get the picture. What makes this remarkable is that the most cursory glance at Moore's press cuttings presents a man who goes to some lengths to dismiss both himself and his career. With one lift of that famously mobile eyebrow he seems to be saying - Filmstar? Ha! In the past he has liked nothing better than to rubbish himself urbanely. Sample quote: 'Some years ago, the people who were running the Royal Film Performance called me up in absolute desperation and asked me to host an evening because Charlton Heston hadn't turned up. I had no time to prepare, I just walked out on the stage and said 'Moses couldn't come down. I am here to replace him as I replace most people'.' He has a point. He replaced James Garner in Maverick, George Sanders in The Saint and, most famously, Sean Connery as James Bond. These days, however, he isn't acting and he isn't a replacement. As UNICEF's Special Representative for the Performing Arts, he has had to allow the mantle of seriousness to fall upon his dealings with the press. Hence the detailed groundwork. The table in the conference room at the Sheraton where this interview takes place is covered with UNICEF data; he worries, he says, about getting statistics wrong. He looks - well, rather older (airy hair, age-mottled skin) but still pretty good. Tomorrow is his birthday when he will, shocking to relate, be 69. 'I was thinking about that this morning,' he muses in tones so magnificently debonair and low and crumbly that the voice-activated tape recorder can't register the timbre and occasionally falls into a mystified silence. 'I was full of guilt at not having worked out, normally I have a polystyrene mat on which I do sit-ups and run for 45 minutes. I was wondering - if there is a birthday next year, will I still be putting my body through this torture?' It can't be easy hauling yourself around the world as a UNICEF Special Representative when you're a senior citizen. Consider Moore's activities on the day of this interview. He has already had one interview. Now he's doing another (and you know perfectly well that, try as you might, the questions are going to be pretty much identical, especially as there are three UNICEF people in the room and the courage to ask about his marriage problems is fast dwindling). In the afternoon, he has a press conference (at which the first question is 'Will you make another James Bond film?'), a photo-call during which he pretends to be checking out of the Sheraton in order to have US$1 (HK7.8) added to his bill for UNICEF, a television interview and a public appearance at which approximately 2,000 people come up and ask him if he minds having his picture taken with them. Moore keeps beaming with affability and goodwill throughout these tedious proceedings, can't resist lifting an ironic eyebrow once or twice, but otherwise does an excellent job of pretending that he's having a whale of a time. It may be his best performance bar none, and UNICEF pays him exactly US$1 per annum to do it. So why bother? 'It's far more rewarding than acting,' he says simply. 'It's made me more of a humanitarian. I've travelled round the world as an actor, to places where you're seeing terrible poverty, like India. And I've realised how selfish I was, I was so busy making pictures and thinking 'Where's the closest toilet?' - I don't have a very good stomach - that I didn't see outside. Yes, I have changed.' It was Audrey Hepburn who encouraged him to devote his energies to UNICEF six years ago. She was a friend and a neighbour in Switzerland, where Moore was living with his third wife, Luisa, and their children Deborah, 32, Geoffrey, 30, and Christian, 23. 'I'd always been involved with fund-raising activities for charities when I lived in England but when I moved to Switzerland, I couldn't go to meetings. So Audrey did me a great favour - she showed me a way in which I could be involved.' He has seen limbless children in Salvador, child prostitutes in Brazil, abandoned children in the Philippines, even a ward being prepared for a cholera epidemic - 'a terrible place with a sluice running down the middle and benches with holes in them, to be hosed down ...'. How upset does he allow himself to become? 'I was fortunate as a child to know the son of my godparents who used to come over to play cards. He was very badly disfigured with lupus [a chronic tuberculosis of the skin] and the disease had eaten away at his face. He was a terrifying sight, he couldn't travel on buses but I was used to seeing him at home. I grew up with that, I can look at people and see their suffering.' He's canny enough to see that those endless questions about James Bond and Simon Templar are precisely what enables him to fulfill these alternative roles as saint and persuader. 'The public comes along out of curiosity and sometimes I start with a lot of humour to hook 'em, then wham them with the message. They feel they know you. When I was a young actor and went to Hollywood for the first time, I thought I knew everyone too, from seeing them on the screen.' The film career isn't altogether moribund - 'Yes, my bank manager desperately wants me to make another film' - although the last time he actually stood in front of a camera was to make a UNICEF video for Cathay Pacific's 'Change For Good' last year. He has also been trying to write a book, on the advice of the late, great Hollywood agent Swifty Lazar: 'He said he could get me US$2 million but the funny things I had to say about people are probably libellous so I thought I'd write a book about my medical history.' The publishing world will have to wait a little longer for this extraordinary opus as the sole disk was stolen at Geneva airport three years ago. Perhaps there will be a chapter in it about Moore's prostrate cancer which he suffered in 1993. It was at about this time that his 26-year marriage to Luisa ended and he became friendly with Christina Tholstrup, a well-preserved Danish lady of 54 who is now his constant companion and who could be seen hovering at his elbow during the Sheraton's UNICEF function. It's 22 years since he filmed The Man With The Golden Gun in Hong Kong and Macau. Will he be visiting old haunts like, er, Bottoms Up this time? Moore looks puzzled for a moment. 'I remember the name but not the place,' he hesitates. On further enlightenment, he laughs. 'Not unless I can stamp UNICEF on their backsides ...'