Leaping Lothario Dudley Moore's Bod May Not Rate, but His Talent's a '10'
'He's going to be a huge star,' says leading lady Julie Andrews
If women start ranking men's bodies from one to 10, as Dudley Moore does so hilariously with the ladies in his new romantic comedy, 10, then Dud's in terrible trouble. He's a 44-year-old, slightly potbellied Englishman with a "gamey" left leg a half-inch shorter than his right; and neither leg is all that long: Moore tops out at 5'2". But, fortunately, ever since he arrived in London with the loony English revue Beyond the Fringe some 20 years ago, Dudley has been cultishly celebrated for his sexy psyche.
Blake Edwards, who directed The Pink Panther series as well as 10, would concur. Though impressed by Moore's performance as the sex-maniac maestro trying to orchestrate Goldie Hawn in Foul Play (1978), Edwards was ultimately convinced by Dudley's inadvertent audition in the weekly therapy group they both belong to in L.A. "I kept sitting there listening to Dudley," Blake recalls, "and there were so many things in his personality that coincided with the character in 10." So when original choice George Segal pulled out just before shooting began, Blake hired Moore to play the menopausal male who leaves Julie Andrews (Edwards' wife) to pursue stunning Bo Derek, a newlywed half his age.
Moore admits that the role had his number on it. "I'd written a screenplay on that very same subject—guys getting itchy about approaching age, death, destruction. It's inevitable," he says. "Just getting older you either get sadder or happier. I think I'm happier now than ever."
His 15 years in and out of therapy may be one reason. "It was a very 'general depression' with all specific branches," says Dudley of his pre-treatment malaise. "I was not actually saying, doing or being what I wanted to be. Now I'm creeping toward it." Part of the problem stemmed from his childhood wisecracking which began, he recalls, "just to stop getting bullied, the usual comedian's sob story. It's infuriating, because you're doing something you feel is basically dishonest 'cause you haven't got the guts to punch anybody back." Another hangup, too, was his diminutive size. "I had to overcome a feeling of impending castration if women were taller than I."
Nevertheless, Dudley has managed to stalk successfully several imposing 10s, including 5'4" first wife Suzy (To Sir, with Love) Kendall and 5'6" second wife Tuesday Weld. "Me and my estranged wife, we get on fine," comments Dudley of Weld and their year-long separation. Unlike the 20-odd previous split-ups in their tumultuous four-year marriage, it looks like this one will stick. "We were always arguing and fighting. It made life interesting and sort of exhausting," says Dudley. "It's a very amicable separation, and there's nothing sensational about our divorce." While Tuesday has been linked to the also-splitting Martin Mull (her co-star in the upcoming Serial), Moore squired Weld to a screening during a recent promo trip to New York. He also visited stepdaughter Natasha, 12, and 3-year-old son Patrick, who live with Tuesday there. "It's obviously important that Patrick should see both of us," says Moore. "At the moment it's working out well."
So, more or less, is Dudley's life back in the three-bedroom Marina del Rey beach house that's been home for two years. "Even after a year of separation, it's difficult for me to forge ahead with some new live-in love," confides Dudley. "I see some people, and I'm not inactive. But then I grind to a halt and just lie about at home and listen to my dog snoring. I function better on my own. Anyone hidden like me is difficult to live with," he explains. "That's my contribution to the mismanagement in any relationship."
Born in Dagenham, Essex, to a secretary and a British Railways electrician (Dudley still wears his father's retirement watch), the boy started music lessons at 6 and early on wanted to be a violinist. Graduating from Oxford's Magdalen College in 1958 (where he'd gone on a music scholarship), Moore composed commercial jingles as well as serious music and toured briefly and unhappily with an orchestra. Then "everything really took off" in 1960 when he hooked up with Peter Cook and other Oxford and Cambridge grads to create the satirical Beyond the Fringe. The revue became a Broadway smash in 1962. His long collaboration with Cook also produced the 1967 movie Bedazzled and a return to Broadway in 1973 in their own revue, Good Evening.
"We've always been a couple of dirty buggers from the time we met," Dudley laughs about pal Cook, his co-star also in an upcoming film based on their gleefully obscene Derek and Clive comedy albums. But Dudley doesn't want to return to the stage and is committed to his new L.A. life. "I was attracted by the climate, people and money here," he says. He enjoys "goggling" the house at trendy eateries like Ma Maison and Le Dôme, though his one-meal-daily diet often means he orders Pellegrino water, period. His bad leg ("I'd love to ski and rollerskate, but I have to be careful") limits his ventures in the health craze to a cycling machine and occasional jog.
Dudley's convinced, though, that his, er, stature is growing. He's now rehearsing his next movie comedy, Wholly Moses, and his brief nude scene in 10 has opened new vistas, he claims. "It's difficult to walk around stark naked in front of 50 people, but I know that's what the public really wants, and I can understand it," Moore says. "With a body like mine, mate, I'll be asked to strip off in every film." Then he delivers his own review. " 'The screen,' they'll say, 'is set alight by Dud's bum.' "
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