The big “will he or won’t he” question at the moment is whether or not Daniel Craig will agree to play James Bond for the fifth time in the currently-titled Bond 25. If he doesn’t, there are a number of actors ready to renew 007’s license to kill and there will be a lot of media excitement over the casting. But that wasn’t the case back in 1967 when the search was on for someone to take the place of Sean Connery.
Through a worldwide casting process, Australian model and mechanic George Lazenby was chosen by director Peter Hunt and producers Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to be the next James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
This was actually a really big deal, as the Bond films had become such a global success that few believed anyone but Connery could play the part. Indeed, Lazenby voluntarily stepped away from the series and Connery was lured back one more time for 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, followed by Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Craig. And Lazenby, who did continue acting, slipped back into relative obscurity. Now Hulu has brought his story to life in the documentary Becoming Bond, which is available now and is written and directed by Josh Greenbaum.
OHMSS was a change-of-pace 007 film, getting away from gadgets and larger-than-life machinations of the villain, instead focusing on a more human Bond (though action was everywhere). Over the course of the story, he meets and falls in love with Countess Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg), who ultimately ends up being shot to death by the henchwoman of Ernst Stravro Blofel (Telly Savalas). As we said, this one was different
FHM had the opportunity to sit down with Lazenby to discuss the documentary, his reasons for leaving what could have been a life-changing role and what it was like, for a short time, to have been Bond. James Bond.
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FHM: How weird is it for you, all these years later, to be talking on this subject?
George Lazenby: “You know, it never goes away. Now if James Bond films had stopped being made 40 years ago, probably no one would be talking to me now, but it's never gone away in my life. I mean, I'll be in a bar and some guy will be staring at me, and say, ‘Are you George?’ It seems like that happens to me weekly or monthly or whatever, so it never goes away. Now that is both a good and a bad thing. First, you can’t be incognito too easily. The other side of it is that people know you, and talk to you, and help you out and do all that sort of thing. You can get things done better than most people. So it does have its upside. Everything does. I don't like to say it's bigger than me, but it's something that ... Well, let’s put it this way, if I stayed a motor mechanic, I'd have had a much simpler life.”
FHM: How did this documentary come together?
George Lazenby: “Well, I had a friend who I've known for 20 years, and he's heard some of my stories. Actually, he was filming me one day while I was talking, and he showed the film to these guys who made the documentary. They said, "Oh, what an interesting fellow. Let's see if we can talk him into a documentary." We had lunch, I think, five times before I said, ‘Okay, I'll do it.’ That's how it came about.”
FHM: Why did it take you five lunches?
George Lazenby: “Well, it convinced me that I could trust them. I had rights over the movie anyway, but I didn't use it. I just looked at it and saw it, and there's certain things I'd probably change, but I didn't bother. I said, ‘What have I got to lose if I've got the right of say on how it looks?’ So, I just let them loose and let them release what they did. I never tried to change anything. It's a documentary of my life up until I'm 32. It's not even half my life.”
Image via YouTube