He played James Bond in one film. And then he walked away.
Those in the film industry thought he was nuts. Others said arrogant. Who was he?
Lazenby. George Lazenby.
Unlike Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig, Lazenby was not well known when he got the role of 007 in 1968. Since then, he’s known mainly as the answer to the trivia question: Which actor played Bond only once in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
It is ironic that the Bond movie with the longest title starred the actor who played the character the least number of times on the big screen.
Had I not happened across a documentary-style film on Hulu about Lazenby called, Becoming Bond, he would have remained the answer to a trivia question for me. I almost didn’t watch Becoming Bond, but I’m glad that I did. It was thought-provoking.
Let me give you a heads up. If you decide to watch the documentary, it is definitely an adults-only film. Also, Lazenby, who is now in his late 70s, is prone to exaggeration. So, much of what he says may or may not be entirely accurate.
However, it is the premise of Becoming Bond that made me think about how each of us walk a narrow path in life, often not doing what we want, but what we think or are told is safe.
According to Lazenby’s story, he went from being a troubled Australian kid (that’s right, this Bond wasn’t British) to winning the role of 007. It is the line between the two that is both amusing and revealing.
Lazenby says that he was an unhealthy child with a half of a kidney. His mother was told he likely wouldn’t live past age 12.
I would think that if you thought you didn’t have long to live, you would probably do what George did – whatever you want.
He took a snake to school, swiped his aunt’s car, and was the only kid in his class to flunk high school. With this type of behavior, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that a good job wasn’t in his future.
Through a family connection, he got a job as a low-paid auto mechanic. While working on cars, he noticed the car salesmen wore nice clothes, chatted up the ladies, ate at nice places, and had money.
His next move would lead to him to getting a girl who was way out of his league, losing her, going to England to find her, getting a job selling expensive cars, getting the girl back, being spotted by a modeling agent talent scout, becoming the top-paid male model in the world, and lying his way into the role of 007.
One day, Lazenby crawled from underneath one of the cars on which he was working and asked the dealership manager for a sales job. After taking a How To Win Friends and Influence People training course, all he could remember was, “Don’t talk, just listen.”
That worked for him, and from there, Lazenby fell backward into success for the next several years.
Ruggedly handsome, George Lazenby had no trouble with the ladies. But one woman who caught his eye, Belinda, was way above his level. But he refused to give up and successfully wooed her.
There’s a scene in Becoming Bond where he goes to her home (which is an Australian mansion) to pick her up. George comments to the two men in the parlor that one of them looked just like the prime minister.
He was the prime minister.
The other man was Belinda’s father, who didn’t like Lazenby, so he sent her to England.
George quit his job and took the next ship to the U.K. where he found her and won her back. After they moved in together, he was successful at selling high-dollar automobiles. But, it was the talent scout who spotted him that would change his life forever.
The scout agreed to buy a car if George would pose for some modeling photos. He agreed. From those pictures, a modeling agency hired him, and within a short time, he became one of the most sought after male models in Europe.
Another male model from Australia who became Lazenby’s friend, was also a wannabe actor. Through that connection, George met a woman who encouraged him to get in to see the producers of the next Bond film and do whatever he could to get an audition.
So, he did anything that he could. He lied.
He told them that he had made films all over the world. But, since it was the 1960s and you couldn’t quickly verify film work in countries such as Hungary, Lazenby made it through the interview process all the way to the director.
According to Lazenby, when the director finally got out of George that he had no acting experience, other than a chocolate commercial, he then wanted him for the role of Bond. Anyone who could fool two major movie producers had something going for him.
When the press found out that the next James Bond was a complete unknown and had zero acting experience, the frenzy was on.
George Lazenby’s life would never be the same.
He made the movie, but time away and temptation doomed his relationship with Belinda. The sudden fame went to his head, and during a promotional tour, he announced that he would not play Bond again.
According to many reports, his agent at the time told him that the Bond series wouldn’t make it into the 1970s. But Lazenby said that he didn’t want the Bond producers to have total control of his life – telling him what to wear, where to be, and more.
The film industry turned on him, and after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, he rarely worked in front of the camera on anything of substance.
But, what struck me about watching the interviews with George Lazenby was his lack of regret.
In Becoming Bond during his recreated interview on The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson asked him whether he’d rather keep doing Bond movies or go back to selling cars. Lazenby said, “Selling cars.”
He didn’t go back to selling cars, but he did do well selling real estate. He married (more than once) and had children.
At the end of Becoming Bond, the interviewer asked if Lazenby had any regrets. He said:
“I’m 76, and I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to, and more than I ever expected to. I was happy to be a motor mechanic. Happy to be a car salesman. Happy to be a model. Happy to be James Bond. Happy to marry the person I married. Happy to have kids. And they’ve all been wonderful. I can’t think of anything I’d change…you can defy what is expected of you. And write your own story.”
Most of us were raised to take the safe path. The well-traveled path. I guess that’s what struck me about Lazenby. He didn’t. And he didn’t care what anyone thought.
He still doesn’t, by George.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Write-Passage-Southerners-View-Then/dp/1548144983. Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.