George Lazenby’s 007: All the Time in the World

George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby as James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The year is 1964. George Lazenby arrives in London from his native Australia at the same time as an eleven year-old Pierce Brosnan. Pierce’s time will come later.

Lazenby, former car salesman, mechanic, and successful model spends the next few years in television commercials, serving up Fry’s chocolate cream. He auditions for the role of James Bond when Sean Connery announces, having filmed five Bond movies, that he never wants to play the secret agent again. Lazenby, up against John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Robert Campbell, and Hans de Vries for the role, gets it for two reasons:

1) He roughs up a stuntman in the screen test.

2) He reads for the part wearing a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit, actually ordered by Sean Connery, but never collected.

George Lazenby as James Bond in a Kilt during On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
George Lazenby as the kiltiest James Bond during On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
The producers only open auditions for the role of Bond after a 21 year-old Timothy Dalton turns it down, believing himself to be too young for the part. When On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (budget: 7 million pounds) comes out in 1969, it grosses over $84 million worldwide.  That’s less than the previous Bond film You Only Live Twice, but still respectable.

Lazenby’s big-screen debut was based on Ian Fleming’s 1963 novel of the same name. Contemporary reviews are good, but the general critical reception is mixed. History has actually favoured the movie, with many believing it to be one of the best Bond films ever. Roger Moore thinks so, mainly due to the direction of Peter R. Hunt.

Diana Rigg and George Lazenby as Mr. and Mrs. James Bond
Diana Rigg and George Lazenby as Mr. and Mrs. James Bond
At the time, however, Lazenby finds himself on a roller-coaster ride of circumstances. He is not a trained actor, and receives a cold reception from his co-workers in the industry, possibly believing he has not served his time or paid his dues. In fact, director Hunt would not speak to Lazenby directly during filming and Diana Rigg, who played Bond’s wife, Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, famously eats garlic prior to their intimate scenes.

George makes a few more enemies when he utters the line “this wouldn’t have happened to the other guy” in the film. The off-hand reference to Connery is considered a cardinal sin by industry professionals, breaking the “fourth wall,” the imaginary wall between the actor and the audience.

Lazenby, by his own admission, is outrageously arrogant. Many feel it gets him the part, but it also means that in negotiation for the next Bond films, he approaches the bargaining table with a dismissive attitude. Something he regrets to this day. It means he and the producers part company, and the next Bond film in 1971, Diamonds are Forever, stars. . .Sean Connery back as the agent he said he would never play again! Lazenby all but disappears, playing a few non-descript roles in far flung places.

Cubby Broccoli, the famous Bond producer, said that Lazenby could have been the best Bond ever. Instead, George is contracted to film with Bruce Lee in his next project after Enter The Dragon, but all-too-soon, this rising star, like Lazenby’s, dies. After a few Hong Kong offerings, George actually turns up in soft-core erotica Emmanuelle with Sylvia Kristel. 

I have sweet memories of watching On her Majesty’s Secret Service, open-mouthed, at the Odeon Cinema on a windswept Saturday afternoon on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road. George Lazenby, having uttered the words “We have all the time in the world” at the end of his one and only Bond film, finds he has just that.


Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish. His next book, The Politics of Murder (The X-Press UK/US) will be published July 31, 2011.

Comments

  1. Ron Phillips

    That is one of my favorite movies from the early series. Lazenby played the roll well, but it was the story and seeing Bond in a different light that made it shine. He probably could have been a great Bond. I didn’ t know about his treatment on the set.

    Interesting that Dalton was pegged for the role all those years ago. Unfortunately, my least favorite. That of course was more due to the stories than his acting. Brosnan probably wouldn’t have faired any better if he’d taken the role at that time.

  2. Dirk Robertson

    It was a good story and the three ingredients of a kilt wearing Lazenby, bad guys on skis and a mountaintop lair didn’t do it any harm either. The director was upset, as well, at the amount of friends, Mr Lazenby brought to the set. I can hardly blame him bringing his mates, if everyone else was being so unfriendly. On the other hand there is a school of thought which argues that no dialogue between creative artists produces great work. A photographer told me of a three hour session he did with Eartha Kitt. She uttered not a single word throughout the whole session. The resulting photos were fantastic. It would probably wear a bit thin after a four month filming session though. I tried it once – being completely silent on set, mainly because I forgot my lines!

  3. Paul D Brazill

    One of the best Bonds. Great theme song too. And only fitting that Bond should marry Mrs Peel.

  4. Dirk Robertson

    I know! That was a great union, Bond and Peel. It sounds like an old fashioned British bar of soap.

  5. Thomas Pluck

    Hi Dirk- saw you at Watchung Books “Writing Matters” with Dennis Tafoya & crew a few months back.
    As kids we goofed on this Bond, but as an adult, it was ahead of its time. Dark, truer to the books. Lazenby got pegged as cocky because he showed the proper attitude for a Bond, and didn’t humbly attempt to fill Connery’s shoes. Shame, he did a fine job.

  6. Dirk Robertson

    You’re right. Attitude is everything, particularly when it comes to a “Bond”. I can’t remember if it was Roger Moore or Sean Connery but it was one of them, who said Timothy Dalton took Bond seriously, but in the wrong way. Ian Fleming was a school boy at Eton. It is a rarified educational establishment which creates an expectation of everyone who attends that they are not only someone, but they will be somebody, in whatever sphere that may be. This results in a look, an attitude. Connery and Lazenby had it in abundance even though neither of them went to Eton.

  7. Leigh Lundin

    I didn’t know about Lazenby’s travails, but I know actors full of pique regarding those who ‘haven’t paid their dues.’

    I remember smiling at the line “this wouldn’t have happened to the other guy,” which was very clever considering audience angst about losing Connery at the time. It seems unfair to blame the actor for that line when the writer, the director, or the editor could have omitted it at any point.

  8. Dirk Robertson

    You’re quite right, not to mention the Producers who would also have had an input on a piece of dialogue like that.

  9. p.m.terrell

    Dirk, you did an excellent job of giving us the background on Lazenby. I often wondered why we never saw him in another Bond film. He was SO good in the one he did – and I agree, it was one of the best. Though I love Bond films so much, each one I am currently watching seems to be my favorite at the time. I have particularly been enjoying Daniel Craig in the role. I think Lazenby’s attitude is a lesson to all of us… Fame and opportunity can be SO fleeting…

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