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It was 1968 and the world was coming apart at the seams. It was a year of war, assassination and massive, global, unrest. The world needed a hero. Where was James Bond?
He wasn’t there. Having finished work on You Only Live Twice in early 1967, Sean Connery stepped away from the role that made him a household name, leaving the Bondless. A massive search went on for the next man to portray the world’s leading super spy. Note that I said “man” and not “actor.”
The man’s name was George Lazenby. At the time, Lazenby was one of the top male models in London, but he had never acted before. His only acting experience was a series of television commercials for Fry’s chocolate where he travelled around throwing candy bars at people. But by all accounts, including his own, Lazenby had very little self-doubt. He went to Sean Connery’s barber and asked to get his hair cut like James Bond. Then he went to Sean Connery’s tailor and asked for a suit like Connery’s. They couldn’t make one in time, but they had one there that had been made for Connery that he had never picked up. Lazenby tried it on and it fit like a glove. A glove that was a suit.
He went to visit Dyson Lovell, who was casting the role for Bond producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. He did not have an appointment. He did not let that stop him. He strode purposefully past Lovell’s secretary straight into the office and said, “I hear you’re looking for the next James Bond.” Impressed with Lazenby’s look and manner, Lovell brought him over to meet Saltzman. On the way, he quizzed him on his acting experience, which was non-existent.. Lazenby invented a resume on the spot, saying that he’d done a lot of theater in his native Australia and some movies in Eastern Europe. There was no internet at the time, so Lovell was forced to take Lazenby’s word for it.
In the meeting, Saltzman asked Lazenby about his acting experience. Lazenby gestured to Dyson Lovell and said, “I just told him, let him tell you.” Saltzman was impressed with the move, which made Lazenby look very ballsy and self-assured, Very Bondian. According to “Some Kind Of Hero: The Remarkable Story Of The James Bond Films” by Matthew and Ajay Chowdhury, what really happened was Lazenby was terrified by the question because he hadn’t bothered to remember his own story from just moments before.
It was arranged for Lazenby to meet the director of the next Bond film, Peter Hunt. Hunt was known mostly as an editor and second unit director on the Bond films, pioneering the series, fast frenetic cutting style. The next movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was to be his directorial debut. Again, according to Field and Chowdhury’s book, Lazenby wandered across the hall of his apartment building to see his neighbor, an acting coach named Kevin Duggan, and said, “I’m meeting with the director tomorrow about being the next James Bond and I need an acting lesson.”
To which Duggan replied, “and you want an acting lesson NOW?”
Also at Duggan’s that night was hippie guru, Ronan O’Rahilly. Remember that name.
The next day Lazenby met with Hunt and soon after screen-tested. And screen-tested. And screen-tested some more. Eventually he won the part, becoming Sean Connery’s successor in the sixth 007 motion picture, 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
In his defense, for a guy that had never acted before, Lazenby is not terrible. In fact, if you view On Her Majesty’s Secret Service through the lens of being a major, sprawling international production with a star that has no previous acting experience, he's quite remarkable.
But a person with zero previous experience shouldn’t be the star of a major, international production. Most especially not under a first-time director. Despite all this, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is not bad. The lack of Connery is jarring, but everything else is where it should be and, all things considered, it’s pretty good. It's some people’s favorite Bond movie, so go figure.
Aaaaanyway, the story goes that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a bomb and Lazenby was fired and United Artist paid Sean Connery a grillion dollars to come back one more time for Diamonds Are Forever.
That is not what happened. It was not a bomb and Lazenby was not fired. Connery did, however, get the grillion.
What really happened? Remember hippie guru Ronan O’Rahilly?