You might think since George Lazenby only got to play James Bond once, it must’ve meant he sucked. Actually, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is considered one of the best Bond movies ever. If you’re a Bond fan and you haven’t seen it, watch it now. It really holds up especially well after the gritty Daniel Craig ones. Once you see it, you’ll really want to know more about the mysterious one time only Bond.
41 years later, Lazenby has a sense of humor about it. He goes out to autograph signings and he attended an American Cinematheque showing of On Her Majesty’s at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. After conflicting stories on DVD extras and books and articles, Lazenby told the audience what really happened on his Bond movie.
1) The truth about Lazenby leaving Bond:
Some stories say that Lazenby quit because they were trying to make him imitate Sean Connery. Other stories say the producers wanted to get rid of him. Now Lazenby tells the truth.
“The truth of the matter is I was a dumb shit,” he said. “On the other hand, I wasn’t because I could’ve had four, five or 15 houses in Beverly Hills with different wives living in them and a drug addict, or me now who missed out on everything and had to survive. What happened was this: After I did the James Bond film I had not signed a contract. I’d finished the film and because of [acting coach] Ronan [O’Rahilly] and me never being an actor and having a real estate lawyer for my lawyer, the contract went backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. I’d done the film, I’d never signed it. They were in the shit. Harry [Saltzman] and Cubby [Broccoli] were in the poo because United Artists was saying, ‘You finished the film and the guy hasn’t signed the contract, how could that be?’ Not only that, I was a guy who had never been an actor so they couldn’t hold me to anything because I never knew what was in the contract. I’d never signed one of these contracts before. Legally, they had a whole privy counsel thing and they came out that I would win the case. So United Artists called me over to their office. They said, ‘See all those books up there? We own them. You can pick any one you like and we’ll make it into a movie for you in between every Bond film you’ll do if you sign the contract.’ Ronan said, ‘We’ll think about it.’ I go out on the office and Harry said, ‘I’ll give you a million dollars anywhere you want in the world.’ Ronan says, ‘I’ll tell you, Bond is over, finished. It’s Sean Connery’s gig. You cannot match that guy. Bond’s over, I can get you 500 grand a movie in Italy, one after the other, you’ll make two-three million a year if you want to make money. Or you just go along and we select shows for you and do them.’ And I listened.”
2) Lazenby on the best Bond:
“Realistically speaking, it’s gotta be Sean Connery, right?” Lazenby admitted. "If I was allowed to be wh I am now at that age, I think I could’ve given him a run for his money. I didn’t know. Simple as that.”
It turns out he did get Connery’s stamp of approval back in the day though. “I heard from a pretty good source that he said I could’ve made a good James Bond. I met him a couple times and he and I were very respectful to one another, although the first time I met him, I had a paper clipping where it said that I was a better James Bond than him in my pocket. I was in a restaurant here in L.A. and I went over and sat next to him and showed it to him. Then when he was leaving the restaurant he came over and said hi so he took it with a grain of salt.”
3) How Lazenby faked his way to 007 in the first place:
If an obscure Australian model seems like a weird choice to play James Bond, that’s because it was. Lazenby kind of conned his way into the audition. He snuck into the casting office when the receptionist wasn’t looking and it spiraled from there.
“I went and got an English suit and got my hair cut where Connery got his haircut, bought a Rolex watch and his around the corner, waited until this woman stepped away from the desk for something. Up the stairs I went and walked right into Dyson Lovell’s office. He’s on the phone and he said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I heard you’re looking for James Bond.’ He was talking to Harry Salzman on the phone. He sad, ‘Harry I’ve got someone here’ and he said, ‘Bring him over.’ If Dyson wasn’t on the phone and had talked to me for five minutes, he would have realized I was a fake. We’re walking across the road to Harry Salzman’s office and he said, ‘Tell me your life story.’ I’d never heard a question like that in my life so I made it up and said, ‘Well, I’ve been making movies in Russia, in Germany, in Hong Kong.’ Just spinning off these lines. I couldn’t remember what I said because when I got into Harry’s office, he says, ‘Tell me your life story’ and I was like, ‘F*ck, I can’t remember what I said.’ I just told him, ‘Let him tell you.’ He said, ‘Oh, he’s played roles in Russia and Germany…’ Anyway, he said, ‘I want him to meet the director. Bring him back here. Four o’clock tomorrow.’ By this time I was shitting myself. I’m way over my head. That night I went looking for an acting coach and I found one. His name was Ronan O’Reilly. He made Radio Caroline, the pirate radio ship. I go in the next day and I don’t know what made me do it but Peter said, ‘Tell me about yourself.’ I said, ‘Well, the first thing is I’ve never been an actor before.’ He’s just come from Switzerland, he’s pissed off. All of a sudden he just falls on the floor laughing. He says, ‘They brought me back from Switzerland to see you!’ I said, ‘Well, I’m not an actor. I’ve never spoken in front of a camera in my life.’ He said, ‘Stick to your story and I’ll make you the next James Bond. You fooled two of the most ruthless guys I’ve ever met in my life. You’re an actor.’”
4) Why James Bond moved back home with his mom:
Needless to say, those lucrative film roles his agents promised him didn’t work out. “Money was short after Bond. It got so short that I went back to live with my mother in Queanbeyan. No one believed that I was just James Bond and I had no money. I’d sailed for 15 months trying to get away from publicity and what not which I didn’t know how to handle. I went and bought a catamaran in Malta, never sailed before in my life, had a three hour lesson and took off for Sicily with a girl.”
5) George Lazenby today:
“It’s beautiful. I’ve got these three kids. I’m in love with them. If I hated them, it’d be all right but the little buggers come up and go, ‘Dad,’ and I just melt. I’m sure if I was 40-50 I wouldn’t have, but now at 71 I go, ‘You little bastard, what do you want? You’ve got me by the nuts.’ I’ve got an ex who wants to kill me. She’s getting even for all those other ones. It all comes back to you, guys, watch out. Here I am doing some stuff that women do every day and don’t complain. I’m doing it now and I’m not complaining because I love them. That’s my life are these three kids.”