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Licence to kill a career

Licence to kill a career — We chat with one-time 007 George Lazenby

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Of course it wasn’t easy replacing Sean Connery. But George Lazenby, the star of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, blames himself for the dubious distinction of being the only James Bond who never lived twice. ”I think I wanted to destroy my career,” says Lazenby, 56, who says he passed on the chance to do a second Bond film and is plotting a comeback with Fox Hunt, a new CD-ROM game due out next month. ”I just didn’t know how to handle myself.”

Lazenby certainly knew how to handle snagging the role of 007 when Connery quit in 1967. The model (and former Marlboro man) from Queanbeyan, Australia, conned his way into being cast. ”I lied,” he says wryly. ”I told them I was a skier and an actor and a playboy and that I raced cars and did judo. I was actually scared, but it came off as arrogance.”

Lazenby says the producers feared ”they’d be a laughingstock for hiring a clothes-peg.” A screen test changed their minds, and Lazenby was signed for $50,000. But from then on, little bonding occurred. The first week of filming, Lazenby alienated director Peter Hunt by asking some of his friends to leave the set, and the two barely spoke for the rest of the shoot. ”I felt I was the star, and they were treating me like a run-of-the-mill actor,” he says. ”I had a big head.”

Secret Service was a relative disappointment, both financially and critically. Still, according to Lazenby, producer ”Cubby” Broccoli offered him a second Bond film. Lazenby refused. ”It was all too intense,” he recalls. ”I went sailing for 15 months. After I came back, I learned I had been blackballed. I couldn’t get a job.”

Nearly destitute, Lazenby was rescued by Bruce Lee, who cast him in one of his movies. Before shooting began, however, Lee died. After that, Lazenby’s career consisted of little more than a few kung-fu movies and guest shots on ’70s shows like Hawaii Five-0. The former Bond avoided any 007 connections. ”I haven’t seen a Bond movie since 1969,” he says. His most heroic role may have been off screen: He spent the past 10 years nursing his son, Zachary, who died of brain cancer last year at age 19. Now living in L.A., recently divorced, and back on the audition trail, Lazenby regrets his decision not to continue as Agent 007. The actor’s advice to Goldeneye star Pierce Brosnan? ”Do two.”