George Lazenby: The unsung Bond
Sean Connery played James Bond six times (seven if you count 1983's ''Never Say Never Again''). Roger Moore held the role for seven films, Timothy Dalton for two, Pierce Brosnan for four, and Daniel Craig for three. Then there's George Lazenby — who famously played Bond only once. That may lead you to believe that the Australian actor was a double-0-dud. But ''On Her Majesty'''s Secret Service is now regarded as one of the saga's underrated gems. EW called the 72-year-old actor at his L.A. home to talk about his brief but memorable moment as 007.
Is it true you’d never acted before when you were cast as Bond?
George Lazenby I was a car salesman. One day a photographer came in and asked if he could take some pictures of me. I thought, “This guy is weird, but I’ll do anything to sell a car.” So I started modeling. A while later, I was playing volleyball in the south of France and heard they were looking for a new James Bond, so I got an English haircut and an English suit made and snuck into the audition. I was scared s—less. I was way out of my league.
What was your screen test like?
Lazenby I had to do a fight scene and I knocked the guy out. I had only been in real fights. You were supposed to miss by four inches, but I got so excited that I hit him on the chin. I thought, ”S—, I’m in trouble now.” But they loved it.
Why do you think people have come to embrace On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
Lazenby Because of me! No, it’s not me. It’s the only film that treats him like a human being. He’s not a robot killer like the latest Bond. They offered me millions under the table to do another one, but I thought James Bond was over. Easy Rider was the No. 1 movie. Everyone was smoking marijuana, and that was the furthest thing from a James Bond movie. So I didn’t sign the contract. I was badly treated after that. They told the press that I was difficult to handle, so it was hard to find work.
How did you feel about replacing Sean Connery?
Lazenby What did I have to lose? I did all of my own stunts, and I kept asking the director, ”Did the other fellow have to do this?” That’s why that line is in the film: ”This never happened to the other fellow.” It made me so famous that when I went back to Australia, well, let’s just say I didn’t have any trouble getting laid.
Did you regret not playing Bond again?
Lazenby Yeah, I regretted it many times. Especially when I had a baby and another one in the pouch, and I was broke. I was living with my mother in Australia.
What do you think of the recent Bond films with Daniel Craig?
LazenbyHe’s a fantastic actor, but they’re more violent, aren’t they? It’s the way our society has gone. You can’t have someone who’s got feelings now. Bond has to be able to shoot someone now and kiss a girl three minutes later. When I did it, it had more heart. There’s no heart to the new Bond.
Tell me about your costar Diana Rigg.
LazenbyWe were going to have an affair as long as I didn’t mess around with other girls. I was screwing around with a girl in the stunt tent, and Diana was walking past and I was busted. So the deal was off. [Rigg could not be reached for comment.]
What are you up to now?
LazenbyI’m scratching my head, thinking, ””What do I want to do now?” Because I’ve done everything I ever wanted to do. There’s no challenges besides writing my [memoir], which I’m avoiding like the plague.