Above: Actor George Lazenby at the November 2008 Big Apple Convention in Manhattan.
When Sean Connery announced his retirement form the James Bond films after You Only Live Twice (1967) and Timothy Dalton who was the favoured replacement counted himself out for being too young, Cubby Broccoli began to seriously consider a young Australian as a possible replacement for the sixth Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
George Lazenby was born on the 5th of September, 1939 in Queanbeyan, Australia. His parents were George Edward Lazenby, a railway worker, and Sheila Joan Lazenby. He started his early education at Bourke Street School and then progressed to Goulburn high until he was 15 when his family moved back to Queanbeyan.
After serving in the army, he moved to London in 1963 where he initially worked as a car salesman before becoming a model. In that role he achieved considerable success and after a year of staring in a number of commercials he made his film debut, an Italian spoof of James Bond titled Espionage in Tangiers.
George Lazenby was brought to the attention of Broccoli, who was desperate to find a replacement for Connery. Invited to screen test, Lazenby acquired a Saville Row suit ordered by Sean Connery but never collected, a Rolex watch, and had his hair cut short to look the part.
He won the role thanks to his looks, a commanding presence, strong fighting skills – he accidentally punched the fight coordinator in the face the screen test, which impressed Broccoli no end – and his composure during interviews.
Despite the success of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the fact that he had been offered a seven movie contract, George Lazenby opted out of continuing his portrayal of Bond. There were several reasons given for this decision; one of these was the tense relationship between him and the Peter R. Hunt, the director, during the shooting of the movie.
Lazenby was upset with the director’s refusal to address him directly throughout most of the shoot; another reason for his refusal to continue with the series was his belief in the views of his agent who insisted that the Bond franchise was singing its swan song and would be unable to maintain the same success in the 1970s.
Although, many would later consider On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to be one of the finest Bond films made, the film was received with less enthusiasm when it was first released. Reviewers faulted Lazenby’s approach and inevitably compared him with Sean Connery.
Having finished with James Bond, George Lazenby acted in several movies within Asia and the United States for the next decade and gained a little recognition with his Bond Parodies and the movie The Return of the Man from UNCLE.Photo by Nightscream reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.