George Lazenby

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George Lazenby
GeorgeLazenby11.14.08ByLuigiNovi.jpg
Lazenby at the November 2008
Big Apple Con in Manhattan
BornGeorge Robert Lazenby
(1939-09-05) 5 September 1939 (age 74)
Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia
OccupationActor
Years active1965–2003, 2012–present
Notable work(s)James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Spouse(s)Christina Gannett (1971–1995)[citation needed]
Pam Shriver (2002–2008)
Children3[citation needed]
 
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George Lazenby
GeorgeLazenby11.14.08ByLuigiNovi.jpg
Lazenby at the November 2008
Big Apple Con in Manhattan
BornGeorge Robert Lazenby
(1939-09-05) 5 September 1939 (age 74)
Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia
OccupationActor
Years active1965–2003, 2012–present
Notable work(s)James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Spouse(s)Christina Gannett (1971–1995)[citation needed]
Pam Shriver (2002–2008)
Children3[citation needed]

George Robert Lazenby /ˈlzənbi/ (born 5 September 1939)[1] is an Australian actor and former model, best known for portraying James Bond in the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He remains one of the rare actors to have played Bond only once. He went on to a career in films and television, including several roles spoofing the James Bond character. His name has become a metaphor for actors of lesser standing who have given non-iconic performances in major media franchises.

Early life[edit]

Lazenby was born in Goulburn, New South Wales,[2] at Ovada Private Hospital, to railway worker George Edward Lazenby and Sheila Joan Lazenby (née Bodel), who worked at Fosseys. He went to Bourke Street School in his primary years, and Goulburn High until either 1953 or 1954. His sister, Barbara, was an accomplished dancer. When he was young he spent 18 months in hospital after having an operation which left him with only half a kidney.[3]

When Lazenby was about 13 he moved with his family from Goulburn to Queanbeyan, where his father ran a store. He worked as a car salesman and mechanic, before serving in the Australian Army. He moved to London in 1963.[4]

Career[edit]

Lazenby became a used car salesman in Finchley, then sold new cars in Park Lane. He was spotted by a talent scout who persuaded him to become a model, and he was soon earning £25,000 a year. He was best known for an advertisement for Big Fry Chocolate.[5]

James Bond (1969)[edit]

In 1968, after Sean Connery quit the role of James Bond, producer Albert R. Broccoli first met Lazenby when getting their hair cut at the same barber.[5] He later saw him in the Big Fry commercial and felt he could be a possible Bond, calling him in for a screen test.[6]

Lazenby dressed for the part by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit (ordered, but uncollected, by Connery).[7] Broccoli offered him an audition. The position was consolidated when Lazenby accidentally punched a professional wrestler, who was acting as stunt coordinator, in the face, impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression.[6][8] Lazenby won the role based on a screen-test fight scene, the strength of his interviews, fight skills and audition footage.[9] Director Peter R. Hunt later claimed:

We wanted someone who oozed sexual assurance, and we think this fellow has that. Just wait til the women see him on screen ... I am not saying he is an actor. There is a great deal of difference between an actor and a film star. Didn't they find Gary Cooper when he was an electrician?[10]

During the production of the film, Lazenby's voice was dubbed over with George Baker's[11] in scenes in which Bond impersonated Sir Hilary Bray (Baker's character), something not traditionally done with a leading actor whose original language is English. According to an interview, Lazenby experienced difficulties on the set stemming from director Hunt's refusal to speak directly with him, and Hunt's brusqueness in asking Lazenby's friends to clear the set before filming.[12][volume & issue needed]

Leaving Bond[edit]

In November 1969, prior to the release of the film, Lazenby announced that he no longer wished to play the role of James Bond due to his conflict with the film's producers,[dubious ] about whom he said, "They made me feel like I was mindless. They disregarded everything I suggested simply because I hadn't been in the film business like them for about a thousand years."[13]

His co-star Diana Rigg was among many who commented on this decision:

The role made Sean Connery a millionaire. It made Sean Connery ... I truly don't know what's happening in George's mind so I can only speak of my reaction. I think it's a pretty foolish move. I think if he can bear to do an apprenticeship, which everybody in this business has to do - has to do - then he should do it quietly and with humility. Everybody has to do it. There are few instant successes in the film business. And the instant successes one usually associates with somebody who is willing to learn anyway.[14]

Lazenby grew a beard and long hair. "Bond is a brute," he announced. "I've already put him behind me. I will never play him again. Peace - that's the message now."[15]

He later elaborated:

Fantasy doesn't interest me. Reality does. Anyone who's in touch with the kids knows what's happening, knows the mood. Watch pop music and learn what's going to happen. Most filmmakers don't watch and aren't in touch. People aren't going to films because filmmakers are putting out films people don't want to see. As for the so-called "Tomorrow movies" they are only tomorrow movies with yesterday directors ... Actors aren't all that important. Directors are. I'm terribly impressed with Dennis Hopper. I'd like to work for him. I also like Arthur Penn, John Schlesinger and Peter Yates ... What I'm going to do is look for a great director first, a good screenplay second. Meanwhile, no more Bond. I make better money doing commercials.[16]

At the time of the release of OHMSS, Lazenby's performance received mixed reviews. Some felt that, while he was physically convincing, some of his costumes were inappropriate ("too loud" according to some) and that he delivered his lines poorly.[17]

Others, however, have developed differing views in the decades since the film. In the 1998 book The Essential James Bond, Lee Pfeiffer and Dave Worrell write: "Although OHMSS was routinely dismissed by critics who cited Lazenby as a brave but disappointing successor to Connery, the intervening years have been notably kinder to both the film and its star. Indeed, due in no small part to Peter Hunt's inspired direction, OHMSS generally ranks among the top films with fans. Likewise, Lazenby has emerged as a very popular contributor to the series and has enjoyed large enthusiastic audiences during his appearances at Bond related events. In summary, OHMSS is a brilliant thriller in its own right and justifiably ranks amongst the best Bond films ever made".

In Roger Moore's commentary for a 2007 DVD release of The Man with the Golden Gun, he referenced George Lazenby as follows : "I have a great deal of e-mail contact with George Lazenby; he's sort of on the joke circuit ... that we simply send jokes to each other. OHMSS – very well made film – Peter Hunt – excellent, excellent, excellent fight stuff, excellent snow effects ... but I think the end result for George was that it was one of the better Bonds".

Cubby Broccoli told the press shortly after the film's release:

I don't agree with the Press. I think they should have given him A for Effort. It's true he's not Olivier but Olivier could not play Bond in any circumstances... John Aspinall's mother Lady Osborne told me she thought he was the best of the Bonds.[18]

Broccoli did admit though that he found Lazenby's post movie attitude annoying:

I find it incredible that a plum role can't be respected. We chose George because in his physique and his looks and his walk he was the best of the candidates. He had the masculinity. Looking at the film, to put it in an old Spanish phrase, one could wish he had less cojones and more charm.[18]

Although Lazenby had been offered a contract for seven movies, his agent, Ronan O'Rahilly, convinced him that the secret agent would be archaic in the liberated 1970s, and as a result he left the series after the release of On Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1969.[6] After this role Lazenby began to study drama at Durham University's College of the Venerable Bede.[19]

Lazenby has portrayed James Bond several times over the years in numerous parodies and unofficial 007 roles, most notably the 1983 television movie The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.' (in which his onscreen character is identified only by the initials "J.B."), 1996 video game Fox Hunt (parts of which were reedited into a feature film.[citation needed]) and an episode of The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, entitled "Diamonds Aren't Forever". In 2012 Lazenby made a guest appearance on the Canadian sketch comedy series This Hour Has 22 Minutes, spoofing the 007 series in a skit called Help, I've Skyfallen and I Can't Get Up.[20]

Although Eon Productions attempted on several occasions to cast Americans as Bond (most notably signing John Gavin for Diamonds Are Forever before the services of Sean Connery were obtained[21]). Lazenby remains the only actor from outside the British Isles to portray Bond in a Bond feature film.

Post-Bond career[edit]

Lazenby's first film after On Her Majesty's Secret Service was Universal Soldier (1971), which he helped write. He also appeared in an Italian film, then spent the next 15 months sailing around the world.[22] He then played a role in the BBC's Play For Today series in 1973, with Lazenby starring in Roger Smith's The Operation. Broccoli claims that Lazenby asked for another chance to play James Bond in 1971 but the producer refused.[23]

In 1973, Lazenby was set to work in Hong Kong with Bruce Lee. A planned meeting with Lee and producer Raymond Chow to discuss a movie project for the Golden Harvest film Game of Death collapsed after Lee's sudden death, although Lazenby would still go on to make three of the four films he signed to do with Lee in Hong Kong, The Shrine of Ultimate Bliss (1974), The Man from Hong Kong (1975) (also known as The Dragon Flies), and A Queen's Ransom (1976). Lazenby was only featured with archive footage[citation needed] when Game of Death was finally released in 1978, after a five-year delay caused by Lee's death while it was still in production.

In the mid-1970s, he appeared in a number of television movies shot in Australia, then he returned to Hollywood. In 1978, he took out an advertisement in Variety, offering himself for acting work. "If I could get a TV series or a good movie, I swear I'd do it for nothing," he told a journalist.[24]

Lazenby also made a guest appearance on the television series Superboy, playing as an alien disguised as Jor-El, Superboy's biological father, in a two-part episode story during the series' 1990 second season. He appeared with Sylvia Kristel in several new Emmanuelle films in the 1990s, many of which appeared on cable television. In the films, Lazenby plays a businessman who listens to Kristel's character recounting her sexual history; neither Lazenby nor Kristel participated in any of the films' frequent sexual scenes.[citation needed]

On 19 September 2013, comedian Jim Jefferies announced on Twitter that Lazenby would be playing his father in the upcoming Season 2 of his FX network sitcom "Legit." [25]

Influence on popular culture[edit]

Lazenby's singular portrayal of the iconic Bond character, and his lack of standing as a favourite in the series has resulted in his name being used as a metaphor for forgettable, non-iconic acting efforts in other entertainment franchises, and for entities that are largely ignored. In his review of Batman & Robin, widely regarded as the weakest and least successful film in the Batman film franchise, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said that George Clooney "should go down in history as the George Lazenby of the series."[26] Actor Paul McGann has described himself with good humour as "the George Lazenby of Doctor Who" because, although he has continued in the role of the Eighth Doctor in other media, he made only two appearances on TV as the Time Lord. In a September 2006 episode of The Daily Show, comedian John Oliver suggested that Pope Benedict XVI is the George Lazenby of the papacy, in comparison to "John Paul II's Sean Connery".[27]

In 2010 Roger Moore, who also played James Bond, provided the voice of a talking cat character named Tab Lazenby in the film Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, which contained several references to, and parodies of, Bond films.

Personal life[edit]

In 1973, Lazenby married his girlfriend of three years, Chrissie Townsend.[22] They subsequently divorced.

Lazenby later married former tennis player Pam Shriver. In August 2008, it was reported that Shriver had filed for divorce from Lazenby. Documents filed in Los Angeles Superior Court cite "irreconcilable differences" for the end of the couple's six-year marriage. The couple have three children, including twins born in 2005.[28]

Lazenby's autobiography, The Other Fella, is scheduled to be released in hardcover by Century in 2013, and in paperback by Arrow in 2013.[29]

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "George Lazenby biography". New York Times. accessed 4 June 2011.
  2. ^ Australian National Portrait Gallery. "Australians in Hollywood". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Megan Doherty, 'Former 007 Celebrates His 61st Birthday Back In Queanbeyan', The Canberra Times [Canberra, A.C.T] 10 Sep 2000: 3.
  4. ^ Gordon, Chris. "Lazenby’s Goulburn bond" Goulburn Post. 3 November 2010
  5. ^ a b Terry Coleman, '007 Mk2', The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 8 October 1968: 5
  6. ^ a b c Inside On Her Majesty's Secret Service (DVD). OHMSS Ultimate Edition DVD: MGM Home Entertainment Inc. 2000. 
  7. ^ De 'vergeten' 007. Andere Tijden, VPRO, Nederland 2 20:25–21:25.
  8. ^ ""Happy 69th Birthday, George Lazenby!" commanderbond.net; 5 September 2008". Commanderbond.net. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  9. ^ "George Lazenby". MI6-HQ.com. 5 September 1939. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  10. ^ 'Australian Non-Actor Chosen to Play James Bond', The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 09 Oct 1968: D14.
  11. ^ Copyright 1998–2010. "Information on ''Her Majesty's Secret Service'' at". MI6-HQ.com. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Interview in Bondage, magazine of the James Bond 007 Fan Club[volume & issue needed]
  13. ^ "Latest 007 Seeking to End His Bondage". Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Los Angeles, California. 24 Nov 1969: 2.
  14. ^ Gene Siskel, 'The Movies: What's New, Diana?', Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 3 December 1969: c10
  15. ^ 'Glenn Takes Flier as Anti-Flight Hero', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 Dec 1969: 26a.
  16. ^ Wayne Warga, 'Movies: Why the New 007 Gave Up Role After Only 001 Film', Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 01 Feb 1970: d18.
  17. ^ Lipp 159
  18. ^ a b Of human Bondage. The Sunday Times (London, England), Sunday, December 21, 1969; pg. 11; Issue 7647. (453 words)
  19. ^ Durham Rooms, Accessed 31 October 2010.
  20. ^ "Help, I've Skyfallen and I Can't Get Up" (in English). This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Season 20. Episode 9. 27 November 2012. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/videos/clips---season-20/james-bond-spoof.html.
  21. ^ Inside Diamonds Are Forever: Diamonds Are Forever Ultimate Edition, Disc 2 (DVD). MGM/UA Home Video. 2000. ASIN: B000LY2L1Q. 
  22. ^ a b "George Lazenby takes a new domestic role.". The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982) (1933 - 1982: National Library of Australia). 17 October 1973. p. 2. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  23. ^ Evans, Peter (25 July 1971). "Has Time Banked the Fires of Sexy Agent 007?: Banking the Fires of Agent 007". Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Los Angeles, California. s1.
  24. ^ Bob Wisehart, 'Movies: 007 rises, falls, then rises again', Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 10 Sep 1978: e23.
  25. ^ https://twitter.com/jimjefferies/status/380886173851193344
  26. ^ Mick LaSalle (20 June 1997). "Batman Chills Out". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  27. ^ "Byzantine Logic". The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. 19 September 2006
  28. ^ "Pam Shriver files for divorce from former Bond George Lazenby" The Australian 8 August 2008
  29. ^ "George Lazenby's autobiography 'The Other Fella' to be published in 2012". MI6. accessed 15 August 2011.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Sean Connery
1962–1967
Eon Productions James Bond actor
1969
Succeeded by
Sean Connery
1971
Preceded by
Marlon Brando
Jor-El Actor
1990
Succeeded by
David Warner