I just finished watching “Becoming Bond”, an original Hulu documentary about the amazing life of George Lazenby, the swinging 60’s bachelor who played 007 just one time, in the terrific “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” From one perspective, he was an absolute idiot who squandered the chance of a lifetime. But we aren’t limited to one perspective, and it is possible to extract a totally different meaning from his story.
The 60’s were a time of social reinvention of sex roles, power, and society. Questions of identity and reality, fueled by fear of an apparently unwinnable overseas war, the civil rights movement in America, and the blossoming of psychedelic culture. Due to a set of bizarrely unlikely circumstances, this auto mechanic from Australia became a male model in London and Europe, and then when Sean Connery quit the Bond movies, won a freak opportunity to screen test for 007.
His natural arrogance and a certain level of naivete led him to con producers Saltzman and Broccolli into thinking he was an experienced actor. And based on that lie, the gates of heaven opened to him, and he was the man with the license to kill.
The problem is that there is always a dual challenge to life: the OUTER game of “success” and the INNER game of being an authentic, adult human being.
If an experienced actor like Christopher Lee was “spun” by making “Man With The Golden Gun”, found it disorientingly huge, imagine what it was like for Lazenby: all of the sex, and power, and fame. All the voices whispering in his hear that he was the greatest thing in the world. In a way, he didn’t have the emotional skill to keep the worlds separate. So he “methoded” his way into the role.
Unable to ACT Bond, to the limit of his ability he BECAME Bond: doing his own stunts (when possible), refusing to cooperate with the director, screwing every woman in sight, arrogantly demanding every perk Connery had had. His entire plan had been “fake it til you make it”
And it seems he was quite isolated from anyone who could have grounded him, no family, no real friends, just people who saw him as a commodity. Mistakes, as they say, were made. Wow, were they.
And eventually the movie was finished, and the producers must have been happy, because they offered him a six-picture contract and that aforementioned under-the-table cash.
And this is where you can ask what decision would have been best for him…and we’ll never know, precisely. It is easy to say he made a mistake, as he certainly became a punch-line and laughing stock. But just for the sake of fun, let’s look at it another way:
He did not have the resources or experience, the wisdom or talent to BOTH be true to himself AND carry a world-wide franchise. People die on that mountain. The process of life crushes ego and false identity, and having that happen in the glare of the spotlight can prove fatal.
What we know is that he turned it all down, and as a result of his behavior and choices, he is blacklisted. The horror of his situation had to have peaked about the time he lied his way into a movie deal with Bruce Lee, who died just before their movie was about to begin!
But…life went on. He married, was successful in real estate, and lived an adventurous, athletic life on his own terms. Does he wish he’d done things differently? He said he would have made one more Bond movie, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. But his attitudes is that he might not be an actor…but he is an original.
He’s Lazenby. George Lazenby.