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James Bond star George Lazenby on stage at the American Cinematheque

FRIDAY JUNE 17, 2011

STEVE RUBIN hosted an interview with one-time James Bond actor, and reports for 007 MAGAZINE.

Nearly 42 years after the nationwide debut of the sixth James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, actor George Lazenby took the stage at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood this past June 17th as part of an American Cinematheque Father’s Day weekend tribute to 007. Fondly remembering the days of Bond with a dose of bravado and candor, George had the packed audience rolling in the aisles - even though he was suffering from laryngitis.

Raspy, but determined, he first talked a little about the ending of the movie where his new bride, Tracy (Diana Rigg) is murdered by Irma Bunt. “Diana bit me in the leg,” he remembered, “she was trying to get me to cry. But it wasn’t necessary.” Was there any possibility of a real life romance for the two leads? George indicated that if he wasn’t so ardently interested in pursuing all the other eligible women on the shoot, he might have had a shot with Ms. Rigg.

One of the key questions George has had to deal with over the years concerns his reasons for leaving the Bond series. Of course, the smoke screen was that he was fired by producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, but in reality he walked away from the role.

Today, George admits that he received some bad advice from Irish businessman, Ronan O’Rahilly, who convinced him that Bond was hopelessly out of style and ready for the scrapheap. So, despite the fact that he had a $1 million offer on the table to resume the 007 character, he walked. The other fact that George pointed out on the stage of the Egyptian that night was that he was the only man in London, at that time, with a short haircut and conservative dress. As Bond, he felt totally out of synch with the rest of England and, thus, he was happy to quit.

George Lazenby interviewed at the American Cinematheque by Steve Rubin

He also confirmed that although director Peter Hunt was instrumental in recommending that George play James Bond, he had virtually no relationship with Hunt during the filming. “He never spoke to me, almost from the beginning,” George said.

When I interviewed Hunt back in the 1970s, he explained that because George had virtually no acting experience when he won the role, his strategy was to stay away from his leading man, in effect, keep him off balance and upset most of the time so that he would be able to give a performance. George didn’t necessarily disagree with that assessment.

Lazenby did confirm that when he applied for the role, he gave Broccoli & Saltzman a bunch of phony acting credits in Russian and Asian films, that would be difficult to check. When he eventually told Hunt that he had no acting experience, Hunt went crazy but told George to shut up about it – he would help him get through the film.

Further souring George on Bond was the cult of celebrity and the constant intrusions on his privacy. “The first few times it was kind of fun, but after that, I didn’t like it one bit.” (which echoes the reasons why Sean Connery left the series, that and the enormously long shoots).

James Bond On Her Majesty's Secret Service George Lazenby starred as James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
Steve Rubin interviewed George Lazenby at the American Cinematheque 007 star George Lazenby

As to everyone’s favorite line in the film, “This never happened to the other feller” – George insisted that it was a running phrase on the film when he insisted on doing most of his own stunts.

Ostracized by Hunt and Rigg, Lazenby admitted he spent most of his time with the crew, a group of decent guys with whom he felt a strong sense of camaraderie. “We would be standing out there shivering during the shoot in Switzerland, waiting for Diana, Peter Hunt and the others to come out of their heated trailers.”

As for Telly Savalas, George remembered him as that “Greek gambler”, who took most of his per diem money in a series of card games.

Despite those tempestuous relationships with Broccoli, Saltzman, Hunt and Rigg, George, on the whole, had fond memories of his one stint as James Bond and regrets the decisions he made to leave the series.

After about forty minutes of rasping through a bunch of questions, George excused himself, he needed to get back to bed, and he was preparing to spend three weeks with his three young children who were staying with him, while his ex-wife Pam Shriver jetted to Europe.

Meanwhile, he is working on his memoirs and hopes to have them out soon.

One-time James Bond George Lazenby


Courtesy of American Cinematheque


George Lazenby FACT FILE