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  24 October 2015  

Would-be Bond
Never-before-seen 1970 James Bond Screentest Surfaces!

Diamonds Are Forever UK Quad poster

During the shooting of Sean Connery’s fifth James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, on location in Japan, there were rumblings that this was to be Connery’s final fling as secret agent 007. The Scottish actor had grown restless and disgruntled with the role as the production time of each film had grown longer and longer, leaving him little time to consider other film roles – and he also believed he was being short-changed by the producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. True to his word, at the Royal World Charity Premiere of the film at the Odeon Leicester Square on Monday June 12th 1967, when asked by Her Majesty The Queen, “I understand this to be your last Bond film.” “Yes ma’am, this is definitely the last time for me!” he replied.

With Sean Connery’s departure from the role the producers searched high and low for their new Bond until Australian male model George Lazenby talked his way into the role for the sixth James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Although the film was far from being a box-office flop, it didn’t match the returns of the preceding two films; this fact, together with Lazenby’s mercurial personality, and that he decided to walk away from the role after only one appearance as 007, meant for the second time in two years the producers were back to square one looking for a new Bond.

1970 Roger Green Screentest - Imogen Hassall

Sometime during 1970, the Bond filmmakers EON Productions began screen testing various likely looking actors for the 007 role. None of the actors screen tested were ever revealed – until now!

Enter New Zealander Roger Green – ex-All Blacks rugby union player, ex-sheep farmer, and hard-drinking party animal and womaniser! After appearing in the 1970 film Waterloo, which enabled him to become a member of British Actors Equity, Green appeared in Frederick Proud’s Soho Theatre Company production The Immortals as ‘The Wild Man’ and ‘The Ferryman of Utnapishtim’.

Roger Green remembers: “About that Time I was invited by the BBC to take part in a short film for the James Mossman literary programme on BBC2. I played the part of the lead Troglodyte in a tale based on The Iliad and The Odyssey; again an immortal man! I remember production had to keep me warm with copious quantities of brandy as it can be very cold on the Devon Coast under the rain machine without clothes waiting for the director to ask for the camera’s to roll! I began to feel immortal and felt perhaps there might be some truth in it! Nobody told me I was to be fully nude (as was the state of undress of the other troglodytes) on the location, lounging about on the Devon coast in and out of some caves. Well, as they say, if the cause is worthy go with the flow, and everybody sang the praises of James Mossman’s literary programme in the 70s.The irony of it was that on the exact same time of the broadcast of the Mossman programme, Miss World was on BBC1. Fortunately very few watched the first full frontal male nude on British television. Perhaps Broccoli & Saltzman did!! At the time I was called to test for Bond I was up for the lead male role opposite Catherine Deneuve in Leonore, an ancient Sumerian epic to be directed by the great Spanish director Luis Bunuel. I was being looked at mainly because as a New Zealand sheep farmer I was an accomplished horseman and the role called for most scenes on horseback. Apparently the funding never came through but my ego was flattered meeting the great man and his wife at the Dorchester on a couple of occasions.”

Roger Green Screentest/Diamonds Are Forever

“I could never understand what the Bond producers saw in me, as I’m well aware that drama school and lots of training and experience were required before one succeeded in this cutthroat business, where only ten percent of actors are in work at any one time. Still, who was I to complain; I did not lie to Broccoli & Saltzman, and as a New Zealand Sheep farmer foot loose in the drawing rooms of Belgravia I was having a ball – the swinging 60s were in full flight; and there were hundreds of actresses around and most of the guys seemed to be gay! I did take some private drama lessons from Barbara Francis, a former teacher at Central School of Drama, and that possibly stood me in good stead, but not enough to win me roles when competing with the likes of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed, although I was probably partaking in as much beverage alcohol as Reed was!!”

Roger Green screentest/Jill St. John & Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever

“My friend Johnny Harrison was a theatrical agent working for Richard Armitage (Noel Gay Organization) and he felt I would “make a good Bond.” He persuaded me to have a photo taken and he sent it to Dyson Lovell who was the casting director associated with Broccoli & Saltzman. I met with Cubby Broccoli in London and then with Harry Saltzman & co separately. Broccoli thanked me for coming and pointed out they were considering me for the role of James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever.

I proceeded to try and impress him with my acting ability by embellishing my very small acting CV. I was well relieved when Broccoli said, “we are not so concerned with your acting ability, after all, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service made more money at the box office than any other film in 1970 – we are more interested in how athletic you are?” This was music to my ears as I had just completed a successful rugby career where I had achieved near All Black status at an early age and had played for the Junior All Blacks against the touring British Lions in 1959. I told Broccoli of this and the meeting ended with Broccoli saying, “I want you to meet my partner Harry Saltzman,” and he promptly made an appointment for me to meet Saltzman. My memory is not accurate on whether Broccoli told me or whether others did but I learned that Saltzman & Broccoli rarely talked directly with each other but lived almost opposite each other in the West End.”

Roger Green screentest - Bob Simmons as Peter Franks

“The meeting with Harry Saltzman was held around his board room table with Dyson Lovell, director Guy Hamilton and others present. They asked me if I felt I could do this role. Of course I said “yes.” They then handed me the script of the forthcoming screen test to be held at Pinewood Studios at 6am on the date nominated. I was asked to have a haircut with their favourite barber. Well, I was walking on air as you might imagine. I had lots to do (in an otherwise empty diary!). I got together with a girlfriend and rehearsed the scene. Another actress friend introduced me to a stuntman (the test called for me as Bond to fight with another man) and this man taught me how to react in a staged fight in front of cameras.”

Bob Simmons

Sean Connery as James Bond with Joe Robinson as Peter Franks

Roger Green/Bob Simmons Diamonds Are Forever Screentest

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Imogen Hassall

“I turned up at Pinewood in a suit and tie and proceeded to take the test. The very lovely Imogen Hassall (pictured left) was playing the role of Tiffany Case that morning in the tests (I believe there were several other tests shot that morning). The Bond main stunt-arranger and stuntman Bob Simmons took the part of Peter Franks, the character who Bond is impersonating, and who proceeds to take a swing at Bond. The test is only a few minutes long. It begins with Bond pouring himself a drink and lighting a cigarette with Tiffany Case in her boudoir wearing a negligee. Dialogue takes place between them when there is a knock at the door and Tiffany asks Bond to “See who that is will you!” Bond opens the door, Bob Simmons introduces himself and proceeds to swing at Bond, who of course does not let up until the intruder is lying dead on the floor (after several karate chops etc. from Bond). Bond straightens his tie and both he and Tiffany look down on the intruder’s body. Tiffany asks who he is and Bond says, “I’ve tangled with him before. Bond, British agent!” Tiffany says: “James Bond? The famous double-o seven licenced to kill?” “Oh, you’ve heard of him!” Bond replies. Cut!”

“After the first take I asked the director Guy Hamilton if he wanted to “go again” and he said no they had enough in the can. This surprised me but upon seeing the take I was not surprised as it stood up well. The audition ended with Guy Hamilton saying, “I want to tell you, you have a great chance of getting this part, we will get back in touch with your agent.” Need I say it! For this sheep farmer on extended holiday in the UK this was certainly an event to cause me to walk on air for the next three months.”

Roger Green screentest - Diamonds Are Forever 1970
Roger Green

“I understood that Roger Moore was also up for the role but his inclusion was not serious at that time. I was told by my agent that all the others tested were “let go” one-by-one over the next three months. I was quite confident but was realistic enough to realize the odds were great that I would not get the part, after all I was not a trained actor, nor had I sought the role in the first place. I had always felt I could make a good job of it if invited. Then eventually I read in the press that Sean Connery was to be the next Bond; he had done a deal with United Artists to return one final time in Diamonds Are Forever, and they would also finance two other non-Bond movies he was interested in. I was at last “let go”! My agent said that Hamilton, Broccoli and Saltzman had wished me to play the role but United Artists had said, “Not another unknown antipodean actor please!!”

John Gavin - contracted to play James Bond 007 in 1970

“Unusually, the production company gave me a copy of my screentest, which I’ve watched again recently – it really stands up pretty well!”

Unbeknown to Roger Green, sometime after his screen test the American actor John Gavin (pictured left) was actually signed and put under contract to play James Bond by Cubby Broccoli, but United Artist’s President, David Picker, countermanded Broccoli’s decision and insisted they get Sean Connery back in the role and that the majority of the film should be set and shot in the USA. Ex-Bond girl Ursula Andress was asked by Picker to put United Artist’s enticing deal to Sean Connery – a $1.25 million-dollar salary, a bonus if the shoot went longer than scheduled, a back-end percentage (12.5% of the gross), contractual freedom from having to talk to the producers (with whom he was feuding at the time), and United Artists would also finance two other film projects of Connery’s choice. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse!

Producer Albert R. Broccoli insisted that John Gavin be paid-out the full salary called for in his contract – and the actor still receives residuals today from a film in which he never appeared.

Roger Green, now aged 77, lives in New Zealand where he runs his family’s land company and is also a clinician working in the field of drug and alcohol dependency.

007 MAGAZINE would like to thank Roger Green, Sylvan Mason and Robert Sellers in the preparation of this article.

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Diamonds Are Forever FACT FILE