To a generation he is the most hated Bond, the failed attempt to replace Sean Connery in this prestigious role. But give Lazenby some cred.
The late Sixties were a perilous time for the franchise: after five movies Connery was done and wanted to move onto other projects. Lazenby, an Australian model and fighting instructor, came to be the next Bond. Some say it was because Bond producer Albert Broccoli met him over lunch. Another story claims Lazenby walked into Broccoli’s office sporting a Bond haircut and one of Connery’s uncollected Savile Row suits. All agree, though, that during the screen test he broke a stuntman’s nose. Lazenby had no prior acting experience, but his physical presence won him the job.
Many Bond fans would hold this against Lazenby, as well as the fact that at 29 he was (and still is) the youngest Bond actor. But those were just excuses for pre-existing vitriol: people starting hating on him even before On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – his only Bond appearance – was released.
True to his screen test, Lazenby was a much more physical Bond than Connery. But the man also had some acting talent and could carry the drama of a more sombre Bond story, in which he meets (and loses) his wife. He also displayed far more of the dry wit that Roger Moore would later make synonymous with the series, though it’s fair to say Moore totally owns that part of the franchise.
It’s hard to judge Lazenby on one film, so that also deserves some scrutiny. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was a refreshing break from the increasingly stale Connery films. It was shot in a more contemporary fashion, staged truly excessive action sequences (for some scenes a cameraman was suspended underneath a helicopter) and a surprisingly hands-on arch-villain in Telly Savalas’ Ernst Blofeld. Though Lazenby and director Peter Hunt did not get along, they forged a new direction for Bond that was entirely lost when the producers balked because of under performing box-office earnings (but the movie was still a big hit). Instead Bond’s keepers stuck to convention, which was only shaken up when Timothy Dalton arrived as Bond in the mid-Eighties and required Pierce Brosnan to really be purged.
Some wonder what may have happened if Lazenby stuck around for a second Bond. In retrospect between the tall order of replacing Connery and navigating a franchise stuck in two realities (50s machismo and 70s eccentricity), Lazenby got squeezed out. But he does not deserve the reputation as the series pariah.
Last Updated: November 24, 2015