George Lazenby visits the Alex for a screening of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’
By Carl Kozlowski 04/04/2013
Many entertainers have become icons for making the right career moves. But George Lazenby has become iconic for just the opposite reason.
As a rising model during London’s Swinging ’60s, Lazenby found himself plucked from relative obscurity and handed the role of the world’s most famous spy when Sean Connery backed out of playing James Bond. But after starring in just one Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” he found himself thrust out of stardom as he turned down a new offer and Connery agreed to take the role back.
Since then, Lazenby, 73 and the father of three kids under 8, has managed to keep working consistently as an actor in productions in the US and abroad. He’ll be appearing at a screening of his Bond film at Glendale’s Alex Theatre as part of a Tuesday night screening series spotlighting Bond films and their actors and participating in a question and answer session afterward.
“I thought I kept it in perspective, but I was being advised by a guy who had launched a lot of British pop groups,” Lazenby recalls. “He said Bond was about war and violence and the world was changing to embrace peace and love. I listened to him and never signed a contract for another. That’s when all the chaos started, because I thought I could just walk into another movie, but it took me a decade for Hollywood to work with me again.”
The pursuit of more peaceful acting work was a decision in tune with Lazenby’s real-life personality. He arrived at his audition for Bond with long hair and sideburns that were reflective of his self-described hippie lifestyle, an era that he recalls as “the happiest time of my life, because there was no fear of violence and guns the way there is now.”
Hiring Lazenby after seeing him get so into the role that he accidentally punched a stuntman at his audition, longtime Bond producer Cubby Broccoli quickly gave him voice lessons and fancy clothing, then had his long hair cut “to a 1920s style,” as the actor put it. However, Lazenby soon found himself in the middle of onset clashes with his director, Peter Hunt, which led to Hunt refusing to communicate directly with his own star.
But even with the notoriety of making the often misunderstand move of walking away from Bond, Lazenby believes that closing that door opened others that were just as important to him.
“I just saw where the current Bond got $1 million just to pose with a Range Rover for just an hour,” says Lazenby. “I turned down a commercial for $80,000 then, which would probably be a million today. But it’s hard to regret your life because I wouldn’t have the kids I have now. It was meant to be.”
The Alex Theatre presents the James Bond 50th Anniversary Series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through April 30, with “Octopussy” April 9; “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and an evening with George Lazenby at 7:30 p.m. April 16; “Diamonds Are Forever” at 7:30 p.m. April 23; and “Live and Let Die” April 30. All shows are at the Alex, located at 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. For more information, call (818) 243-2539 or visit alextheatre.org.