The real reason George Lazenby quit as James Bond after just one film, producer called hiring him ‘biggest mistake in 16 years’
Such was the animosity between director Peter Hunt and actor George Lazenby on the sets of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service -- Lazenby’s only film as James Bond -- that when a stunt director told Hunt that Lazenby could have hurt himself while filming a difficult sequence, Hunt’s response, according to the actor, was, “No one’s seen him yet. If we kill him, we could do it all over again.”
Producer Albert Broccoli, in a Los Angeles Times interview, would call casting the Australian actor the “biggest mistake in 16 years. He just couldn’t deal with success. He was so arrogant. There was the stature and looks of a Bond, but Lazenby couldn’t get along with the other performers and technicians.”
But Lazenby didn’t want to be stuck playing Bond. Inspired by the counterculture movement of the 60s, he wanted to be like Clint Eastwood. In an interview to the Guardian in 2017, he said, “I had advice that James Bond was over anyway. It was Sean Connery’s gig and, being in the 60s, it was love, not war. You know, hippy time. And I bought into that. They also said there’s a guy called Clint Eastwood doing movies in Italy, getting 500 grand for a month, for doing a western. They said, you could do that. So I didn’t feel like I was losing the million dollars.”
“They offered me millions of dollars under the table to do another one,” Lazenby told the Los Angeles Times in 2013. There was talk of a seven-film contract.
“They made me feel like I was mindless,” Lazenby recalled to the Guardian. “They disregarded everything I suggested, simply because I hadn’t been in the film business like them for about a thousand years. What I’m going to do is look for a great director first, a good screenplay second. Meanwhile, no more Bond. I make better money doing commercials.”
But Lazenby had difficulty finding work after his lone outing as Bond. He was reduced to taking out an ad in Variety in 1978, asking to be hired, while working in obscure Hong Kong movies and small projects back in Australia. He later admitted that quitting Bond was a mistake.
According to fellow Bond actor Roger Moore, “George took some bad advice. I knew George then and have met him many times since. He admits he made a mistake.” Lazenby’s co-star, Diana Rigg, said in a 2011 interview to the BBC, “Poor old George. I don’t know what he’s doing now, but he was definitely the architect of his own demise as a film star. I think he needed help, not in the acting – he was really quite good, wasn’t he? And attractive and sexy. He was just difficult offstage. He kind of thought he was a film star immediately and started throwing his weight around.”
Lazenby said in 2017 that he hasn’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in three decades, and is focussing on his family. “When I wouldn’t sign the contract, they put out the word that I was difficult to handle – and no film company wants to know about that, so I couldn’t get a job for years. So, I gave up looking,” Lazenby told the Sydney Morning Herald. “There’s an element of me that thinks I should have done two Bond films to prove that they didn’t get rid of me. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have the life I’ve had. I have beautiful kids, which I may not have had if I continued with Bond. Instead, I was Bond-ing with my children.”
The producers asked original Bond actor Sean Connery to return to play the character one more time after Lazenby’s unexpected departure. The series was then rebooted with Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
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