Sunday, May 28, 2017

Becoming Bond Is The Bond Film George Lazenby Needed To Make

George Lazenby has spent four decades as an enigma. An Australian actor who was plucked from nowhere to play James Bond, Lazenby famously rejected an offer to continue starring as the secret agent following On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and never reached the same level of fame he briefly touched in 1969. Lazenby provides his version of events and sheds light on why he walked away from the iconic 007 role in the Hulu documentary Becoming Bond.

A colorful film, Lazenby is the sole voice in Becoming Bond. The actor, then 76 years old, sat in front of a camera and gave some wildly entertaining stories as he described a journey from Australia to the U.K. and his accidental ascendency into becoming James Bond. The movie flashes from Lazenby’s interview to actors playing out his narrative. Jeff Garlin, Dana Carvey, and former Bond Girl Jane Seymour are among those who act out his colorful anecdotes.

The tales Lazenby spins in Becoming Bond reach such moments of ridiculousness that the interviewer asks him if the stories are real. Lazenby simply replies, “How could I remember it if it wasn’t true?”

From being born with half of a kidney to bringing a bag of bats to school, Lazenby paints the picture of a rambunctious youth. After working his way from being an auto mechanic to a car salesman, the Australian chased the daughter of the Governor General of New South Wales to the U.K., where he eventually found work as a male model. Lazenby details exploits and acid trips during the Sexual Revolution that are more Austin Powers than James Bond. His stories are so enjoyable that even if they are fairly inventive it does not subtract from the entertainment value of Becoming Bond.

By 2017 we have become accustomed to the idea of a new Bond, but at the time of his casting Lazenby was replacing the Bond – Sean Connery. How Lazenby was chosen for the role even involved some enjoyable chicanery. He swiped a suit belonging to Connery and lied about his acting experience (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was his first film). After filming On Her Majesty’s Secret Service without a contract, he turned down a multi-picture deal and a one-million dollar bonus.

Passing on that deal cemented his place as an anomaly. Who in their right mind would pass on a chance at this type success?

This part of the documentary is the definitive part of Becoming Bond. The film provides Lazenby with the appropriate forum to explain his decision to abscond from the role of 007 within the context of his life story. He describes the decision as being a more instinctual one. Acting as James Bond was never his end goal and that it did not feel right to continue. Lazenby acknowledges the missed financial security more films would have provided, but a greater moment of truth comes as he offers advice to his audience. As the film concludes the Australian looks at the camera and says “Defy what is expected of you and write your own story.”

In its own way, Becoming Bond allowed Lazenby to do just that. Through the documentary format he built up a renegade image that went far beyond the norm. The Aussie has a rebellious quality that could be revealed in something as minute as growing a beard against the wishes of his producers. Lazenby’s confidence allowed him to finagle his way into being Bond, but it also ultimately played a role in him leaving the franchise after just one flick.

Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig have all left their own stamp on the film series. Because he played Bond only once, Lazenby and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service have unfairly been estranged as the outcasts of the 007 films. Becoming Bond allowed Lazenby to bolster his image as a renegade and redefine his legacy in the Bond franchise. 

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