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Lazenby spied chance at stardom as Bond, chucked it away




Photo: Archive Photos, Getty Images

George Lazenby takes aim as he has a showdown with Spectre Chief Blofeld in a scene from the film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, 1969.

George Lazenby takes aim as he has a showdown with Spectre Chief…

Australian George Lazenby became famous for doing something and became even more famous for never doing it again.

Lazenby, of course, was the former car mechanic turned model who played James Bond in just one film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” in the long-running franchise, and turned down a chance to make a lot of money playing Agent 007 in six more films. With that 1969 film, he became the second actor after Sean Connery to play Bond, James Bond.

No one could understand why he gave up what seemed like the chance of a lifetime, but in the intervening years, the name George Lazenby has become a punchline for comics and late-night TV hosts.

Now 77, Lazenby sits down and tells his story to filmmaker Josh Greenbaum in the film “Becoming Bond,” available on Hulu on Saturday, May 20. At times, the real story reads like a treatment for a James Bond film, so much so that we hear Greenbaum asking Lazenby if in fact he’s telling the truth. His story has it all: international travel, an average bloke rising to the heights of fame, fancy cars, fancy hotel rooms and women — lots and lots of women. Ian Fleming himself could have written Lazenby’s story, or so it seems at times.

As a kid, Lazenby underwent kidney surgery 67 times and was left with only half of one kidney. The doctors told his parents he’d be lucky to live beyond 12.

“Subconsciously there’s a part of me that said I’d better get on with life,” Lazenby says.

He should have said “get it on,” because that’s what he seems to have done frequently while traveling the world as a model, visiting countless bedrooms with countless beautiful women.

Even Lazenby’s latter-day-Tom Jones story would be fairly boring if we just listened to a genial white-haired Aussie talk to the camera. But Greenbaum takes a hybrid approach, weaving Lazenby’s account in with re-created scenes from Lazenby as a young man, convincingly played by Josh Lawson.

The re-creations are frothy and funny, organized in chapters whose titles are take-offs on titles of actual James Bond films. Greenbaum also includes archival footage of the real Lazenby acting in commercials and talking to David Frost about walking away from his movie career.

The whole point of the film is that Lazenby’s life was a series of happy accidents. He did what he wanted to do, had a lot of fun, played Bond, turned down a million-dollar signing bonus and a chance to star in more films, and went back to his life. He eventually married, had kids, got into real estate and enjoyed motocross.

But there is an underlying poignancy to the story: the girl who got away. She was a young woman named Belinda (Kassandra Clementi), daughter of a wealthy, politically connected Australian family. They were in love, they lived together, but eventually he lost her, because he got distracted by a fling with a German model and by his moment in the sun as James Bond.

Still, he has no regrets, or so he says, but then he wipes away a tear talking about Belinda.

George Lazenby did become Bond once, but he’s spent more than seven decades becoming Lazenby, and in the end, maybe that’s more valuable. We’ll never know, nor will George Lazenby.


David Wiegand is an assistant managing editor and the TV critic of The San Francisco Chronicle. Follow him on Facebook. Email: dwiegand@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV


POLITE APPLAUSEBecoming Bond: Documentary, available for streaming Saturday, May 20, on Hulu



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