“... when OHMSS
was released, it was immediately apparent that a serious error in casting
had been made. First, Lazenby was simply too young for the part, his face
suggesting none of the necessary Bondian world-weariness or ruthlessness.
Secondly, his voice, despite the crash elocution course, was totally
wrong, particularly when his underlying Australian accent broke through as
it frequently did (an Australian James Bond was a contradiction in
terms)... Thirdly, and most importantly, it was obvious that Lazenby
lacked training as an actor. Putting it bluntly, his performance was both
awkward and wooden, and whatever the certain ‘something’ was that Hunt
claimed he saw in him, failed to make the transition to the screen...”
James Bond in the Cinema
- John Brosnan 1972
Written only two years
after the release of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, John
Brosnan's comments about George Lazenby's performance were sadly echoed by many
other writers and critics in the ensuing decade. The film was perceived as
a critical and box-office failure for many years, and it was not until the
emergence of Bond fandom in the early 1980s that its reputation began
to soar. The following interview was conducted with George Lazenby in
Los Angeles in October 1981. The interview by PAUL RIDDELL was originally
published in 007
Issue #9 and 007
Issue #10 and features previously unseen photographs from the day.
You were pretty young
when you did OHMSS. Do you think your youth and inexperience
affected the way your were treated by the Press after the film was
Yes, I do. I think experience always affects the things you do when you
look back in retrospect to anything you've done you always feel you could
have handled it in a better way. I would have handled it totally different.
I mean, it was a very different era - 1970. It was the hippies and the
changing political scene, attitudes, whole lifestyles were changing, and
the film industry was very flat. They were bringing out the wrong product.
The public were more
into gadgets and far-out plots at the time.
Well, I think the public weren't really going to the movies at that stage;
they were more into, you know, the hippie movement, into pop groups. The
pop groups were very big then. I mean, The Beatles were bigger than
Sean Connery for example.
ABOVE (left) George
Lazenby during the filming of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
(right) Director Peter Hunt flanked by producers Harry Saltzman
and Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli.
I read that Broccoli & Saltzman has the chance to direct a Beatles film but they
turned it down. This was 1965.
Well Broccoli & Saltzman never understood music. I offered to get them
Blood, Sweat and Tears for the music in OHMSS and if you
look up the records, in 1969 when the film was released, they had five
hit records in the Top Ten.
I had an underground tape
with them before they even recorded, through my connections in the music
industry. I said "what about this group for the Bond movie?", and at the
time it would have been right and they would have sold a lot of records -
but as it was and turns out now, I prefer Louis Armstrong.
Did you meet Louis Armstrong?
No, I would love to have. A beautiful man. I have watched him on film,
listened to his interviews, listened to his music and I had no idea they
were going to get Louis Armstrong but they ended up with a great choice.
Unfortunately, he didn't sell. When I hear the music now it brings back a
After signing an eight-picture contract with EON, why did you decide to
bale out of the contract after just one film?
For many reasons, but the main reason was I had a lot of people
influencing me that Bond was finished; you were lucky to get the break to
take over from Sean Connery but it you wanted to keep going as an actor
you had to step away from Bond films and get into more youth orientated
pictures such as Easy Rider. Now it's hard to go back
and think in terms of that compared to Bond films now because they were a
cult film. It was a different era and was a great
thing at the time.
That's where I believe that the movie industry had to go, had to change,
and so I dropped out for that reason. I felt momentarily I would not be
any worse off.
Do you think that was the main reason why Broccoli made such a fracas about it
- you being hard to get on with and all that?
Well, you know, anyone who disagrees not to do anything is hard to get
along with, and you say you don't want do something and the guy's offering
you a million bucks, it doesn't figure in his head so he says your
difficult. Now, I may be difficult but I felt I could pick up a million
bucks in three movies even if I did spaghetti westerns. I was offered
around 300,000 a movie in those days and I could knock them out in six
ABOVE: A Fistful of
Dollars? George Lazenby with stuntman Richard 'Dickie' Graydon
(1922-2014) on location in Portugal during the filming of On
Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969).
Did you get a chance
to play in a spaghetti western?
Well, no. The bottom fell out of the film industry when I was available.
In OHMSS were
you able to contribute anything to the direction of it?
Not really. I tried on several occasions - a bit hard to remember when or
what I said.
But you said you
didn't speak to Director Peter Hunt throughout the whole film.
Well, I spoke to him at the very beginning. Then we had a falling out over
something, I can't remember what.
Did you ever talk to
John Glen? He is the Director of the new film. Was he alright to get on
Yes, and a guy called Squire did some of the second unit.
I got along with the crew
really well. In fact, they were my greatest asset on the film. They were
looking after me in a sense. The stunt men were helping me a lot, how to
do my own stunts and not get killed!
ABOVE: (left) George
Lazenby with John Glen the, second unit director and editor of
On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Glen would later
direct five James Bond films in the 1980s starring Roger Moore and
Timothy Dalton. (right) Lazenby with co-star Diana Rigg and
stunt driver Erich Glavitza. The stock car sequence in On Her
Majesty's Secret Service was directed by Anthony Squire, who
had also worked as a second unit director on Casino Royale
Did you show them
No! Those guys have been around a lot longer than I had been around
movies. Everything's artificial on movies.
You have been compared
more closely with the book version of Bond. Did you feel close to the
character when you read ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE for the first
The main similarity I have got with Bond is that I'm a loner. Now, I know
a lot of people, but I don't hang around with anybody. I don't need any
crutches as it were.
You don't need people
to push you along?
Yes, I don't need to go and get geed up by anybody. I can go and do my own
thing by myself and be quite happy, without anyone knowing I've done it. I
don't need to tell anyone I've done it either.
You are so close in
looks to the Bond character in the book. Do you agree?
No. But I guess that influenced my getting the part from their point of
Would you be willing
to step into the role of Bond again if the chance came up and you had the
I have got the time, nothing to do with the time: Well, I suppose it does
have something to do with the time - it takes a long time to make a Bond
I could handle it a lot
better now. It would be no problem to me. I mean, I wouldn't have the
stresses I had. I know now how to get along with people on a film set. I
know how to remember my lines easier!
Did you have a lot of
problems in OHMSS with it?
Well, not a lot of problems but the stresses were there. You know, you
give me more than three lines... and I would really have to concentrate on
what I was doing. I can't relax and act, you know what I mean? Now the
lines just fall on top of what I am doing. They are no big deal. It comes
naturally. I could have a lot more fun with the guy because I let more
through, where before it was a lot stiffer.
Would you approach the
Bond character any differently than the first time?
No, except I would just be looser. More would come through my eyes and
through my body, that's all. Because there's more happening now. There's
very little happening with me in the Bond role except for certain scenes
where I had them totally worked out, I knew what was
going on like the last scene. Most of the time I didn't know what was
going on so there weren't too many thoughts passing through the old brain
box. It was very staid, stiff and I would say that other actors go through
life like that - but I don't want to mention any names. There's a lot of
actors I can't watch because they are not moving. They are just doing:
they are like dummies, and that's like I was with most of the Bond films.
Do you mean like Roger
No, I am not talking about Roger Moore. You can see them in television
shows. They are like dolls taken out of a shop. I can't watch those
television series. You've got to feel like you are looking through a
keyhole with an actor, through a door, and him letting everything happen
for you in the way it will happen in reality.
I thought that Connery
really got into the role though.
Connery I can watch. Now he's an interesting actor.
He had to watch the
film lots and lots of times and probably got into the character more than
Yeah, I like watching Connery work. There's a lot of actors who I don't
like but they are very well-known and respected actors. I mean, how did I
get there, you know, I should not have been there as an actor. That's
I was watching Merv
Griffin yesterday and there's a black guy who was a basketball player and
who is a big star on a TV series, yet there's 30,000 actors in this town
out of work. Why don't they give these guys a shot? It's not fair.
There's some real
rubbish on television.
Total rubbish. If you think it is otherwise you are only going to be
kicking yourself. You have got to be fighting yourself all the way
through. You go in and people do television to earn the money. A few guys
try hard to make something out of it, but most of the time they are working
with people who have sold out. You know, they are doing it for the money.
They are doing what they're told, they are not doing it as an artist. They
are not being their true selves.
We have heard remarks
about the 'garlic' incident between Diana Rigg and yourself. Is this true?
That was another Press thing that blew up in Pinewood. In the Commissary we
were having lunch just before the love scene, and there were a lot of Press
around because they were invited that day for the love scene. Diana Rigg
was having lunch about four or five tables away and she yelled quite
loudly “I'm having garlic today George, I hope you are”. You know, it was
just a joke. They took it down as if she ate garlic so she could put me
off, but I don't quite remember smelling garlic on her, and it was quite a
lot of fun with her and she's another bright lady.
Did you get along well
with Diana Rigg?
Up to a point, but I don't like bossy women, period. I don't like bossy
people, period - and in fact, I don't like people who are selfish. When
you are with somebody else there are now two people taking up that space
and you have got to think of the other person. Most actors I have known
are not like that, they are pretty selfish.
Did you find that
Diana Rigg thought of herself as the star?
Of course she did. Although I felt I was more than she.
Your name was in the
same writing as the rest of the cast.
I will tell you another thing. Telly Savalas thought he was the star!
How was he to get on
He was OK - I didn't fall in love with him if that's what you mean. His
lifestyle is completely the opposite to the way I lived. So I mean, we
could get along - talk, act, laugh and joke together.
Did he help you in the
way you acted in the film?
The only thing I remember coming from Telly that did help me as - we
rehearsed the scene, our first scene together (I forget where it was but it
was up on that mountain) and apparently they had forewarned him that I was
a novice actor and he turned around in front of me and said: “He doesn't
need any help. I've got to watch out, he will blow me off the screen”. So
that was in a way a compliment, because I came out remembering all my
lines and Telly hadn't had his down yet, although he did by the time we
started to shoot, and I had to have mine down because if I didn't there
was no way I could remember them in five minutes like he can. He had been
acting a lot longer than I had. Just that remark gave me confidence.
Did you find having
experienced actors next to you helped you even more?
Oh, you have to have. You know, if I did not have experienced actors then
I would have no bearing to work on. I would just be as bad as the worst
one there, while trying to be as good as the best one there. It is the
same again if you play a good tennis player - your game improves but you are
not as good as they are and acting is very similar to playing tennis
anyway. I don't care what they say.
recently that he thought OHMSS was a very good film. What do you
think, and why do you feel it has developed such a cult following in the
last few years?
Well, two reasons are pretty obvious. It is the only film that I know
of that sticks to the book, and secondly the only one that had me in it.
You know they don't have two shots at this guy. Then only the face. It's
now you see him, now you don't. When they don't read the critics which
most people don't, they go in with open minds and like it.
It's funny that
nowadays some of the critics love it (in England anyway).
It had some of the highest ratings on CBS. The thing is I can't get a
job with CBS.
There's not one flaw
through the whole film (well maybe one). Take a Connery Bond you can spot
the flaws. It was so well done. Probably because of Peter Hunt.
It has nothing to do with me in that sense. The flaws would have been
there if Hunt hadn't covered them up. The guy had worked out how to put it
together. I'll give him credit for that, you've got to pay dues where its
worth. I'd work with Peter again, I would.
Maybe on speaking
It does not matter if you speak with him or not. You see he knows what he
is doing before he starts.
I've never been the sort
of person to have an argument and hold a grudge. My life is too short. If
you've got a grudge, do this, belt it out and get it over with (and many
people hate me for this) because I might hit a few people in the process,
but the next day, you start life again.
I can't punch a guy, then
put my boot into him. I don't attack someone to the bitter end, and that's
why I have no grudge against Broccoli, because really he was only reacting
naturally, to what I was doing to him.
ABOVE: (left) George
Lazenby with director Peter Hunt - despite claims of not speaking
the two appear to be communicating whilst shooting scenes at Piz
Gloria. (right) Between takes Lazenby and producer Albert R.
Broccoli take part in curling on the ice at Piz Gloria.
CONTINUED IN PART 2