As we celebrate James Bond this week, we turn to first of the post-Connery Bonds: George Lazenby.
James Bond (1969)
In 1968, after Sean Connery quit the role of James Bond, producer Albert R. Broccoli first met Lazenby when getting their hair cut at the same barber. He later saw him in the Big Fry commercial and felt he could be a possible Bond, calling him in for a screen test.
Lazenby dressed for the part by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit (ordered, but uncollected, by Connery). Broccoli offered him an audition. The position was consolidated when Lazenby accidentally punched a professional wrestler, who was acting as stunt coordinator, in the face, impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression. Lazenby won the role based on a screen-test fight scene, the strength of his interviews, fight skills and audition footage. Director Peter Hunt later claimed:
We wanted someone who oozed sexual assurance, and we think this fellow has that. Just wait til the women see him on screen… I am not saying he is an actor. There is a great deal of difference between an actor and a film star. Didn’t they find Gary Cooper when he was an electrician?
During the production of the film, Lazenby’s voice was dubbed over with George Baker’s in scenes in which Bond impersonated Sir Hilary Bray (Baker’s character), something not traditionally done with a leading actor whose original language is English. According to an interview, Lazenby experienced difficulties on the set stemming from director Peter R. Hunt’s refusal to speak directly with him, and Hunt’s brusqueness in asking Lazenby’s friends to clear the set before filming.
 Leaving Bond
In November 1969, prior to the release of the film, Lazenby announced that he no longer wished to play the role of James Bond. “They made me feel like I was mindless,” he said about the film’s producers. “They disregarded everything I suggested simply because I hadn’t been in the film business like them for about a thousand years.”
His co-star Diana Rigg was among many who commented on this decision:
The role made Sean Connery a millionaire. It made Sean Connery… I truly don’t know what’s happening in George’s mind so I can only speak of my reaction. I think its a pretty foolish move. I think if he can bear to do an apprenticeship, which everybody in this business has to do – has to do – then he should do it quietly and with humility. Everybody has to do it. There are few instant successes in the film business. And the instant successes one usually associates with somebody who is willing to learn anyway.
Lazenby’s James Bond did something no other Bond has done: he became a one-woman man and got married.
Of course, it didn’t last. James Bond wouldn’t be James Bond being tied down.