ENTERTAINMENT

The Extraordinary Life Of George Lazenby, The Australian James Bond You Never Knew

His name was Bond, James Bond.

03/08/2017 5:10 PM AEST | Updated 05/08/2017 2:15 PM AEST
United Artists
George Lazenby in the Swiss Alps 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service'.

In 1969, after Sean Connery stepped back from the role of James Bond following 'You Only Live Twice', Australian newcomer George Lazenby took up one of the most prestigious names in film.

The trailer for 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' promised to deliver "The new Bond... the different 007", and different it was.

Only appearing in a single film, Lazenby's name became somewhat overlooked, a forgotten figure in Bond's history.

But one man wants to change all that.

Sydney filmmaker and Bond aficionado Andrew Lumley has spent about a decade of his life getting to know Lazenby and has created a film-length documentary about the actor's life.

"When I say to people 'Do you know who George Lazenby is?', quite often I get people saying no. I came to it purely from an interest point of view, just wanting to know who this Australian guy was," Lumley told HuffPost Australia. "His story is extraordinary."

Born in Goulburn in 1939, Lazenby worked as a car salesman and mechanic before moving to London in 1963, following a woman he had fallen in love with. While in London he stumbled into modelling work, which gave him enough of a profile to eventually fall into the hands of Bond producers.

"My take on the whole thing is that... I don't think [Lazenby] was the best Bond, but if he had continued, he could have been. He really could have been," Lumley said.

As a big Bond fan, Lumley began to think about Lazenby's life, and how his brief stint as Bond had become a punchline in 007 history.

After 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', Lazenby decided to step away from Bond, with his management at the time telling him the suited spy would fade out of favor with a new flower power generation.

Albert L. Ortega via Getty Images
George Lazenby poses with a wax sculpture of his rendition of James Bond.

"Walking away from the biggest film franchise, he admits he made a bit of a mistake. Everything that still comes out now perpetuates that decision as a mistake and they don't really delve deep into it, so I had to really structure the film to do that properly."

Lumley began to write a script, from Lazenby's perspective, attempting to get inside his mind and telling his life story. Lumley reached out and presented a draft to Lazenby in the hope he would participate in the project. Lazenby was more than happy to do so.

"There were some things I didn't know exactly what went down, and what I researched might have been slightly incorrect, so we worked through that. He'd say 'Okay, that's what I want to say, so let's run through this and see what you think'."

"From the script that I wrote in the final film, those changes would be minimal. At one point in the film I talked about his ego and exactly how he felt about it. He read it out verbatim and said, 'Yeah that's about right'. For me, that made me feel like I was the right guy to make this film."

Rather than using Lazenby as a talking head to narrate the film, Lumley went on a journey to dig up as much unseen footage and vision as he could.

"Being a fan, I got sick of seeing the same thing over and over, my mantra was to find stuff that nobody had seen, or that wasn't the normal go-to image or footage. That was a very long process and I'm only coming to the end of it now."

Lumley said his film, titled 'This Never Happened To The Other Fella', has been in gestation for about 10 years, with the editing process running around a year and a half. Much like Bond, Lumley persevered in his attempts to set the record straight on the life of George Lazenby.

The investment into one man's brief stint as Bond led Lumley on a path of 007 discovery, even giving him the opportunity to speak to the late Roger Moore on a trip to Switzerland, where some of the scenes in 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' were shot.

Supplied
FIlmmaker Andrew Lumley with James Bond royalty Sir Roger Moore.

While Lazenby was under the impression that the Bond franchise would die out with the changes of time, more than anything it has endured, with each new generation of Bond the films adapt to new styles and methods of storytelling.

That adaptation, Lumley suggests, may be a big part of why the franchise has continued to be the most successful ongoing in cinema history. But when pressed, the filmmaker offers a second explanation.

"It's generational. People who were around for the original films are grandparents now. They used to watch it with their kids who now watch with their kids. Down the track, it just keeps going. I did that with my Dad and I'll probably do it with my kids when that happens for me."

While there's been a lot of interest in the film already, unlike the subject of his film, Lumley wasn't rushing into anything.

"I've been working on it this long, it's not going out until it's ready."

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