After Sean Connery announced he was abandoning the role of James Bond, the hunt was on to find the next drunken sociopath to take up the mantle of the British super-spy. After having enormous success with the then-unknown Connery, they decided to roll the dice of anonymity again with George Lazenby, an Australian model with zero acting experience. Lazenby, understandably anxious to impress, took the concept of method acting to an insane degree normally reserved for actual undercover agents.
Although whenever Lazenby said "undercover agent," he raised his eyebrows and then tried to fist bump you.
First of all, to prepare for auditions, Lazenby purchased one of Connery's old suits and even got his hair cut by Connery's personal barber, just to help maintain the illusion. That makes an odd sort of sense, considering he was trying out for an iconic role created by Connery, but once he successfully landed the role, Lazenby didn't throttle back. He decided to adopt all facets of the James Bond lifestyle, short of filling Fort Knox with nerve gas and kicking a fat German gangster out of an airplane.
According to Lazenby, the prestige of being the new official James Bond went to his head faster than a vodka martini. He rode around in a personal helicopter and could walk right in to any nightclub anywhere in the world, free of charge. Oftentimes, the clubs would actually pay him to come inside, because who doesn't want to party with 007?
For months, the government had to tell him that his license to kill was stuck in the mail.
"It wasn't difficult to get laid," he admitted in a 2012 interview, just in case anyone thought a former model who recently graduated into the world-famous role of James Bond had any trouble convincing women to have sex with him. "You'd get four or five girls a day." Lazenby even went out and bought a Luger, which the gun shop owner gladly handed over upon recognizing that his customer was James freaking Bond (guns are normally much more difficult to buy in Europe). As if to illustrate this point, on the set of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Lazenby would frequently make crew members nervous by drunkenly tossing liquor bottles into the air and shooting at them, presumably trying to hone his aim should he suddenly find himself having to do battle with a bunch of Soviet spies.
"Make sure they're vodka. I want this to be accurate."
As Lazenby later put it, "I was totally out of control ... I wanted to be James Bond, but you couldn't live the way James Bond lives." Eventually, he achieved a moment of clarity in which he realized that the Bond lifestyle was sustainable only in fiction -- in the real world, womanizing, gun-toting boozehounds usually end up disappearing in a pool of STDs, liver disease, and accidental death reports. As desperate as he had been to carry Connery's baton, Lazenby actually turned down a multimillion-dollar contract to continue the role of James Bond, a move that not only ended his brief run as 007, but also his entire movie career. So we got 12 years of Roger Moore instead.
J.M. McNab writes and podcasts for Rewatchability.com. You can also find him on Twitter: @Rewatchability.
For more Hollywood hell holes, check out 6 Beloved TV Shows (That Traumatized Cast Members For Life). And then check out The 23 Most Insane Ways Famous Actors Got Into Character.