George Lazenby was born in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia on September 5, 1939. After leaving school he worked as a salesman at a Morris Motor Company dealership in Canberra and as a ski instructor. He also won several skiing competitions and played bass guitar in a band called The Corvettes. He served in the Australian Army Special forces, reaching the rank of Sergeant and becoming an unarmed combat instructor. He moved to London in 1964 as a model, then as an advertising actor. By 1968, he was the highest-paid male model in the world (reportedly, in 1967, he made £40,000 directly from modelling, and £60,000 from commercials and product endorsements — equivalent to more than £1 million in 2004); he was also the European Marlboro Man.
Despite starring in On Her Majesty's Secret Service
(1969) and The Kentucky Fried Movie
(1977) (the combined gross earnings of which exceeded $100 million worldwide in the 1970's, then the standard establishing an actor as a box office success), Lazenby's acting career did not flourish.
Although he had previously worked in TV advertising and an Italian B-movie spy movie, Lazenby's first serious acting role was as James Bond in the film On Her Majesty's Secret Service
(1969). Lazenby is the second official actor to portray the British secret agent in a movie, following Sean Connery, who had become a cultural icon in the role (there had been a live TV version of Casino Royale
in 1954 with American actor Barry Nelson and a spoof movie version of Casino Royale
in 1967 with James Bond played by David Niven--Ian Fleming's own first choice for a cinematic James Bond, but this is generally considered not to be a 'proper' Bond film.) Lazenby had a difficult task in filling those shoes.
Lazenby's performance as James Bond is controversial. Most viewers appreciate his athletic prowess in the part, especially in action scenes, but many have been dismissive - even hostile - toward his interpretation of Bond. Moreover, viewers tend either to find Lazenby's laconic style cold-blooded, at times callow and humorless, or else perfectly appropriate to the character of a determined and superficially charming spy. However, for those who have read the Fleming books, Lazenby's Bond is probably the closest to the author's intent. Certainly, Lazenby's Bond is a man less amused by life than that of Connery, less accessible, stoic and resigned. This treatment was the deliberate approach of the film's director, Peter Hunt, who has stated in an interview: "I was very insistent that we stay with the story of the book." Director Hunt later re-shot scenes in which he was unhappy with Lazenby's portrayal of emotion.
Critical response to On Her Majesty's Secret Service also remains sharply divided, affecting estimates of Lazenby's potential as Bond. It followed the plot of the novel more closely than the other film adaptations of the eponymous source novels, including serious dramatic subject matter pivotal to the development of Bond's character: Bond's contemplated resignation from MI6; his comically-botched impersonation of a sexually ascetic genealogist at a mountaintop allergies clinic for beautiful young women; and his brief, tragic marriage to Tracy Draco, the daughter of a Corsican crime syndicate leader. American movie reviewer Leonard Maltin has suggested that had Connery held the leading role, On Her Majesty's Secret Service
would have epitomised the series.
During the film's production, Lazenby's manager Ronan O'Rahilly talked him into refusing a seven-movie contract on grounds that the James Bond character was out of touch with the times; Lazenby later stated that he regretted the decision not to continue playing Bond.
In the 1970's, Lazenby worked in Hong Kong with Bruce Lee. A planned luncheon meeting with Lee and Raymond Chow to discuss a movie project for the upcoming Golden Harvest Lee film Game Of Death
(1978) collapsed after Lee's sudden death, although Lazenby would still go on to make 3 of the 4 films he signed to do with Lee in Hong Kong, The Shrine Of Ultimate Bliss
(1974), The Man From Hong Kong
(1975) (also known as The Dragon Files
), and A Queen's Ransom
(1976). Lazenby was only featured with archive footage when Game Of Death
was finally released in 1978, after a 5-year delay caused by Lee's death while it was still in production.
Lazenby's Hong Kong martial arts action films were very successful financially and are to this day considered classics of the genre, but without Lee the films didn't have much commercial impact. For example, it is widely believed that all four of the planned Lee/Lazenby films would have grossed in excess of $100 million US at the box office worldwide in the early to mid 1970s (astronomical grosses in today's dollar values), which would have even rivaled the James Bond franchise at the time. Lee's death effectively derailed Lazenby's would-have-been comeback after he had quit the role of James Bond in 1969.
He then focused on business and real estate investments and ended up owning mansions in Hawaii, Brentwood, California, Australia, and a 600-acre (2.4 km²) ranch estate in Valyermo, California, a small town about 17 miles southeast of Palmdale, California; he also owns a portside penthouse apartment in Hong Kong, and an estate home in Maryland. Lazenby had a son, Zachary (who died from brain cancer) and an adult daughter, Melanie, from his first marriage to Christina Gannett, heiress to the Gannett Newspaper Publishing empire.
In 2002, Lazenby married his second wife, former tennis player Pam Shriver; they have three children, George (b. 12 July 2004) and twins Caitlin Elizabeth and Samuel Robert (b. October 2005). Today, Lazenby enjoys sailing, motorcycle racing, car racing, reading, watching movies, playing golf, and playing tennis. On the May 6, 2007 episode of Where Are They Now?, Lazenby said he wanted his children to grow up in Australia and the family would "try living [there]".
Exerpts from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia