1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service had nearly made it to the screen twice before. Producers Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had first intended to make it after Goldfinger, and tasked Richard Maibaum with adapting the script. However when the legal issues with Thunderball were resolved that story was filmed instead.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service was then due to follow as the fifth Bond film, but problems with a warm Swiss winter and inadequate snow cover meant suitable locations could not be found for shooting, which once again led to Saltzman and Broccoli postponing the film.
During production of You Only Live Twice Sean Connery resigned from the role of Bond, and Harry Saltzman toyed with the idea of adapting The Man With The Golden Gun as Bond 6 and casting Roger Moore as the new 007. But political instability in Cambodia meant the desired location for filming was ruled out, and after Moore signed up for another series of The Saint, meaning he would not be available, the producers returned to the idea of filming On Her Majesty's Secret Service and begun the search for a new James Bond.
2. An awful lot of actors (and a few non-actors) were either considered, approached, or auditioned for the role of Bond. Among them was Richard Burton, who had first turned down the role before Connery was cast, but was once again approached to take over. This time he considered it but asked for more money than the producers were willing to pay. Michael Caine was invited to audition, but he felt that if he'd accepted the role he would've been typecast in the spy genre, having already played Harry Palmer in three movies. Jeremy Brett, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon were all considered for the part. Terence Stamp was keen on the role, and had ideas for future films and the direction he'd like to take the character of 007. However, they were deemed too radical for producer Harry Saltzman.
The other half of the production duo, Cubby Broccoli, was on fine form indeed during the search for a new Bond. Or he was certainly on something! Cubby invited John Bingham, the 7th Earl of Lucan to screen test for the role of Bond. Fortunately, for us, Bingham turned it down after deciding he would not pursue acting. Then Broccoli auditioned Dick Van Dyke, however, unsurprisingly, his English accent failed to impress. Finally, German born Eric Braeden revealed that Broccoli had asked him to audition believing he was British, but when Cubby discovered else-wise Braeden was told that no one from outside of the Commonwealth would be a suitable contender.
Commonwealth being the key word there!
3. Cubby Broccoli first met George Lazenby in 1968 when they were both getting their hair cut at the same barbers. Australian Lazenby had moved to London in 1963, starting out as a used car salesman in Finchley, then trading-up to selling new high spec motors in Park Lane. This was where he was spotted by a talent scout who persuaded him to become a model, and he was soon earning £25,000 a year. In 1966 he was voted Top Model of the Year.
Shortly after their first meeting Broccoli saw Lazenby on TV in a Fry's Turkish Delight advertisement...
...and invited him in for a screen test.
4. Eventually a short list of five actors was settled upon - Robert Campbell, John Richardson, Hans De Vries, Anthony Rogers and George Lazenby.
Lazenby dressed for his audition by sporting several sartorial Bond elements such as a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and a Savile Row suit, which had been ordered, but not collected, by Connery. Broccoli felt his physique and character were perfect and he became a front runner. Lazenby further impressed the producers after he accidentally punched professional wrestler Yuri Borienko (who played Grunther, Blofeld's brutish chief of security at Piz Gloria) during his audition, breaking the stuntman's nose and impressing Broccoli with his ability to display aggression.
Lazenby was offered a seven picture deal.
5. The original novel of On Her Majesty's Secret Service was published in 1963, after Dr. No had been released. Fleming had included a gentle dig at the cinematic Bond's gadgets, as well being inspired enough by Connery to have Bond mention that he comes from Scotland. The writer followed this up in 1964 with You Only Live Twice, the concluding chapter in what is known as the "Blofeld Trilogy".
OHMSS was one of the most faithful adaptations of a Fleming novel, as virtually everything in the book occurs in the film. But as it was being filmed out of order with You Only Live Twice there were some continuity problems. For example, in this film Bond and Blofeld seem to be meeting for the first time, despite having met face-to-face in the 1967 film version of YOLT.
The original movie script had a workaround for this, one which would also explain why 007 was now played by a different actor. The opening sequence of the movie would see Bond undergoing plastic surgery, allowing both an unrecognisable Bond to infiltrate Blofeld's hideout and help the audience accept the new actor in the role. However, this was dropped in favour of just simply ignoring the change in actor, but to help audiences not forget it was the same James Bond, just played by another actor, the producers inserted many references to the previous films (inc Bond visiting his office and finding objects from Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Thunderball), some in-jokes (inc a caretaker whistling the theme from Goldfinger), and Lazenby famously breaking the fourth wall by stating,
"This never happened to the other fellow"
6. In her only English language role, German born actress Ilse Steppat played Blofeld's assistant and henchwoman Irma Bunt. The character did not appear in the film You Only Live Twice, although she did appear in the novel and was set to return for Bond's next adventure. However, this was not to be and Steppat was unable to capitalise on her new fame outside of Germany as she died of a heart attack only four days after the release of OHMSS. Out of respect her character was totally withdrawn from Bond 7.
7. During the production, much was made in the press about a model taking on the role of James Bond, and a lot of it wasn't very favourable. Director Peter R. Hunt attempted to clear up some of the negativity at the time,
"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?"He may have been praising him there but it seems that Hunt and Lazenby didn't exactly see eye to eye during shooting. Lazenby claims that Hunt would never address him directly, only through his assistant, and that the director also asked the rest of the crew to keep a distance from him.
"Peter thought the more I was alone, the better I would be as James Bond."Hunt, on the other hand, reminisced of the long talks he would have with Lazenby before and during shooting. He said for Tracy's death scene he had brought Lazenby to the set at 8 o'clock in the morning and made him rehearse all day long...
"...and I broke him down until he was absolutely exhausted, and by the time we shot it at five o'clock, he was exhausted, and that's how I got the performance."Hunt said that if Lazenby had remained as James Bond, he would also have directed the successor film, Diamonds Are Forever, and that his original intentions were concluding the film with Bond and Tracy driving off following their wedding, saving Tracy's murder for the pre-credit sequence of Bond 7. The idea was discarded after Lazenby quit the role
8. In July 1969, after filming on OHMSS was complete, Lazenby returned home to Queanbeyan to see his parents. In an interview at the time he said he had 18 film offers to consider...
"...but it's all commercial rubbish, such as the guy getting the girl at the end of the Battle of Britain. I'll just have to wait and see."In the same interview Lazenby confirmed that he'd be returning as Bond and the next movie was to be The Man with the Golden Gun. However, some time after this he was convinced by his agent Ronan O'Rahilly that 007 would be archaic in the liberated 1970s, and the role would be detrimental to his career (a-hem). As a result, in November 1969, one month prior to the release of OHMSS, Lazenby announced he would be leaving the series.
9. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released on 18 December 1969 with its premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square in London. Lazenby appeared at the event with a beard and long hair, announcing to the press,
"Bond is a brute, I've already put him behind me. I will never play him again. Peace – that's the message now."Lazenby claimed the producers had tried to persuade him to clean up and shave off his beard in an attempt to appear more like Bond, but at that stage his mind was made up to leave Bond and so he rejected the idea. He'd go on to give many press interviews discussing his decision and new-found dislike of the character,
"I much prefer being a car salesman to a stereotyped James Bond. My parents think I'm insane, everybody thinks I'm insane passing up maybe millions of pounds. Nobody believed me. They thought it was a publicity stunt. But it's just me doing my own thing"Discussing his relationship with producers Saltzman and Broccoli, and director Hunt, he said,
"They made me feel like I was mindless. They disregarded everything I suggested simply because I hadn't been in the film business like them for about a thousand years."Lazenby also spoke of his plans for the future,
"Fantasy doesn't interest me. Reality does. Anyone who's in touch with the kids knows what's happening, knows the mood. Watch pop music and learn what's going to happen. Most film-makers don't watch and aren't in touch. People aren't going to films because film-makers are putting out films people don't want to see. As for the so-called "Tomorrow movies" they are only tomorrow movies with yesterday directors ... Actors aren't all that important. Directors are. I'm terribly impressed with Dennis Hopper. I'd like to work for him. I also like Arthur Penn, John Schlesinger and Peter Yates ... What I'm going to do is look for a great director first, a good screenplay second. Meanwhile, no more Bond. I make better money doing commercials."I think we all know how that turned out for him.
10. Naturally, not everyone involved in the production was happy with Lazenby's decision and anti-Bond statements. His co-star Diana Rigg (who played Countess Tracy di Vicenzo) commented,
"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 it's 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."Rigg was also quoted as saying,
"I can no longer cater for his obsession with himself. He is utterly, unbelievably ... bloody impossible."Desmond Llewelyn, Bond's Quatermaster in 17 onscreen adventures told the Los Angeles Times,
"I draw a veil over the chap. How can you expect someone who's never acted before ... to take on a leading role?"Lazenby's already fragile relationship with Saltzman and Broccoli was now beyond repair, but Broccoli still tried to stand by his man, at least initially when the press response to Lazenby's portrayal of Bond in OHMSS was far from positive.
"I don't agree with the press. I think they should have given him A for effort. It's true he's not Olivier but Olivier could not play Bond in any circumstances. [At the premiere] John Aspinall's mother Lady Osborne told me she thought he was the best of the Bonds."Broccoli eventually admitted that he found Lazenby's post movie attitude annoying,
"I find it incredible that a plum role can't be respected. We chose George because in his physique and his looks and his walk he was the best of the candidates. He had the masculinity. Looking at the film, to put it in an old Spanish phrase, one could wish he had less cojones and more charm."Some years later, in 1978, Broccoli claimed that Lazenby had asked him for another chance to play James Bond back in 1971 after Sean Connery had retired from the role for a second time, but the producer refused to even discuss the possibility. Broccoli described his casting of Lazenby as...
"...my biggest mistake in 16 years. He just couldn't deal with success. He was so arrogant. There was the stature and looks of a Bond but Lazenby couldn't get along with the other performers and technicians."The original Bond quickly jumped to Lazenby's defence. Sean Connery, always quick to disagree with Broccoli where possible, responded with this statement.
"I have known George for many years and arrogance is not in his character. Alas I cannot say the same for Cubby Broccoli."I'll leave the final word to Lazenby, who some time later said,
"The interesting thing about that is – I've never met Sean. I don't know him at all. Once, years ago, he came to pick up someone who was staying at my house and I saw him through the door. That's all. But I always admired him. I tried to copy him when I played Bond because, after all, I wasn't an actor so I thought my best chance would be to try and be as close to Connery as I could."
James Bond will return next Monday in 10 things you might not know about Diamond's Are Forever.
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