Becoming Bond (2017)
Becoming Bond is a curious documentary in so far as it’s totally dependent on whether the viewer believes the story that George Lazenby tells. Because George is obviously a well-practised raconteur one gets the impression that many of the anecdotes and vignettes he recounts have been embellished for artistic effect. He has that easy going, informal Australian charm and frequently smiles ironically, as director Josh Greenbaum, quizzes him off camera over the voracity of his tale. Mr. Lazenby also treads that fine line between being a likeable rogue and a bit of a dick, especially when he focuses on his youth. Yet he broadly keeps to the right side of this and maintains the audiences’ good will.
As he recounts his life story from his impoverished youth in Australia, to his days as a car salesman then a male model, the vignettes play out as an episodic drama. Josh Lawson (Superstore, House of Lies) plays Lazenby and there are several high-profile cameos from the likes of Jeff Garlin as Bond movie producer Harry Saltzman, former Bond Girl Jane Seymour as George's agent. These scenes usually have a comic tone, which at times come dangerously close to undermining the credibility of George’s story. Yet as soon as the narrative approaches such a tipping point, it’s reined in with a smile and a nod from Mr. Lazenby. There’s also a curiously melancholic streak in the proceeding with a reoccurring tale of a love lost.
George Lazenby is certainly not afraid of sharing his faults, making no attempt to dodge some of the less edifying aspects of his life and personality. He is also candid about his perceived arrogance which may be more of a failure by others to understand and appreciate Australian cultural foibles. When the story finally arrives at 1968 when Eon Productions were recasting the role of Bond, things become a lot clearer. Lazenby simply didn’t fully appreciate the consequences of taking onboard the most prodigious movie role of the time. He approached it in good faith and seemed to have fun making the actual film, yet he couldn’t cope with the requirements of stardom both leading up to and after the shoot. Certainly, the slave contract he was offered by Saltzman and Broccoli was iniquitous and would have driven any sane actor mad.
By the end of Becoming Bond, although I cannot say that I was fully conversant with the exact reasons why this man walked away from a six-movie contract and a million pounds in cash, I had a good idea. George Lazenby just wanted to be himself and not forever in the shadow of James Bond. Curiously enough, the late Roger Moore felt quite the opposite but that’s folk for you. No two are exactly alike. I genuinely felt sorry for the way that Lazenby was effectively hounded out of the movie industry, never having been a fan of closed shops or those with a strangle holds over certain businesses. Yet he found contentment in real estate, subsequently raised a family and seems to have come to terms with it all. Whether it all played out the way he tells it is debatable but he certainly offers viewers an entertaining autobiography to consider.