I sat down today to watch On Her Majesty's Secret Service and it occurred to me that I could write a whole post just on the re-casting of the role of James Bond without even touching on the movie itself. As you may recall from my post on You Only Live Twice, Sean Connery announced he was leaving the role before that film had finished shooting. That left the producers looking for a replacement.
What happened next is rather chaotic and hard to research adequately over the internet, but what is clear is that several people were almost cast in the role.
Bond producer Harry Saltzman wanted to develop The Man with the Golden Gun as the next film and shoot it in Cambodia with Roger Moore in the role. Moore, however, signed on to do another series of The Saint for TV, Cambodia became politically unstable, and the idea fell through. While Moore may have been in consideration to play Bond originally back when first film was being developed, this was the first time he was aware of being up for the part. Moore, incidentally, is three years older than Sean Connery. Connery began playing the role at age 31. Moore would have been 41 had he replaced Connery at that time. Moore eventually gets the role in 1972 at age 45. What makes all this interesting is that if we ignore OHMSS, from the beginning of the franchise until Moore leaves in 1985, the character of James Bond ages linearly for about 23 years from his 30s to his 50s.
By now you've picked up on a theme: Bond producers offer the part to an actor, who can't take it because of TV obligations or because they just turn it down, then they give the part to the guy who turned it down the last time. Three of the six actors to play Bond took the role at their second opportunity.
George Lazenby has always been something of a mystery. He actively campaigned to get the part, by getting his hair cut at Connery's barber, wearing a suit that Connery had bought at a Savile Row tailor but never picked up. The producers spotted him in a Fry's Chocolate Cream advertisement. He was a 29 year old Australian model with very little acting experience at all. Yet somehow the producers liked him and offered him a six movie deal. He remains the youngest actor to play the part and the only non-European. He's also the only actor to play Bond in just one film. I had always assumed that was because he bombed in his portrayal, but no. Lazenby announced before OHMSS was even released that he would not be returning to the role. He apparently hated the experience, and his agent thought the Bond franchise wouldn't survive the culture shift from the 60s to the 70s.
So there you go. Now you have some context for the new 007 in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
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