March 2012

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

George Lazenby & Cubby Broccoli

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

The railway worker’s son from Goulburn had done pretty well for himself since arriving in London in 1964. Within three years, the knockabout car salesman, mechanic and ski instructor was one of the most expensive male models in the world. European Marlboro Man, no less. Life as a clothes peg was swinging. But at 28, George Lazenby had just one burning desire. He wanted to be James Bond.

The job was up for grabs. After five films, Sean Connery decided he was getting typecast and short-changed. But the franchise was a goldmine and plans for the next instalment proceeded, minus a star. It was an open field.

Although he had no acting experience, Lazenby was not short on he-man self-confidence. He bought a suit from Connery’s Savile Row tailor, a Rolex Submariner wristwatch and took to having his hair trimmed by the barber patronised by Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli.

Broccoli was the man to know. Once a gopher for Howard Hughes, he’d set up as a producer in London in 1951 to tap into British government film subsidies. After a string of forgettable but profitable action adventure movies, he went bust when his self-financed film about Oscar Wilde proved impossible to promote in America. Never saying never again, he formed a partnership with Canadian Harry Saltzman to secure the film rights to Ian Fleming’s bestselling books. United Artists agreed to stump up the cash.

Lazenby’s efforts eventually made an impression. Called to audition, he wore his snappy suit and 007 wristwatch. Tall, athletic, masculine, he bounded up the stairs, lied about his acting experience, demanded payment for a screen test, punched a stuntman in the face and, in the ultimate litmus test, turned heads in the typing pool.  

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has James Bond save the planet from Telly Savalas and his henchwomen, get groovy with Diana Rigg, and wear a kilt. But even before shooting began, the Australian action man was acting the prima donna. He wanted the international superstar treatment and he wanted it now. And anyway, this Bond thing was getting a bit passé. Sometimes he felt like the only man in England with short hair.

Cubby found him “a pain in the neck”, particularly when he announced on American television on the eve of the film’s release that he wouldn’t be doing any more Bonds. But he offered him a seven-movie deal anyway. Lazenby didn’t think $28 million was enough. He went on a cruise instead. Apart from the regrets, he has no regrets.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: March 2012
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