45 years ago this week, George Lazenby was announced as James Bond. Take a look back at how the American press covered his casting
"Australian Non-Actor Chosen to Play James Bond" - Washington Post, October 9th 1968.
A 27-year-old Australian male model whose only acting experience was in chocolate company advertisement on British television has been presented to the world as the next James Bond.
The new Agent 007 of the British Secret Service is George Lazenby, who comes from a small town could Goulburn about 50 miles northeast of the Australian capital of Canberra.
Lazenby, a burly bachelor, got the plum role in the next James Bond film after a world wide search. Some of his rivals for the role were believed to be world-famous stars.
Lazenby Plunges into action almost immediately against Ernst Stavro Blofeld, SMERSH and SEPCRE, some of the villains created by the late Ian Fleming for his hero to pulverize. Shooting begins later this week on the sixth of the James Bond films, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service."
At Monday's send-off for the new 007 in London's plush Dorchester Hotel, Peter Hunt, who will direct the picture, said Lazenby got the nod because, "We wanted someone who oozed sexual assurance, and we think this fellow has it."
"Just wait till the women see him on screen," he added. Did 007's lack of acting experience present any problems, Hunt was asked. "No," he replied. "He has many other attributes which I require. 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 added.
Lazenby succeeds Scotsman Sean Connery, who starred in the first five and made a fortune for himself and producers Harry Saltzman and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli.
Connery pulled out about 15 months after "You Only Live Twice." Attempts were made to persuade him to stay on. Besides the professional actors who wanted the part, the producers were avalanched with claims from waves and girl friends who were sure they had their own personal James Bond.
Lazenby's leading lady will be Diana Rigg, who jumped to fame as a successor to Honor Blackman in the role of sexy special agent Mrs. Emma Peel in "The Avengers," a British television series sold to dozens of foreign countries.
"He Traded In Auto Selling for 007 Job" - Los Angeles Times, October 25th 1968.
The first words ex-auto salesman George Lazenby ever says an an actor will be in the starring role of James Bond. Lazenby as Secret Agent 007 will not sound much like his old self because the movie makers have hired an elocution teacher to smooth out his Australian accent.
Until a few weeks ago he was a male model, a job he found more lucrative at 20,000 pounds ($48,000) a year than selling autos. Then he was signed up for something even more profitable, to fill the gap left when Sean Connery declined to make any further Bond movies.
Lazenby, a 20-year-old bachelor, proclaims he has no idea why the producers selected a man entirely lacking in acting experience, after auditions by more than 400 actors.
"I haven't a clue why they chose me. They never told me," he says. "It's probably because basically they want a person who will work with them, who hasn't got his own ideas."
Co-producer Albert R. Broccoli offers this clue: "When George walks through the office, the secretaries fall of their chairs."
Lazenby, a manly 6 foot two inches with brown hair and eyes, said more modestly, "I can't say I've ever seen any girl fall off a chair because of me." Broccoli spotted him three years ago in a smart London barber shop having a haircut.
British television viewers spotted him driving an Aston Martin in a gasoline commercial and leaning on a crate to advertise chocolate bars which he swears he has never tasted because he doesn't eat chocolate.
However he does smoke, enjoys a drink, tries an occasional hand at gambling, can skin dive, ski, shoot from hunting days in his youth and perform other acts of self-defence learned in the Australian army.
He left Australia in 1964. His parents are still there and he feels they are not altogether aware of what has happened to him. His father, also named George, is the keeper of a bowling green. His mother, when told he had won the Bond part, said, "Oh did you, son? Do you know your driving license has run out?"
Lazenby sold second-hand autos in the outer reaches of London when he first came to England. He graduated to new limousines in Park Lane. A freelance photographer suggested he try modeling and within a year he became one of the highest paid male models, travelling to New York, Paris, Rome and Monte Carlo.
He said he had no regular girlfriend at the moment because of this constant traveling. "I like women who are open, friendly, real," he said.
The co-star in his first movie, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," is Diana Rigg, the glamorous agent from The Avenges television series.
"I think I'm very fortunate because she's had a lot of experience," Lazenby said. "She's very confident in what she's doing."
Lazenby has seen the previous five Bond films but has never met Connery. He reckons it is an advantage not to have previous acting knowledge when taking over a role that somebody else has created.
"I've let somebody else pave the road for me," he said. "Now I've got to take the chance of developing a role of my own."
He has got the opportunity. His contract runs for seven year and there are seven Bond stories left.