Read the unfiltered transcript of George Lazenby's special Q&A after a screening of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" in Hollywood...

George Lazenby Q&A

22nd June 2011

On Friday, June 17th the American Cinematheque featured a double feature screening of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Diamonds Are Forever" at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California. James Bond actor George Lazenby appeared for a live discussion between the two screenings. Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin hosted and led the discussion. Mr. Lazenby, still looking handsome and fit at 71, was battling a case of laryngitis, but nonetheless was enthusiastic and brought a lot of laughs from the audience. They welcomed him with a standing ovation and cheers throughout. Also in attendance was Trina Parks, known for her role as Thumper in Diamonds are Forever.

MI6 guest writer JBFan626 was in attendance and provides this transcript of the Q & A with every effort to capture the conversation accurately:

Steven Jay Rubin: This is a thrill for me personally—30 years ago we did an event in Century City called the James Bond weekend and George was our guest of honor and it was an absolute blast. We actually did the event at the old Playboy Club.

Watching this movie tonight and watching James Bond movies—they just come back to where you were when you first saw them. I was just standing in the hallway watching that last scene with Diana Rigg and I wanted to ask you just right off the top of my head; that was a tough scene for a gentleman with not a lot of acting experience, can you remember a little bit back to that last scene and whether…was it challenging for you? Because it’s probably the most emotional moment in the whole series.

George Lazenby: Yeah. Diana Rigg bit me right about there (points to inside of his right knee) to get me to cry (Laughter). But, uh, that was true, I said “I don’t need that, I can do it without that.” (laughs) But all those scenes were like that…

SJR: Well, let’s talk a little bit about what I was going to ask you about working with Diana in that last scene, so in particular, what do you remember about in that last scene because it’s obviously the key moment of the movie.

GL: Yeah well, that last scene, I actually did do one with tears coming down and the director who I never spoke to for the whole movie…but I didn’t think I needed to speak to the director. I had a little falling out on the first day of filming and he never spoke to me the whole nine months. It’s true. But it didn’t bother me ‘cause I’d never been an actor so I didn’t know who the director was from the cameraman (laughter). Every take I did was one take. But we did it from different angles so I got more than one go at it sometimes. But Peter Hunt was tough. I won’t tell you how we fell out, but it was just my big mouth.

SJR: Well he told me, I actually worked on a film with Peter…He said that his challenge was that he was pretty much presented with a James Bond with no acting experience. He told me that he wanted to get you upset with him because he felt the only way to get a performance out of you was to get you pissed off (laughter)

GL: Well that’s easy (laughter). He didn’t have to go very hard at it…But I got his mink coat one time--he had a birthday party and Harry Saltzman bought him a mink coat because he (Peter) wanted a double coat thing and Peter came and saw that I was at the party and walked out and Harry said ‘well I guess this is yours!’ I got laid a lot in that mink coat (laughter)

SJR: Now George, the stories say that Cubby Broccoli saw you in a hair salon or a haberdashery for the first time. Do you have memories of seeing him?

GL: I do. A barber who was cutting my hair…because then I was trying to look like Sean Connery, and I heard that’s where he got his haircut. So I went in and said cut my hair like Sean Connery’s and Cubby after I was walking out apparently said to Curt the Barber ‘that guy he would make a good Bond.’ And after I got the job, Curt said, ‘you know that guy who you said would make a good Bond is the guy you picked up on’ and Cubby said “Oh really?” I did go into the first interview with long sideburns and French coat cut in Paris and they wouldn’t let me in. So I took note of how everyone was dressed and I went away and got a haircut, the bits and pieces, thinking that it’s just a matter of time before they pick me.

SJR: You weren’t entirely a new fighter, in terms of, I mean you being cast as an action hero. Obviously this isn’t a tea party. You've got to look good on your feet. A lot of the early reports on you were that you were good on your feet, you moved well...

GL: You should see me when I’m lying down (laughter)…

SJR: I know that later on in your career you were involved with Bruce Lee, etc, but had you developed some martial arts training before you got into the movies?

GL: Well if you call brawling in Australian country pubs martial arts…(laughter). I can take care of myself as long as I got the first hit in. I didn’t like getting hit. I was stupid enough to not be afraid of anybody and I think that was one of the reasons they chose me. Because all the other guys could act and I didn’t have an English accent. I walked like a drunken bum from Australia, Peter Hunt told me. And they took the swagger out of me and made me walk like Prince Philip. And I had voice training…had to have a plummy accent which my mother hated. She said, “Jesus son, you sound like one of them bloody prisoner’s that came from England. (laughter) And so…

SJR: Now what about acting, I mean obviously your acting…

GL: That doesn’t come into it (Laughter)

SJR: I mean, the thing is George in this movie you look about as comfortable as you can be. (Audience applause). You know, you put all of the acting teachers to shame who said that you have to study very, very hard to achieve any kind of a connection to your audience and then you walk on the screen and you have everybody captivated. Did you do any cheating in terms of seeing an acting coach at all, or did they just throw you right into it?

GL: They threw me right in there. I used to learn my lines at night until I found all the nightclubs..and then the driver used to give it to me in the morning. And I’d read them on the way to work and then when I went to make-up. By the time I got out of make-up I had ‘em down. I had a young brain. I could remember pretty much anything. And I was good at hitting my marks, just as good as I was good on my feet. And I never screwed up the lines that much from what I can remember. There wasn’t that many was there? (laughter).

SJR: No in fact it was probably very careful on their part that they didn’t give you that many lines…(laughter)…But every line you delivered was wonderful, in fact my favorite moment is you sitting on the ice skating rink as Diana Rigg skates up to you and you look at her and say ‘there’s some people after me’… I mean you’re totally believable there…Peter Hunt told me that the problem that night was they were running out of ice to ski skate on. Any memories of those night shooting sequences in Switzerland?

GL: Well I don’t drink champagne, I drink beer, and they’re all in the office drinking Dom Perignon, which is on the call sheet every morning. And there’s Diana and I was freezing my ass on that ice rink with the crew, the ones I used to drink with every night, and when she came out I said "What are you doing in there you bloody bitch you should be out here doing the shot!" And she turns and says “He’s upsetting me! He’s upsetting me!” (Laughter) And you know I just told it as it is, you know that’s the way my father spoke to my mother (Laughter). Like, you know, you don’t leave a man sitting out on an ice rink.

SJR: What was your first meeting with Diana Rigg like when you were introduced to her?

GL: Oh you know, the funny part was, she thought I was a complete idiot. It was like, you know, we had the love scene, and honest to god, they had to pull me off her! (Laughter) Oh and then I beat her boyfriend at chess—that really made her take matters. My old man was completely sick in bed for a couple of years and he used to play chess in bed with the doctor who taught me how to play. I beat him and the doctor, lord knows how. And then he (the boyfriend) and I were playing chess and he smashed the chess board and walked out of the room. I think I upset him and made her like me ('Awwws' from the audience).

SJR: There were a lot of press stories going around at the time. One of my favorite was that you were in the dining room at Pinewood and Diana was somewhere in the same room and she says to you across the way “George are you having some garlic?”

GL: That’s horseshit. What it was is she was just being funny, ‘cause we’re both eating the same thing and that was the first day they let the press on the set and she wanted to get noticed so she yelled out “Hey George I’m eating garlic, are you?” And I mean, Diana and I would have been good friends except she wanted a deal where I don’t muck around with any of the other girls. And I couldn’t keep it. And it was funny, I’ll tell you this story ‘cause it was true. I had a good time you know and I was quite fascinated with the receptionist at the front desk at the hotel. And that was my league you know, I was used to that. I wasn't into fancy actresses at the time. I hadn’t got up to that level yet. This stunt man had this tent outside of the hotel where they had all their gear and all the mattresses, full on and full of dolls and everything. And I took the receptionist in there…and I told Diana ‘I’m not mucking around with anybody else' you know… And the stunt man saw me go in there and Diana’s walking up the path and I’m right in the middle of it and he lifted up the side of the tent! And yeah it was basically “Fuck you!” That was the end of her.

SJR: Well I hope that receptionist was memorable

GL: She was (laughter)

SJR: Now I know you don’t want to go into the tough tiff you had with Peter but I mean obviously, if Peter’s not directing you had to have somebody as a pal on that set to hang out with and be friendly with.

GL: I mostly had the crew. They were on my level. I mean, I was a drinking, bum from Australia, an ex-used car salesmen and I hadn’t mixed with too many fancy people you know. And when I got to the set I found the guys that stayed up late as I did was on the crew. So I used to go to the nightclubs…I remember one bloody thing at a nightclub one night, while they got all the fancy girls up there kicking their legs up and I jumped up with them, thinking ‘I can do anything on the stage, I’m James Bond’ you know (laughter) —ruined the whole bloody show. They all stopped dancing. So I ran off the stage, and so I said to the manager ‘don’t arrest me, just set ‘em up for a party at my place afterwards I’ll by ‘em all a drink’ thinking that would never happen. Lou had me staying with this tennis player I hadn’t met yet. So about 2 or 3 in the morning I heard a knock on the door and I opened the door and there’s like 20 girls standing down the hall way and 2 guys. So I rang up Lou and I said ‘I’m Australian, you’re Australian, come up to my room I’ve got 22 drunk people here!' So he came up. We sat up all night with these girls you know, I think there was 4 left in the morning. And there was beer, lines of beer glasses. And then Ernie my chauffeur, they phoned him up, and he dragged me off to work.

SJR: Now you said that when you were growing up in Australia, getting into fights was part of the whole thing…

GL: What do you do with that testosterone? You smack your mate.

SJR: When you’ve played James Bond and you walk into a bar, how many guys have come up to you over the course of time and figure they’re gonna knock off James Bond. Has that happened a million times?

GL: No, maybe it happened a couple of times. One guy in Australia dropped friggin spaghetti on my head, and I said ‘What did ya do that for?’ He said oh my girlfriend said to. So anyway I figured he’d have a whole plate in front of him, so I could push it in his lap. I said, I didn’t think I begin to do that. And he jumped up and swung at me and I broke his jaw. That was after Bond, I think I had done three Kung Fu movies so I was pretty accurate you know (laughter). If you miss those bloody Chinese buggers they’ll belt you for good (Laughter).

SJR: Let’s take a couple of questions from the audience.

Audience: Was the beginning of the movie and end of the movie, shot in Portugal in the same place?

GL: Yes it was—Cascais, is the area--just north of Lisbon. And it was good.

Audience: I’m always amazed by the sets on Bond. Did they build that ski lodge and how did they do all that destruction?

GL: No they started building that fancy restaurant up there and it hadn’t been quite finished and they paid for it to finish it to use it for the film. Piz Gloria.

Audience: Did they actually blow it up?

GL: Well, in the film, it looked like they blew it up you know… (laughter)

Audience: Mr. Lazenby, it’s an honor to meet you. In the opening segment when you say “This never happened to the other fella” Was that a spontaneous or an improvisational thing?

GL: No, no, no …That came about because I used to do my own stunts and I didn’t know that the other fella didn’t do them. And I used to often say to them, I bet the other fella didn’t have to do this, when I’m breaking my legs jumping out of helicopters, hanging off wires 3,000 feet up in the air and Peter Hunt’s plan was that if he killed me, he’d have a second chance with another guy (laughter). That’s what I heard! And so he had me, he told me, I assumed first and then he told me second that I had to do press. So it was pretty hard to get laid. I mean …4 o’clock in the morning was my time. And they wonder why I come in looking tired in the morning.

Audience: By the way, you were the best Bond, thank you.

GL: Well thank you! I thought I was the best! (laughter & applause)

Audience: On that same note, the car chase on the ice is really great and some of the shots didn’t look like they were rear projection. How much did they let you ride in the car for that sequence?

GL: I did, I rode in it and you know what surprised me, we had a cameraman on the side of that Cougar and Diana Rigg without too much practice got out through that gate. I thought, ‘This is it, this is where she’s gonna let it loose and we’re gonna wrap around the post and that cameraman’s gonna die.’ And she got it out of there somehow! And you know those little car’s they had running around there, those little Ford Escorts? Well I rolled three of those before Peter Hunt got there and stopped me. Well I was trying to get them out…you have to turn them about 100 yards from the corner, you’ve got to give them like a little thing like that and they start to slide and then you give ‘em a go on the accelerator. Well it took me before I wrecked three of them before I learned how to do that. And she did it in one go. That’s an actress for you! (laughter)

Audience: Mr. Lazenby, do regret never being able to continue or not continuing to do Bond movies?

GL: I do and I don’t. I do because I didn’t get the money that I was offered for the second one (laughs). And sometimes I look at people and they look at me like, ‘Oh, that’s the guy that failed. He’s the one that didn’t make it. He’s the only Bond that only did one. And they kicked him out.’ All of that’s bullshit. I was offered a million bucks on the table, any movie I wanted to do that United Artists had in between Bond movies, you name it, I could have had my own anything. But you know the fact of the matter is you have to look back at 1970 to know why I quit. I was in a suit; I had short hair. Everyone that was getting laid had long hair and bell bottoms. I’d go into a restaurant and I’d say “Waiter!” I looked like the friggin’ waiter, walking around with short hair. I was the only guy in London with short hair.

And then the guy who was advising me, Ronan O'Rahilly, he was the guy that owned that Radio Caroline ship—pirate radio ship—he was introducing me to the Beatles and people that you know I obviously had been admiring. He took me to see them and said “You know, Bond is over, it’s finished.” The movie that was out at the time, the make ‘em break ‘em all at the box office records was Easy Rider. And you know you had to look like one of those guys, a hippie. And so I believed him and he said, “You know, Clint Eastwood’s over there doing Spaghetti Westerns getting out, getting a million bucks a go. You can do those things and make a couple of them in a couple of months and you got the million dollars. Don’t worry about the money.” I listened to that. And I when I think back, a million dollars in those days is like 10 million today. You could buy a Porsche for 5 grand. So anyway, I regret, you asked the question, ‘Do I regret?’ Yes I regret some of it, but the other half is…I went to a psychic about it and she said, “Oh it’s just as well you gave it up. You would have had three houses in Beverly Hills with different wives in ‘em. You’d be a drug addict.” And I said ‘I had enough. I had got two wives and I was an alcoholic!’ (Laughter)

Steven Jay Rubin: Well I think if you were going to do one James Bond movie you picked the perfect one. (Audience applause)

GL: Well, I suppose you could say it was the best one and not anyone could have done it I suppose. But instead they picked this flitty guy who was from Australia. And I still don’t why. Peter Hunt said they got more film on me testing than they have in the film. He said that’s a fact. He said, we were off going testing for 4 months, because they said we’re not going to have a model for James Bond. We’ll be laughed out of the business. And so Peter wanted to prove himself right, which he did. And he was an amazing character. I mean he got his own way most of the time. If he hadn’t been on my side, I wouldn’t have had a shot. Because the first time I met him I told him a bunch of lies, you know that I was an actor in China and Russia and all places. I thought they couldn’t check on my file. And then the next thing I know I go into his office and Peter was in Switzerland location hunting. And they said get Peter back we want him to look at this guy. And so Peter didn’t want to come back, he was over there with a couple of his friends and he was having a good time. And he had to come back because of me and so he said “ok what’ve you done?” And for some reason or other I just let the truth out and said “Peter I’ve never been an actor.” And he went berserk. He said “I’ve been brought back from Switzerland to see you here to tell me you’ve never been an actor!!!” I said, “No.” And then he starts laughing and falls to the floor practically and he says, “Stick to your story, and I’ll make you the next James Bond.” (laughter) And so, that’s how it got started.

And then I went over to Harry Saltzman’s office and he said, ‘get him out of here, we’ve already checked on China and Russia and all the other places. And then he said “a clothes peg…we’ll have a clothes peg for James Bond.” A clothes peg is what we would call a male model. And then another part was he said, “They’re all gay, all these male models.” And so I don’t know if you remember [British film maker] John Daly from Hemdale [Film Corporation]. I was in this holding cell—it was a nice apartment. And John came around one night and I had never met the guy. He used to be a boxer, and they sent him around with a girl—a hooker and to check me out to see if I was gay. That was a good night. (laughter) And so, you’ve got no idea what I went through, but at the end of the day it wasn’t that tough.

Audience: What is the fondest memory of you making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?

GL: Fondest memory…Jesus I don’t know…it was hard work; I didn’t like work. I mean seriously, I didn’t like the idea of getting up you know early in the morning, learning lines, going to work, then having to do…probably break your leg. I popped my shoulder out, all that sort of thing. I couldn’t walk down the street in this little village because everybody knew who I was. I’d go in a store and I’d get out and they’re all looking at me…And so, that I wasn’t real fond of. It was amusing the first few times. I tell you what I did like, I did like going into restaurants, ‘they’d say come back again, checks on us’, because they just want you to be there, because you’re famous. I loved that part. You know, I can’t remember any moments in the Bond film where I felt comfortable. I was out of my league from the get go. I was comfortable with the boys having a beer afterwards. I never knew what was coming next—no one ever told me, I never asked. And, it went on for 9 months, it was only supposed to be 6…

Steven Jay Rubin: They went over schedule quite a bit…

GL: Well no, it was because they fired second unit. They didn’t like the way they were doing the stunts and they fired the whole unit and got another one. They had money and Peter wanted it to look right. And…I was just eh…you know I was okay you know, I’d say “Peter, I’ve been up in this frickin’ hill too long I’ve got to get off it.” And so he’d let me on a helicopter at night to go into one of the towns and have a car waiting for me and take a couple of girls and we’d have a good time. I mean but you couldn’t ask for any more. But I still…I was much happier when I was a model in Paris not knowing what’s going to happen next. That was like, I was like, what do you call those kind of guys? Idiots? (laughter) …With some of the stuntwork, I’d rather be doing that than doing this. Oh by way, I have not to this day signed a contract. Can you imagine? I don’t like this, I don’t like that bit, I don’t like this bit. And they kept sending it back and back. I finished the film and never signed it to this day.
Steven Jay Rubin: Now Diana’s not up in Piz Gloria until the very end when she’s not with you. You’re on the mountain…

GL: Yeah she was…

SJR: But you’re on the mountain with the twelve other girls playing the twelve angels. Did you have a particular girl in that group that you liked?

GL: What do you think? (laughter) I won’t tell you which one either…

SJR: No never-mind… (laughter)

Audience: George, when it came out did you feel vindicated and proud and do you keep in touch with anybody from the movie like Joanna Lumley?

GL: Eh, no I don’t. I don’t keep in touch since the last time. There’s Terry Mountain the stunt guy and I met a few of the skiers at one time. Terry Mountain sends me e-mails, he was one of the guys in the fight scenes from the beginning of the movie on the beach. See these are the guys I kicked around with…I think most of the people are dead aren’t they? (laughter)

SJR: Actually Terry Mountain was at a Bond signing thing about a few months ago.

GL: What was the other part of that question? (Audience member repeats question about feeling proud). Well, no I didn’t feel proud, because it had a sad ending. And you know people walk out of that movie kind of with a sad face and you think it’s a failure. But anyway, I had a beard at the time, trying to hide who I was. And they said ‘If you don’t shave your beard off you can’t come.’ And I didn’t shave it off and went. And it was the world premiere and all that stuff and eh, I don’t know…I was naked singing in the bathroom with a guitar with the press. Just before we went there they say by God, George in the bath playing the guitar—and I said just cut the bottom off that picture will ya?

Audience: How was it working with Telly Savalas? Was he a nice guy to hang out with?

GL: Oh yeah, Telly’s a typical Greek gambler. You know, he loves to gamble. He took all my per diem. I was getting…this was another thing I did, just fortunately ‘cause I didn’t know you could do this but they gave you cash for your per diem. I was getting a hundred dollars a day I think something like that and I wasn’t spending it because you know I had nothing to spend it on. And I was at the office one day and Harry was there and I said, “Harry, I’m doing the same thing at night Sean Connery would have been doing. How much per diem was he getting?” He looked at me and said “I must have given him a thousand”… “I’m getting a hundred!”…and he said “Give him a thousand” So I just upped my money with that cash. So I had a briefcase full of cash and Telly saw it. “Hey Kid, you play poker?” (laughter) He got halfway through my briefcase when Harry spotted him and Harry came over and said “I’m taking your place” Harry had a gambling habit and he had to stop. He’d gamble his house…So Harry got my money back and he said “Now leave my boy alone.”

Oh and another thing that happened that was quite funny. Cubby and I were in a ball, Roger Moore was there too by the way. A Police ball or something in London just before we went overseas and Cubby’s wife bought him this watch you know a—it’s gold, you flick it and it opens and another bit comes up and I thought it was the gaudiest looking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He caught me staring at it and he said “Oh you like my watch? My wife got me this for my Birthday” What can I say, I don’t like it? Well I say ‘Yeah I like it.” He says “I’ll get you one when I go to Switzerland.” Alright, so Telly’s there and he’s bought one exactly the same and I says “Oh yeah, Cubby promised he’d get me one but he never did." So Telly goes over to Cubby and tells him “Your boy in the white shirt is looking for that watch you promised him.” So Cubby comes over and gives me the one off his wrist. He said, “I asked Dana and she said I could give it to you.” I said “I don’t want it Cubby! I don’t want it Cubby” (laughing) And he said, “You’ve got to have it.” And I’ve still got it. I mean, things like that would happen. And I wasn’t upset, I was just pissed off because Peter was getting me pissed off. I mean, he was fine with me pissed off. You know, jumping out of helicopters and doing the things I was doing, I was hurting, but I was pretending I wasn’t. And he was just out there…and I remember one day he’s walking past my house after the film, and I had never spoken to him, and I thought to say “Hey Peter it’s me!” And he’s walking along and says “Yes, I know!” (laughter). But then I did a show with him at the airport here, an autograph thing and he was…like he had forgotten about the whole thing--right before he died.

Steven Jay Rubin: I frankly think that he had nothing personal against you George. I think there was a method to his madness and it shows up on the screen and I think he directed you in a really fine way.

GL: Directed me? (laughter) I don’t like that word (laughter)

Audience: I was wondering, the scenes between you and M, Q and Moneypenny are so classic, it’s as if you had done 4, 5 previous films with them as Bond. Did you have any special rehearsals with them before to get comfortable with each other or…

GL: No, I never rehearsed. Peter said ‘I’m spontaneous, just do what you do. Come in and don’t swagger.’ Working with Technicolor and the guy used to swagger a bit, you know, walking in…He said, “Jesus, cut out that drunken Australian swagger and walk like Prince Philip.” That was the dumb thing he used to say to me. But I was the only Bond who could walk in and throw the hat and hit the hook. (audience applause) I was a champion dart player and I was a good knife thrower. It was funny, they had this knife thrower who was practicing this, that and the other thing, and he had to do the knife throwing. And I picked up the knife and I’m beating him at it! So I ended up throwing the knife for him! (laughing) It was like, ‘what’s the deal? Only Australians can throw a knife!’ (Laughter)

Steven Jay Rubin: Now when you’re in Gumboldt’s office and you’re reading the Playboy and you walk out with the centerfold, who’s idea was that?

GL: Who’s idea? Eh, probably Hugh Hefner's. (laughter) I had no idea…I remember Hugh offered me his place once to go down to Morocco or somewhere when I was in London and I remember this little bastard Roman Polansky was sitting next to me, and…uh, no, I was sitting next to Hugh and he hadn’t come out yet and Roman came up and said, ‘Let me have your seat I want to talk to Hugh about financing a movie.’ So I said sure and went down to the other end and Hugh came in and said ‘Roman, I arranged for George to sit there (he hadn’t met me yet).’ And eh, so Roman had to get back to the other end of the table. See, he got even with me once in Switzerland. I was at dinner with Princess Graves and David Niven and I’m sitting there between ‘em and my girl hadn’t shown up. And Roman saw her coming and said ‘Oh, George has left already,’ and she turned around and was just a girl up the street you know, crying. So some guy came up to me, told me Roman sent your girl away. So I left Princess Graves and David Niven away from their dinner. So that’s the type of people who would stay there. I wasn’t going to let a sure thing go.

Many thanks to JBFan626.

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