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George Lazenby

George Lazenby

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Also Known As: George Robert Lazenby Died:
Born: September 5, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Australia Profession: actor, model

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Forever enshrined in the footnotes of pop culture history as the second actor to play James Bond on screen - and the one with the shortest tenure in the role - George Lazenby was a former model plucked from relative obscurity to replace Sean Connery as 007 in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969). Lazenby refused to play Bond again thanks to bad career advice, leaving him to languish in relative obscurity for much of the 1970s before resurfacing as a supporting player in several television series and made-for-TV movies. He also made frequent tongue-in-cheek appearances as Bond or a Bond-like secret agent in TV movies and commercials.Born George Robert Lazenby in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia on Sept. 5, 1939, he served in the Australian Armed Special Forces and worked at several jobs in his native country - car salesman and ski instructor, among others - before departing for London in 1964. Lazenby's rugged good looks made him a natural choice for print and television modeling work - including a stint as the European Marlboro Man - and by 1968, he was reportedly the highest-paid male model on the planet. Such wide exposure brought him to the attention of film producers. He made his film...

Forever enshrined in the footnotes of pop culture history as the second actor to play James Bond on screen - and the one with the shortest tenure in the role - George Lazenby was a former model plucked from relative obscurity to replace Sean Connery as 007 in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969). Lazenby refused to play Bond again thanks to bad career advice, leaving him to languish in relative obscurity for much of the 1970s before resurfacing as a supporting player in several television series and made-for-TV movies. He also made frequent tongue-in-cheek appearances as Bond or a Bond-like secret agent in TV movies and commercials.

Born George Robert Lazenby in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia on Sept. 5, 1939, he served in the Australian Armed Special Forces and worked at several jobs in his native country - car salesman and ski instructor, among others - before departing for London in 1964. Lazenby's rugged good looks made him a natural choice for print and television modeling work - including a stint as the European Marlboro Man - and by 1968, he was reportedly the highest-paid male model on the planet. Such wide exposure brought him to the attention of film producers. He made his film debut as a "British Spy" in the Italian-made Bond spoof, "Marc Mato, Agente S.077" (known as "Espionage in Tangiers" in English-speaking countries, where Lazenby's scenes were reportedly cut by distributors).

When Sean Connery left the James Bond franchise after "You Only Live Twice" (1965), the producers cast a wide net to find a suitable replacement. After seeing Lazenby in a television commercial, producer Cubby Broccoli requested an interview and screen test. The actor scored well on both fronts - reportedly, he broke a stunt man's nose during a fight scene - and was announced as the new James Bond in the series' sixth film, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." According to numerous interviews completed after the film's release, tensions between Lazenby, co-star Diana Rigg (who supposedly ate garlic before her love scenes with him), and director Peter Hunt made the production an uncomfortable one for all involved. Matters became worse when Lazenby's manager, Rohan O'Rahilly - later the founder of England's legendary pirate radio station Radio Caroline - persuaded him to reject a seven-picture contract and walk away from the role due to its irrelevance in the face of the growing 1960s youth culture.

Though Lazenby would later state that he never said that he would leave the role, O'Rahilly publicly announced that his client would not return as Bond before the film's premiere. Lazenby was released from his contract. The film performed admirably at the box office, though not as well as the Bond pictures starring Connery, and was the second highest grossing film of 1969. Lazenby was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer. The laurel, and the picture itself, would be the last association with high-profile moviemaking in Lazenby's career.

Following the Bond debacle, Lazenby struggled to retain his foothold in films. He stepped as far from the 007 image as possible with his first feature after "Majesty" - an action-drama called "Universal Soldier" (1971) in which he starred as a soldier of fortune who suffers a crisis of conscience after signing on to train a band of mercenaries for an African president. Lazenby co-produced and co-wrote the picture, but the film did not have much of an impact at the box office. Newly married to newspaper heiress Christina Gannett in 1971, and the father of two young children, son Zachary and daughter Melanie, Lazenby did what so many other actors had done before him - he waded into the waters of international moviemaking, where his name and status as a former Bond lent star power to many a low-budget genre film.

Most of his efforts were forgettable, though 1972's "Who Saw Her Die?" - an eerie Italian thriller about a bereaved father (Lazenby) who discovers a conspiracy behind the facts surrounding his daughter's death - had its moments. Lazenby nearly launched a comeback by signing with Hong Kong's Golden Harvest, and would have co-starred with the legendary Bruce Lee - under whom he studied martial arts and philosophy - in his feature "Game of Death" (1978), had the martial arts superstar not died unexpectedly in 1973. Lazenby eventually completed four kung fu films in the East, but none had the international drawing power of Lee's features. In fact, Lazenby's footage was edited from "Game of Death" when it was finally released to theaters in 1978. Lazenby also popped up as an architect in "That's Armageddon!," a spoof of disaster movies featured in the Zucker Brothers' sketch comedy film, "Kentucky Fried Movie" (1977), and as a senator in Peter Bogdanovich's black comedy "Saint Jack" (1979). There were also reports that Monty Python's John Cleese wanted him to play Jesus Christ in their Biblical spoof "Life of Brian" (1979), but scheduling conflicts prevented him from taking the part.

American television offered him steady work in the late 1970s and early 1980s; most notably the terrorism drama "Evening at Byzantium" (1978). He eventually signed on to a year as a recurring character on the daytime soap "General Hospital" (ABC, 1963- ) in 1982 before becoming a series regular in the expensive syndicated primetime soap opera "Rituals" (1984-85). The series - in which he played a writer and former love interest of main vixen Tina Louise - fared poorly and was cancelled after only a year. Lazenby later returned to regular TV work on the syndicated "Superboy" (1988-1992) as the Man of Steel's father, Jor-El. Throughout this busy period, Lazenby also continued to play up his pedigree as a former Bond; he was the Aston Martin-driving "JB" in "The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E." (CBS, 1983), and "James" in an episode of the revived "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (NBC/USA, 1985-87). Aside from also making regular appearances at Bond-related public events and conventions, Lazenby was briefly considered to reprise 007 when producer Kevin McClory announced "Never Say Never Again" (1983), his remake of "Thunderball" (1965), but was dropped after Sean Connery agreed to once again take up the tuxedo and martini.

Lazenby's interest in acting waned during the early 1990s. He still logged time in features and television - most notably in "Gettysburg" (1993) as General J. Johnston Pettigrew, and as the suave Mario, who listens to Sylvia Kristel's Emmanuelle recount her erotic past in a series of softcore made-for-cable films between 1992 and 1995. Lazenby also suffered a terrible personal blow during this period when his son Zachary died from brain cancer in 1994. His priorities shifted to real estate, which made him exceptionally wealthy and the owner of several expensive homes in America as well as in Hong Kong and Australia. His marriage to Gannett ended in 1999, and he later married tennis pro and sports broadcaster Pam Shriver in 2002. The couple later had three children - a son, George, born in 2004, and twins Caitlin and Samuel, born in 2005.

Lazenby's later screen appearance came at the turn of the 21st century when he appeared on several episodes of "The Pretender" (NBC, 1996-2000) and voiced The King, head of the Royal Flush gang, on the animated "Batman Beyond" (The WB, 1999-2001). Lazenby announced his official retirement from acting in 2003 in order to enjoy life with his family and his numerous pastimes, which included car and motorcycle racing and sailing. In a 2007 episode of "Where Are They Now" (Seven Network, 2006- ), an Australian TV series, he expressed an interest in returning to Australia to raise his children there.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Four Dogs Playing Poker (2000) Carlo
3.
 Star of Jaipur (1999)
4.
 Gut Feeling (1998)
5.
 Twin Sitters (1995)
6.
 Gettysburg (1993) Brigadier General J Johnston Pettigrew (Confederate)
7.
8.
 Hell Hunters (1988) Heinrich
9.
 Never Too Young to Die (1986) Drew Stargrove
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1964:
Moved to London and began modeling
1966:
Made film debut as a British Spy in the Italian-made Bond spoof "Marc Mato, Agente S.077"
1968:
Became the highest-paid male model in the world
1969:
Cast as James Bond in the series' sixth film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"; became the only actor to have played the 007 agent in only one official Bond series film; nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer
1971:
Cast in the action-drama called "Universal Soldier"; also co-produced and co-wrote
1977:
Appeared in John Landis' "The Kentucky Fried Movie"
1978:
Cast in what was to be his comeback role, co-starring with Bruce Lee in "Game of Death"; the sudden death of Lee delayed the films release and Lazenby was edited out of the final film
1978:
Appeared in the American TV drama "Evening at Byzantium"
1979:
Played a senator in Peter Bogdanovich's black comedy "Saint Jack"
1982:
Had a recurring role on the daytime soap "General Hospital" (ABC)
1982:
Played the Aston Martin-driving 'JB' in "The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E."
1984:
Was a series regular on the syndicated prime time soap opera "Rituals"
1988:
Returned to regular TV work on the syndicated "Superboy" as Jor-El
1992:
Portrayed Mario, opposite Sylvia Kristel's Emmanuelle in a series of softcore made-for-cable films
1993:
Appeared as General Pettigrew in the feature, "Gettysburg"
1995:
Played a role in the CD-ROM game, "Fox Hunt"
1999:
Appeared on several episodes of "The Pretender" (NBC)
1999:
Lent his voice to The King, head of the Royal Flush gang, on the animated "Batman Beyond" (WB)
2003:
Announced his official retirement from acting
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Lazenby was paid $50,000 to portray James Bond.

Lazenby races motorcycles.

"They did exploit me -- they took advantage of my lack of experience. To this day -- Pierce Brosnan included -- I am the only Bond who did all his own stunts." --George Lazenby to the Daily News, November 26, 1995.

"Bond is a disgusting violent man with no respect for women -- but, in my opinion, any guy who says he has never secretly dreamed of being like Bond is lying." --Lazenby in Daily News, November 26, 1995.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Christina Ross Townson. Married c. 1970; divorced in 1994.
companion:
Pam Shriver. TV commentator, former tennis pro. Became engaged in 2001.

Family close complete family listing

father:
George Edward Lazenby. Butcher. Died in 1976.
mother:
Sheila Joan Lazenby. Shop assistant.
daughter:
Jennifer Lazenby. Dance instructor. Born c. 1960; Lazenby was not married to Jennifer's mother.
daughter:
Melanie Lazenby. Born c. 1973; mother, Chritina Townson.
son:
Zachary Lazenby. Born c. 1975; died after lengthy bout with brain cancer at age 19 in 1994.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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