Rebecca Tyrrel: 'George Lazenby's reputation as the Nostrodamus of movie trends is unshaken'

 

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Who knew that George Lazenby quit James Bond after just the one film because he didn't believe the character could survive late-Sixties hippie culture? "Bond is a brute, and I will never play him again," he grandly announced soon after On Her Majesty's Secret Service was released in 1969. "Peace – that's the message now."

He then toyed with the hippie thing himself by growing a beard and long hair, though perhaps that was cathartic for George, who had been discovered by Cubby Broccoli while having a short, neat Sean Connery-do at the hairdresser's.

Lazenby may not have enjoyed a stellar post-007 career, but with Daniel Craig returning in Skyfall this month, his reputation as the Nostrodamus of movie trends will be neither shaken nor stirred.

But back to 1968. Struck by Lazenby's manly good looks, Broccoli was so impressed when Lazenby 'accidentally' hit the stunt coordinator during the screen test that he overlooked his lack of acting experience, which was limited to a TV commercial for chocolate, and signed him. But not before deploying a prostitute to confirm that the protégé wasn't gay. "They sent a girl up to my apartment to make sure," says Lazenby. "A little while later they had their answer… I sure as hell wasn't."

When asked about his drinking and fighting days as a young lad in Australia, Lazenby replied, "What do you do with testosterone? You smack your mate." Post-Bond, Lazenby left a party with a mink coat belonging to OHMSS director Peter Hunt – "I got laid a lot in that mink coat". Yup, all man. What was Broccoli thinking?

And if the 'gay test' still rankles all these years later, perhaps Lazenby could seek solace with his fellow Australian film star, Mel Gibson, who once asked an interviewer, "Do I look like a homosexual? Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?"

Lazenby's second wife, the former tennis star Pam Shriver, suffered from the same sexuality confusion. She was so worried that people would assume she was more to Martina Navratilova than her doubles partner that she devoted a chunk of her autobiography to distancing herself from lesbianism in women's tennis. Which is no more sensible than concluding that Bond was too Neanderthal to survive an age when no one went to San Francisco without a flower in their hair – even the 100 per cent straight George Lazenby.

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