Becoming Bond is a candid behind-the-scenes look at the career of George Lazenby, an Australian model who was suddenly thrust into the limelight as one of the most iconic characters ever.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
After five hugely successful and popular entries, Sean Connery passed on the opportunity to star in further Bond films, leaving the studio with the precocious proposition of replacing a man who had come to personify his character. They settled on George Lazenby, a mechanic/car salesman/male model from rural Queensland who just so happened to conflate his resume and blag his way through the audition process.
After scoring the role, Lazenby swiftly announced midway through the shoot of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that he wouldn’t be returning to the role a second time, turning down a tabled offer of £1 million and a seven-picture deal – a decision that seemed baffling both at the time and in hindsight.
Becoming Bond is a feature length documentary/biopic from writer/director Josh Greenbaum that intends to untangle this perplexing series of events – just how did Lazenby waltz into the most lucrative role of a lifetime? And why did he choose to walk away when so many other actors would have killed to be in his position?
The film melds talking heads – well, one talking head from Lazenby himself – with archival footage from the era alongside lengthy re-enactments from a cast of actors; Australian writer/director/comedian Josh Lawson plays Lazenby, Home and Away actress Kassandra Clementi plays Belinda, the love of his life, and Jeff Garlin plays Harry Saltzman, amongst others.
It’s an amusing approach that is mainly played for laughs – Lazenby’s narration of events is often lip-synched over the actors and you get the sense that the whole affair is an embellishment of the past, kind of like how stories get exaggerated over time. Again, this is played for laughs, and the film is an effervescent look at show business and how Lazenby’s round peg didn’t fit into the square hole he was offered.
Lawson has charisma to spare, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Jake Johnson is fun and Lazenby’s narration is direct and doesn’t lack clarity. It’s the pacing where this film falls down – quite simply, the entire first half is dedicated to charting Lazenby’s childhood and formative years as a young larrikin. No offence, but is this what we came to see? Clearly there are events here of importance to the man himself, but the most important stuff – the making of his sole Bond film – takes too long to come to the fore. Alas, the film still carries weight, and the message – to stay true to who you are and know yourself – is impactful to say the least.
Raunchy, irreverent and brimming the same irresistible cheekiness that has defined Bond over 50 years of films, Becoming Bond elevates a relative footnote in his history to a starring role, turning Lazenby’s career from a pub trivia question into something quite profound.
Becoming Bond is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)
Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment