George Lazenby's first encounter with James Bond took place 50 years ago when he took a date to see the first 007 film, "Dr. No" with Sean Connery. By the end of the movie, his date had little interest in him.
"She was in love with the guy on the screen," recalled Lazenby with a laugh. "I said if I ever get a chance to play that guy, I'll take it."
And, of course, he did.
FOR THE RECORD:
James Bond films: In the April 2 Calendar section, an article about a James Bond festival at the Alex Theatre in Glendale said that Maud Adams was the only actress to appear in two James Bond films. Martine Beswick also appeared in two Bond movies, 1963's "From Russia With Love" and 1965's "Thunderball." —
Lazenby took on the Bond persona in the acclaimed 1969 series entry "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." The Australian Lazenby hadn't acted in movies before he got the role of Bond after Connery left the series. Only 30 at the time of the film's release, Lazenby may have looked sophisticated, but he wasn't.
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"I didn't have a city education, if you know what I mean," Lazenby noted. "They wanted someone with self-assurance. Because I was naive I wasn't afraid of anything."
Lazenby is among the stars of the most successful franchise in movie history who will be appearing at the "James Bond 007 50th Anniversary" screening series at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. The festival kicks off Tuesday with 1989's "Licence to Kill" and continues every Tuesday through April.
Another franchise veteran, Maud Adams, will be on hand for the April 9 screening of 1983's "Octopussy," one of two films in which she played the Bond "girl." She also co-starred in 1974's "The Man With the Golden Gun." In both films Roger Moore was Bond.
Ironically, Adams met Lazenby in the 1960s when they both were young models doing commercials for L'Oreal cosmetics. One set of ads that were shot in Italy were James Bond spoofs.
"Lazenby was one of the actors I worked with," noted the 68-year-old Adams. "He was one of the guys playing a James Bond character."
Tonight's screening of "Licence to Kill" will feature special guest David Hedison, who played CIA operative Felix Leiter in the film and in 1973's "Live and Let Die." Adams will be appearing with actress Kristina Wayborn for "Octopussy."
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Lazenby will be talking about his experiences in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" on April 16, followed by 1972's "Diamonds Are Forever" on April 23 with actresses Lana Wood and Trina Parks. And on April 30, Hedison and actress Gloria Hendry will be on hand for "Live and Let Die."
Stan Taffel will moderate the Q&A's.
Lazenby and Adams had vastly different experiences in their Bond films. He only appeared once before he walked away from the franchise. She is the only actress who played a Bond girl twice.
Reviews for Lazenby were mixed when the film was released, but over the years both the film and his performance have grown in reputation. In fact, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is considered one of the strongest — and darkest — entries in the series; it ends on a tragic note with the death of his Bond's wife (Diana Rigg) just after their marriage.
Rigg, he noted, employed a rather unique method to get him in the mood for the film's bleak finale. "She was on my lap and she was biting my leg," Lazenby said laughing. "I had to tell her to cut it out. I said 'Why are doing that for?' She said she was trying to help me cry."
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Lazenby said his naiveté got in the way when he told the producers he wouldn't do another Bond film. "They offered me millions of dollars under the table to do another one," he said. But his friend, Irish businessman Ronan O'Rahilly, told him not to do it.
"He said if you want a good career as an actor, you have to get away from Bond," Lazenby said. "That's Sean Connery's gig. It's hippy time now. It's make love not war. He convinced me."
Leaving the franchise after one film took a toll on his budding career. "They put it out I was difficult to handle," said Lazenby. These days, Lazenby noted, "I can work more than I want."
Adams said it never ceases to astound her that "people care that much about the films. My daily life is so unlike being a Bond girl. I have a very private life and then to step into the Bond girl role every so often is fun. At my age to be even considered in those terms is quite special."
'James Bond 007 50th Anniversary'
When: Tuesdays through April 30 at 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, "Licence to Kill"
Where: Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Ave., Glendale
Admission: $15; $40 for a five-film pass
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