How could a car salesman and model with no acting experience land the most famous film role in history? In ‘Becoming Bond’, HULU presents us with the answer. But is it the one we were looking for?
As a Bond fan, you have read and heard much about George Lazenbys story over the years. You discussed it with fellow fans at great length, debated if he should have done another film or whether it would have changed or obliterated the series.
For the first time, an entire documentary deals with Lazenbys extraordinary life in which he himself acts as the on-camera narrator. From his childhood days in Australia, discovering sexuality and meeting Belinda, the daughter of a rich family, until the decisive moment where he lands the role of James Bond, the viewer is taken on a wild ride through the life of the man that many only know as the “one-time-007”.
Thanks to seamless transitions between interview and filmed footage, the crossover between documentary and biopic works quite well. However, the film pretty quickly begins to show its faults. The constant switch between Lazenby and Josh Lawson, the actor who portrays him throughout the film, is a bit of a bother. Partly, it’s due to the fact that Lawson does not really resemble Lazenby that well.
Secondly, you naturally expected a film about Lazenby becoming Bond. It says so on the cover. Instead, you watch Lazenbys life being told and acted out for 50 minutes until the film finally gets to what you are interested in. Before that point, you have had the pleasure of listening to questionable recollections of Lazenbys youth. With a 95 minute runtime, that’s a killer. It doesn’t even take ten minutes until the first of Lazenbys notorious sex stories is put on the table. There is even a point where director Josh Greenbaum interrupts the interview and asks Lazenby if all of his stories were true.
If you were waiting for unseen footage from ‘On Her Majestys Secret Service’, the film will be a disappointment for you. Most of the interviews and behind the scenes footage is well known and available on either the home video collections or on YouTube. Undoubtedly, the makers of the film were aware of that. Just 20 seconds into the film, a YouTube clip of a news report is seen. Clearly visible in the bottom right corner is the logo of 007 Dossier, a much valued website and YouTube channel with a large collection of rare 007 material.
Overall, the segment dealing with Bond felt a bit off. Jeff Garlin played an over-the-top arrogant producer Harry Saltzman. True, Saltzman was not an easy man but he probably wasn’t as vicious as he is portrayed. Legendary Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli is missing completely. That almost counts as an affront for any Bond fan.
A bright spot of the film is actress Jane Seymour who portrays talent agant Maggie Abbott. She herself became a genuine Bond Girl starring alongside Roger Moore in his first James Bond film ‘Live and Let Die’ in 1973. Her radiant beauty and captivating smile leave you wanting more. Sadly her part in the film is rather short and amounts to a few sacred minutes.
After Lazenby declined a seven-film slave contract and one million Dollars from producer Harry Saltzman, his career went off the rails. ‘Becoming Bond’ however omits the explanation behind it and thus leaves the most pressing question unanswered. Why did Lazenby suddenly decide to throw it all away? The fact, that his then-manager Ronan O’Rahilly had advised him that “Bond would be over” and continuing would be a bad career move, is not mentioned at all.
Lazenbys post-Bond career is also not represented, thus leaving the viewer thinking, that quitting Bond really did mean the end of acting for him. Quite the opposite. He subsequently made over 20 more films and appeared in many TV series. He even has a film currently in pre-production.
But it’s not all as bad as it sounds. ‘Becoming Bond’ has a lot of elements that entertain on different levels. The humour for instance. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and plays around with various artistic styles. I must admit, I laughed heartily about the dramatization of Lazenbys diarrhea story which was appropriately underlined by some good old farting sounds.
Then there is the set design, costumes and the music. They all fit together nicely. Towards the end of the film, you even get the feeling that George Lazenby is on a path to set things straight once and for all. He genuinely seems to regret many choices he made in his life while at the same time advising the audience to “write your own story”. For most of his life after Bond, Lazenby has maintained a steady image as a bragging bighead. But behind that unpleasant veneer is a man who has accepted his faults, dealt with criticism and battled the ghosts of the past.
Overall, I’m not entirely certain for what kind of audience the film was made. For Bond aficionados, there is simply not enough substance. Fans of biopics will however get their fair share of entertaining drama with a lighter touch than they are probably used to.