Rare and Unpublished Photos From Auditions for ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’
By Benjamin Lind on December 20, 2012
Note from the Editor: Although the story from the source is from August 2012, the photos were first seen around the Internet in 2009.
In the early 1960s, movie producers adapting Ian Fleming’s novels about a suave British spy named James Bond plucked a relative unknown, Sean Connery, from obscurity and offered him the role of a lifetime. And when Connery left the franchise after five movies (although he would briefly be back, in 1971, in Diamonds Are Forever) the hunt for another Bond was on.
In 1967 LIFE sent photographer Loomis Dean to casting sessions for the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The magazine published a handful of those photos in an article on the film and on the Bond phenomenon. But some of Dean’s choicest frames — Bond wannabes suiting up, brandishing guns, sipping faux martinis, wooing women — never ran in the magazine. Here, on Bond creator Ian Fleming’s birthday, LIFE.com presents rare and unpublished photos from those auditions, featuring the five top candidates — including George Lazenby, who would eventually win the coveted role.
Finalist John Richardson. Of the five Bond hopefuls (narrowed down from nearly 400), 34-year-old Richardson probably boasted the most experience, having acted opposite such beautiful women as Ursula Andress (in 1965’s She) and Raquel Welch (in 1966’s One Million Years B.C.).
John Richardson reacts as his screen-test costar pulls out a gun. Photographer Loomis Dean included no notes in his files about the shoot, so it’s unclear exactly what scene from the film is being performed — but it’s very likely a moment from the beginning of Secret Service, when the lovely but troubled Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo aims at 007 in a hotel room. (Later in the movie, Tracy becomes Bond’s first and only wife.)
Smoke and shadows lend Anthony Rogers the requisite air of mystery. In Fleming’s novels, Bond has a 60-cigarette-a-day habit; he prefers potent “Morland Specials,” a blend of Balkan and Turkish tobacco. In the movies, his habit changes — 007 smokes cigarettes in the films starring Connery, Lazenby and Timothy Dalton; puffs on the occasional cigar during Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan’s tenure; and hasn’t lit up at all so far under Daniel Craig.
Finalist Robert Campbell. Was he the most attractive candidate? That’s open to debate — but many of the photos from Campbell’s test indicate he was concerned about getting the Bond look just right.
James Bond finalist Anthony Rogers. Before he screen-tested for Bond, Rogers played an alien in five episodes of TV’s Doctor Who, a physician in the John Wayne/Robert Mitchum Western, El Dorado (1966), and Sir Dinadan, a Knight of the Round Table, in Camelot (1967). He looks markedly older than his competitors, although LIFE put the average age of all five at 32.
Finalist Hans de Vries. The year of his audition, de Vries had a bit part in Shalako (coincidentally starring Sean Connery). He also had a previous connection to the Bond franchise: He played “Control Room Technician” in You Only Live Twice.
In the years following is James Bond audition, Hans de Vries worked primarily on the small screen, racking up credits on British television.
Winner George Lazenby was a 28-year-old Australian model living in London, with virtually no acting experience outside TV commercials. But there was something about George Lazenby that placed him a notch above his competitors. Particularly impressive was his physical prowess: In a subsequent audition to test his fighting skills, Lazenby reportedly broke a stuntman’s nose. That clinched it.
George Lazenby fiddles with a knife while chatting with director Peter R. Hunt. “He was a great looking guy and he moved very well,” the director, who died in 2002, once said. “I think if things had gone the other way, he would have gone on to be a very good Bond.”
George Lazenby goofs off behind the scenes of his screen test, boxing with an unidentified man. “I was so naïve, so green,” the actor reminisced in a 1992 interview with Entertainment Tonight. “I was a country boy from Australia, basically, who walked into a Bond role.”
Lazenby twirls a gun beside potential Bond girl Marie-France Boyer. “I’m really looking forward to being Bond, for the bread and the birds,” he told LIFE after his casting.
George Lazenby looks comfortable beside Bond-girl hopeful Agneta Eckemyr — but once filming began, rumors sprouted that Lazenby had personality conflicts with the woman ultimately cast as his love interest, Avengers star Diana Rigg.
George Lazenby leans against a bar in what appears to be a moment away from auditions. Bond producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman told LIFE that the new 007 would be “an instant millionaire” — so imagine their shock when Lazenby quit after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, passing up a seven-year contract because he thought the emerging counterculture meant the spy franchise was passé.
“First I was very humble about it and naïve, and then I kinda got on the bandwagon and sort of said, ‘I must be who they say I am,’ and got carried away and demanded limousines and did the whole bit,” Lazenby said in the ’92 interview, regarding his behavior after his casting. “[It] was obnoxious and arrogant and all the things you hate about those people. And I got what I deserved.” (That would be roles in B-movies and Bond parodies.)
Benjamin Lind became a James Bond fan at the age of 15 and has since closely followed the production of every film since 'Tomorrow Never Dies'. Apart from writing about Bond, he is a founding member of the James Bond Club Germany and holds a position as advisor in its executive committee. In 2016, Lind released a charity documentary film entitled 'A Bond For Life - How James Bond changed my Life' in support of UNICEF.