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 Here, on Bond creator Ian Fleming’s birthday, LIFE.com presents rare and unpublished photos from those auditions, featuring the five top candidates — including George Lazenby, who would eventually win the coveted role.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 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.|
|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.|
|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.|