The Biggest Winner in 'No Time To Die'? George Lazenby

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Photo credit: Matt Green - Getty Images
Photo credit: Matt Green - Getty Images

There’s a very big, shadowy figure looming over much of No Time To Die

It’s not Rami Malek’s Safin and his nanobots, or Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld trundling very slowly towards Daniel Craig in his little prison trolley. It’s George Lazenby, swinging the keys to his Aston Martin DBS around a finger and whistling as he hops in for a spin.  

He’s there from the very beginning. If you’re a Bond fan, there’s only one thing that comes to mind on seeing yer man driving an Aston along some sun-bleached Mediterranean clifftop roads with his beau: impending doom. Lazenby’s newlywed Bond and his wife Tracy headed out for a drive at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and it’s the clearest pointer that not everybody was going to get out of No Time To Die alive.

Watch: 'No Time To Die' - Where the film's title came from

Then, as Bond and Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann drive, Hans Zimmer’s score forgoes his usual bwaaAAAAMP for quotations from both John Barry’s score for OHMSS and Louis Armstrong’s theme song, ‘We Have All the Time in the World’. 

The title sequence leans heavily on the one from OHMSS too. Titles designer Daniel Kleinman pinches the martini glass which turns into an hourglass and the statue of Britannia straight from Maurice Binder’s titles. And, most obviously, Bond announces that he has all the time in the world. Talk about tempting fate.

Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection - Getty Images
Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection - Getty Images

As it’s the 25th Bond film there are loads of nods to other Bond films too, of course. Even Die Another Day gets a slice of the action, in a mention of Felix Leiter’s preferred brand of cigars. But it’s the references to OHMSS which are deployed the most pointedly. 

It wasn’t just Lazenby’s first Bond film; it was his first film of any kind. You can occasionally tell that he was a bodybuilder turned car salesman turned chocolate advert hunk. His Aussie accent slips out every time he says ‘Blofeld’, somehow chewing it into ‘Blahfult’.

Watch: 'No Time To Die': How the story was developed

Lazenby took a lot of flak at the time OHMSS came out too. He was flippant, lightweight, gauche. “He looks uncomfortably in the part like a size four foot in a size ten gumboot,” wrote Donald Zec in the Daily Mirror. Gene Siskel complained that he couldn’t even order his food with the requisite pizzazz. 

As the Sixties curdled, Lazenby took stock. On the advice of his agent, he grew a beard, ditched Bond, and essentially tried to become Dennis Hopper. “Fantasy doesn't interest me,” he said on leaving Bond. “Reality does. Anyone who's in touch with the kids knows what's happening, knows the mood.”

Photo credit: Leonard Burt - Getty Images
Photo credit: Leonard Burt - Getty Images

Instead he became a forlorn, lonely figure, remembered laughingly as the man who screwed up the biggest chance any actor could ever get. He was someone to whom Bond had happened, a forgotten evolutionary cul-de-sac between Sean Connery and Roger Moore.

Gradually, the tide began to turn. Head over to Reddit’s r/JamesBond subreddit and you’ll see no end of posts by new fans discovering Lazenby’s story, and others proselytising about it to newcomers. By the time No Time to Die arrived, Daniel Craig was singing its praises.

“It’s one of the best movies, because it had a love story,” Craig told the Guardian recently. “And what is life without love?” 

Photo credit: Greg Williams - Getty Images
Photo credit: Greg Williams - Getty Images

When Craig started out as Bond, he looked like the heir to Timothy Dalton’s Bond in License to Kill, cynical to the point of nihilism and deeply bruised by MI6, by personal betrayals, by life in general. 

But Lazenby’s muscular scrapping style – he impressed Cubby Broccoli by accidentally belting a stuntman on the jaw in auditions – plus his the emotional openness and miserable ending of OHMSS were perhaps just as formative for Craig’s Bond. 

So nods and winks to Lazenby’s single story feel like something serious, especially when they top and tail the finale of the saga which made Bond a cool, vital event again. It’s a welcoming of Lazenby back inside the tent, and an acknowledgment that the Craig-Bond saga was formed in part by his attitude. 

Yet, for all warmth directed toward Lazenby, there was a sense that he yearned for some validation. “I'm still waiting for that one right, perfect role, to set things right,” Lazenby said later. “I'd really love that chance.”

Fifty-two years after OHMSS, he’s finally been granted it.

Watch: 'No Time To Die' - What to expect from Lashana Lynch's secret agent Nomi

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