Former James Bond star George Lazenby axed from national music tour after ‘homophobic’ comments

<span>Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

Former James Bond star George Lazenby has been forced to apologise for “creepy” and “homophobic” comments made during an on-stage interview in Australia on the weekend.

Lazenby, who played secret agent 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was part of a performance titled The Music of James Bond at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday evening. It was the third performance on a national tour.

The 83-year-old Australian actor has been removed from the last leg of the concert tour after the tribute to the film franchise descended into uncomfortable territory, causing a major backlash.

Attenders took offence over references to sexual conquests, poor language and “homophobic” comments about the LGBTQ+ community at the family friendly event.

“I am sorry and saddened to hear that my stories in Perth on Saturday might have offended some people,” he said in a statement.

“It was never my intention to make hurtful or homophobic comments and I am truly sorry if my stories that I have shared many times were taken that way.”

Theatre producer Concertworks said it was “extremely saddened and disappointed” by Lazenby’s “language, comments and recollections” throughout the performance.

Special counsel Aaron Kernaghan confirmed the final show, scheduled to take place at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on Saturday, would continue without the actor present after multiple complaints from audience members.

“These were his personal views and there is no excuse for this in today’s society. They do not reflect the views of Concertworks,” he said.

“Concertworks has been in touch with people who have raised concern and it has issued an apology.

“Concertworks has chosen to discontinue its relationship with Mr Lazenby [and] commenced a thorough review of the matter.”

Melbourne Arts Centre executive director of performing arts, Melanie Smith, said the company “fully supports” the decision to remove Lazenby from the Hamer Hall concert.

“Discrimination due to race, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability have no place at our venues. Inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated and we expect everyone to treat others with dignity, courtesy and respect,” she said.

Lazenby said he only ever wished to “share some stories” and “entertain”.

“I personally have friends within my close circle who are gay and I would never wish to offend anyone,” he said. “Having been surrounded by strong women all my life, I have always admired and respected women and their wishes.”

Classical music fans welcomed Concertworks’ move to cancel Lazenby’s spot.

“Thank you for … this apology, his comments were frankly disgusting and have no place,” one social media user wrote. “What despicable behaviour for all the time and effort you put in to promote,” another user commented.

Lazenby was accompanied onstage by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO). It was the third performance on the Australian tour, after shows in Sydney and Adelaide.

WASO said Lazenby’s recollections were “personal views” that were “totally unacceptable”.

“His views are not shared or endorsed by WASO or Perth Concert Hall,” it said in a statement.

Related: Sean Connery voted best Bond, with Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan runners up

Born in Goulburn, New South Wales, Lazenby was catapulted to fame when he landed the role as Ian Fleming’s James Bond in 1969 with no prior acting experience, taking over the from the original 007, Sean Connery.

Lazenby declined to return in future Bond films and experienced a self-described period of ostracisation from the film industry before playing leading roles in Gettysburg and The Man from Hong Kong.

“Bond is a brute … I’ve already put him behind me. I will never play him again. Peace – that’s the message now,” he said at the time.

He has spoken publicly about his drug and alcohol use after the Bond role. In 2017, he told the Guardian he had slept with “maybe a thousand” women throughout his colourful career, including up to “five a day” in the 60s.

“It was ridiculous. It really was. If you were handsome, and you had the balls to ask them – I mean, how many times you could get it up was how many times you could do it,” he said.