SXSW Film Review: Becoming Bond

The secret life of the forgotten James Bond

George Lazenby had no business replacing Sean Connery as James Bond, but he did and quickly hit the career self-destruct button.

His life rushed forward in fits, starts, and smudges of extraordinary luck: wasn't supposed to live past 12 because of childhood health concerns, failed to graduate high school in his native Australia, got a job as a car mechanic, transformed himself into a car salesman, chased a lover to England, became a top model, and talked his way into becoming the second onscreen James Bond despite having no acting experience. Then, with a six-film contract and assured stardom dropped on his lap, he balked and quit.

Director Josh Greenbaum mines Lazenby's story in Becoming Bond, a documentary that relies heavily on the actor's substantial charm to propel its narrative. Interviews with Lazenby are combined with re-creations of his life from birth forward using actors. Josh Lawson plays the adult Lazenby with humor and believability (though the "real" Lazenby is a bit more macho). The documentary/dramatization hybrid largely works, though when a few well-known actors show up (Dana Carvey as Johnny Carson, Jane Seymour as Lazenby's agent) it can distract.

Surprisingly, Lazenby's early years and the young love he never quite got over provide some of the film's most enjoyable moments. By the time he becomes Bond, we're rooting for him, shaking our heads at his Sixties-era playboy lifestyle. He's a nice guy brimming with confidence, faking it for the camera. Then he throws it all away.

The implication is Lazenby couldn't stomach a "slave contract" that would control his look and essentially his life as he would be required to become James Bond, emulating Connery's portrayal and keeping the brand alive. Lazenby instead grew a beard and paid for his own U.S. promo tour for On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Chart your own destiny, Lazenby tells us of the moment he gave it all up.

The documentary gives only a quick glimpse at Lazenby's post-Bond life: motocross racing, marriage, and children. There's little mention of his continued acting career or his personal challenges. But that's OK. This is a film about a guy who did life his own way, and it's an enjoyable ride. It will be released on Hulu May 20.


Becoming Bond

Visions, World Premiere
Tuesday, March 14, 9pm, Vimeo Theatre
Friday, March 17, 1:45pm, Stateside

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
Grand Jury awards for Virtual Cinema also named

Josh Kupecki, March 18, 2017

SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
Behind the scenes with the iconic drag queens of Brazil

Anastacia Uriegas, March 17, 2017

More by Joe O'Connell
UT Professor on the Making of Texas Film Epic <i>Giant</i>
UT Professor on the Making of Texas Film Epic Giant
Don Graham's Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film

April 13, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd</I>
Review: If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd
The highs and lows of one of the most iconic Southern rock bands

March 14, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW, SXSW Film 2017

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle