In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
George Lazenby entered the world as a sickly boy with a very short life expectancy. Doctors said he wouldn’t make it past twelve, so he figured he’d get to living right away. Pranks, dalliances with women, and a laissez-faire attitude toward schoolwork gave him the reputation of a troublemaker, and even though he beat his grim prognosis, most of the authority figures in his life thought this rapscallion would ultimately amount to very little. So how did he end up becoming James Bond? Furthermore, how did he end up becoming such a well-respected version of 007 that he was offered a six-picture deal and a huge paycheck?
And why did he turn it all down?
Becoming Bond tells Lazenby’s remarkable story in his very own words. Although he is now in his late seventies, it’s easy to see why he nabbed the role made famous by his sole predecessor, Sean Connery. He’s suave, charming, and, if one removes the wistful air affixed to his tales by age, downright arrogant. Lazenby is Bond as we’ve come to define him, all the way down to a cellular level. Having only ridden one rodeo as everyone’s favorite secret agent has limited his legacy to a degree (he’s sort of the ‘lost’ Bond, if you will), but enthusiasts like myself tend to agree that his was one of the better Bonds. Then again, he never had to suffer the franchise fatigue which afflicted any of the longer-tenured 007s.
As Lazenby recounts his touching, often hilarious tale, Becoming Bond uses a chain of comical, quasi-star-studded reenactments so show us how it all went down. These segments borrow a bit from Drunk History by layering Lazenby’s narration directly into the mouths of the performers, who all treat it with a wink-and-nod knowingness. Josh Lawson (who recently played Paul Hogan in the similarly minded bio-series Hoges) puts in a grand comic performance. His goofy, dry, portrayal of Lazenby manages to hit all of the dramatic and comedic beats. When intercut with present-day Lazenby’s narration, the accuracy of the performance becomes very clear, as does the influence that Bond as a character has had on the bulk of alpha-male lead roles.
It’s every man’s dream to be James Bond, and Lazenby basically stumbled into it. We should all be so lucky. Yet despite his incredible fortune, the traits which landed him the role are also what caused him to walk away from a life of notoriety: Lazenby was simply unwilling to do anything at all on anyone’s terms but his own.
Like any life well-lived there are plenty of detours into humor, drama, success and regret, and hearing it all from a wizened man with an admirable outlook is exactly the type of feel-good material which makes for a fun flick, one which is sure to appeal to cinephiles and normies alike.
See Becoming Bond at its Philly premiere as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival on Sunday, April 23. Event details and tickets here.