The James Bond Files ~
When James Bond Met Edgar
Cayce – Q&A with George Lazenby
By Ron Payne
In a scene from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
(1969), George Lazenby carries an unconscious Diana Rigg.
In September 1999, two distinct things happened in the life of
former James Bond star, George Lazenby. First, there was a
definitive interview in CineFantastique Magazine which
featured Pierce Brosnan on the cover. It was one of George
Lazenby’s best-ever interviews and was a great critical
success for writer Rich Handley, whom I helped get the gig, as
George always likes to say. And, then there was that great moment
when George Lazenby flew into Virginia Beach, Virginia –
“just for me” – as a special guest of the
Association for Research and Enlightenment – the Edgar
George had first discovered Edgar Cayce – “the
Sleeping Prophet” – about the time he was doing
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “I was
reading all this mind blowing stuff about Cayce, who would go into
a trance and tell sick people how to heal themselves. I was reading
this in a paperback, between scenes for the Bond film. I was hooked
on the guy and wanted to learn more.” So it seemed a
natural fit – 007 coming to meet with and do a performance
for the folks keeping the legacy of Edgar Cayce alive.
It was a splendid night. Alma Cravatt, who had pushed the
whole thing through with the Cayce people, was a delight. If anyone
was Miss Moneypenny in Virginia Beach that night, it was Alma.
I asked for and received security for George Lazenby. Every
precaution was taken for his protection and it paid off, immediately.
When the Cayce group – four guys, plus George and
me – arrived at his plush hotel suite, there was already
someone in his room. To our amazement, his door was locked
from the inside! A group of people had entered off the roof by way
of the deck outside. We went instantly to work getting rid of them
and moving George to an even plusher and safer suite overlooking
Later, George met, privately, with Dr. Charles Thomas Cayce,
the son of Edgar Cayce and they seemed to get along quite well.
George expressed an interest in portraying Edgar Cayce on the
widescreen. It is an idea, some nine years later, that still holds
merit for the actor. He would, indeed, make a splendid Cayce, as
he has researched all of the 2,000 plus readings the “sleeping
prophet” left behind.
Before his arrival, The A.R.E. had run several television
commercials announcing “An Evening With George
Lazenby,” and the Virginia Beach Pavilion, Virginia
Beach’s largest theatrical and entertainment center in the
city, used both “An Evening With George Lazenby”
and “An Evening With James Bond” on their large
marquee. It projected the feeling of real star power as we all rode
in the motorcade the night of George’s engagement on
stage. It was a very glamorous night.
Below are the questions posed by the audience and George’s
very in-depth replies. Even after all these years, these very candid
answers should give readers, who weren’t there that night,
some very human and insightful glimpses into the very thoughtful
Q – What was it like playing 007?
I had a great time. Everyone treated me, really, well. The main
reason director Peter Hunt and I stopped talking was due to an
unfortunate incident, where Peter thought I over-stepped the line
and his authority as the director. There were many people coming
around the set and someone, I forget who, said to me “Why
don’t you close the set? You’re James Bond,”
etc. and in my naive way – I was new, you know –
I did just that, thinking it perfectly okay. Well, when Peter returned
from lunch and found his set closed-closed by me – he
was none too pleased. That’s how the “Lazenby
is difficult to work with” legend started to circulate. I was
very sorry it happened, but it stuck. Peter later told others that he
didn’t stop communicating with me – that it would
be impossible for a director to direct, if he didn’t, but there
was a difference.
I felt the only thing I had to guide me in the interpretation of
Bond was Fleming’s novel – the original source
material. It was a very long shoot. We started in October 1968 and
kept at it for a full ten months. I was doing most of my own stunts,
except for the skiing, and for a lot less money than my predecessor.
I was exhausted by the end of filming. I was still at an age –
I am the youngest actor on record, even after all these years, to
portray James Bond – twenty eight – and I
wasn’t certain I wanted to be a movie star. I realize now
– it comes with maturity – I made a mistake, walking
away from Bond.
When I told Cubby I was quitting, we were half-way through the
picture. Cubby and Harry wanted me to sign their contract. Cubby,
in particular, could not understand anyone walking away from such
a deal. He couldn’t fathom my not wanting to be James
Bond. Things were not quite the same, after that. When I said I was
leaving, they didn’t really know what to do with me.
That’s why it says “Harry Saltzman and Albert R.
Broccoli Present Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007”
at the beginning of the picture, rather than “Present George
Lazenby as James Bond 007” at the beginning of the film
and in the advertising. It was difficult on their merchandising plans,
I’m certain, as the new actor’s likeness –
me – was to be the new face of 007 to the world.
When I did The Tonight Show, starring Johnny
Carson in Hollywood, Cubby was less than pleased with me when
I showed up wearing long hair and a full beard. They wanted James
Bond to appear, not the new and different George Lazenby. I will
tell you one thing, however. Even in the years that followed, if I rang
up, Harry Saltzman always accepted my telephone calls and we
would talk. He was always interested and interesting.
Q – Is it true that On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service outgrossed Sean
Connery’s last James Bond film, Never Say Never
Q – Would you like to portray James Bond
Of course. It’s a great gig. Bond is larger than life.
I’d love to play James Bond again, if only to show the world
I’ve matured and could do it better now. I’ve learned
a lot since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
about acting and about life – or I wouldn’t be here
Q – How do you feel about Mrs. Bond, your
co-star, Diana Rigg?
The news people exaggerated that Diana and I hated each other.
Not so. She’s a wonderful actress. We haven’t had
much contact over the years, though I did bump into her, recently.
She’s still beautiful and I consider her a friend. I’m
her biggest fan.
Q – What do you think of the James Bond
films that came later? How would you rate Roger Moore, Timothy
Dalton and Pierce Brosnan?
I have great respect for any actor who goes to bat to portray
double-0-seven. It’s a tough job. The press follows you
everywhere. There’s very little privacy. However, I can’t
answer your question. I haven’t seen the films that followed.
I’ve only seen Sean’s official films and mine.
Q – What did you do after On Her
Majesty’s Secret Service?
I went to Hong Kong. I did several martial arts films. I met with
Bruce Lee about doing a film. I raced cars for awhile. And I’ve
done other films, including Saint Jack, Never
Too Young to Die and The Return of the Man From
UNCLE, for television. I’ve remained busy.
I’ve just recently completed guest starring on the hit NBC
television series, The Pretender. I’m also
interested in real estate. I have a ranch. I also did a television series
in France. I stay busy.
I would love to do a film biography of Edgar Cayce. It would have
to be a serious, well written script. I’d want a good director.
I’ve gotten offers to do all kinds of roles, over the years,
including plays by Shakespeare. I’ve turned them all down,
but a solid film about Cayce I would seriously consider.
Q – Is acting hard work?
Yes. The really great actors know what they are doing. They
have to work hard to know what they are doing. I like to relax and
play tennis or golf. I play golf as often as I can, because it’s
good to be outside and with friends. But, as for the acting, I still
take regular acting classes, even after all these years. The
younger actors keep you on your toes.