Becoming Bond SXSW Review: Essential Viewing for 007 Fans
James Bond is one of the most enduring characters in the history of cinema. Ever since Sean Connery first brought the spy we all know and love to life on the big screen in Dr. No, there have been six men who have taken on the role and tried to fill those shoes. But one and only one man was brave enough to only play Bond once. That man was Lazenby, George Lazenby and Becoming Bond is his story. For fans of James Bond, or fans of interesting stories in general, this documentary is absolutely essential viewing.
Hulu's Becoming Bond tells the story of George Lazenby and how he, a poor mechanic turned car salesman who then became a male model, landed the role of James Bond. A man who never acted a day in his life prior to that. The story is told by George Lazenby himself in the form of a 90-minute interview and director Josh Greenbaum uses actors such as Jeff Garlin, Jane Seymour and Josh Lawson to play out the story Drunk History style. No, the actors aren't reading his lips the whole way through in that exact same way word for word, but the core idea is similar. Since this story really is stranger-than-fiction, the method of storytelling is perfectly suited to the material.
A good portion of James Bond fans probably wouldn't even be able to recall the name George Lazenby, but the tale of the man who played 007 once and walked away is possibly more fascinating than the icon that is Bond. This is a man who didn't graduate high school, wasn't British, never aspired to act, wasn't wealthy and told a pack of lies just to get in the room to have a shot at landing the role of a lifetime. Only to walk away from it after just one movie. A great movie at that. Hearing the story directly from the man who actually lived this insane life and had this experience is so fitting. Sure, other documentaries could have done a better job at seeking out the "truth," since this is just the way that George Lazenby remembers it, and he strikes you as the kind of guy who likes to embellish a bit, so this may not all be totally accurate. But that kind of adds to the charm of Becoming Bond. This is his story told his way. Like he lived his life.
What is really interesting about Becoming Bond is that the James Bond stuff, as much as that is the centerpiece of this movie and as much as that is the hook that gets you in, may not even be the most interesting part of this whole, crazy story. The story of George Lazenby's actual life is funny, interesting, at times sad and never dull. James Bond is just a character. Something that took up one year of this man's life is something that he will be remembered for long after he is dead. That is also a testament to the fact that many consider On Her Majesty's Secret Service to be one of the best Bond movies ever made, but still. This was a young, unsuspecting guy who had no idea what he was getting himself into. So he walked away. He turned down fame. Money. Girls. All of it just because, at the time, he thought it was the right thing to do. It makes for a gripping, human story that is impossibly charming.
George Lazenby is a charismatic guy and one that all of us could probably stand to learn a thing or two from. Becoming Bond is fascinating, entertaining and emotional and that all completely rides on the merits of this man's unbelievable true story. Director Josh Greenbaum deserves a lot of credit for deciding to tell this story in this particular way because it feels like most versions of this would have been a little more straightforward and less true to the character. But not the character of Bond, mind you. He is Lazenby, George Lazenby and you should watch this. Definitely, watch this.