James Bond’s George Lazenby was ripped off among thousands on the set of 007
Later today at 6:05pm, ITV 4 will broadcast the iconic James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. This film was a turning point for the series, as it was the first film without Sean Connery playing 007. Instead, George Lazenby took over the role, but his tenure did not last long. He only starred in one film before Connery was forced to triumphantly return to the series for one final film. However, Lazenby certainly made the most of his time as Bond. Starting with how he claimed the role.
Lazenby claimed the role of Bond when he walked into the MGM offices in London and demanded an audition. The Australian model had no prior acting experience, but he was so convincing in his screen test that he broke another actor’s nose during a test fight. When the 30-year-old arrived on the set of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, she had an extremely strange experience.
Speaking to the Daily Express in 2010, Lazenby revealed: “I had been given thousands of dollars for expenses and it was all piling up in my suitcase.” She was reportedly paid up to £1,000 a day (approximately £16,832 in 2020), all of which she kept in suitcases.
But when the film’s on-screen villain, Telly Savalas, learned of this massive amount of cash, he hatched a devious plan.
Savalas played Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the film and had a great relationship with Lazenby, but things quickly got out of hand between them.
Savalas was eager to make a point with rising star 007, so he invited him over to play a game. Lazenby recalled: “Telly saw [the suitcase] one day and asked, ‘Do you want to play poker?’ Well, I had never played poker and I started losing.”
The Australian actor reportedly lost a large chunk of change in the games that followed, leaving Savalas extremely happy with himself. The loss was so devastating that the film’s direction had to intervene.
Word eventually reached Harry Saltzman, a Canadian film producer and one of Bond’s bosses who worked on the early 007 films alongside the legendary Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. Once he found out what had happened to Lazenby, he challenged Savalas to his own game of poker. The story goes that Saltzman recovered every penny the Bond actor was owed and promptly paid it back to the now bereaved star. But not before he gave Savalas a stern word.
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Lazenby recalled that Saltzman confronted Savalas about his covert actions.
The 007 star recalled: “[Harry] Saltzman stopped him and told Telly, ‘Leave my son alone.'”
Despite the poker incident, it appears that both Savalas and Lazenby had a good relationship on set. Savalas was a well-known star at the time, having previously starred in projects like The Dirty Dozen, The Man From UNCLE, and The Fugitive.
Lazenby later shared a fond memory he had of Savalas on set, proving that the 007 villain actor was incredibly kind.
Lazenby said, “The only thing I remember about Telly helping me was that we rehearsed the scene, our first scene together (I don’t remember where it was, but it was on that mountain) and he had apparently been warned that I was a novice actor.”
Savalas was not going to stand for this kind of talk, so he turned to the bosses and declared, “He doesn’t need any help. I have to be careful, he’ll take me off the screen.”
Added Lazenby: “So that was, in a way, a compliment, because I came away remembering all my lines and Telly hadn’t put hers down yet, even though she did when we started filming, and I had to have mine.” down because if he hadn’t, there’s no way he could remember them in five minutes like he can.”
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