I’ve made it no small secret that I am a big fan of the James Bond franchise and all of their films. Those of you that know the series well will likely have a question for what is widely considered biggest shortcoming of any official Bond film (so, not counting Never Say Never Again) and that is, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. George Lazenby stars in it as the second actor to play Bond and also as the only one to do it just once, and his story is even more interesting than that. That interesting story is what is the focus of Becoming Bond to tell, from Lazenby’s own words, so it easily topped my list of must see films this year at SXSW. I got into the premier and its time for me to tell you what I think.
Normally there isn’t necessarily a plot to summarize in a documentary, but in this case it is kind of needed. The film features Lazenby sitting and talking about his life on camera, and then it cuts frequently to those parts of his life being reenacted, primarily by fellow Australian Josh Lawson (at least for the stories of his adult life). It details Lazenby’s life from childhood to adulthood and he is a wonderfully colorful storyteller and the reenactments keep that energy and humor alive as something of a caricature. This combination wonderfully illustrates his tale while also only adding to the humor of some of the funny and odd situations he found himself in.
The documentary is truly powered by Lazenby’s candor and story telling prowess as well as Lawson’s charisma in his performance as him. I in truth knew a little of his life from some research before the screening but even still there were new segments and stories that kept you glued to the screen. Despite his Australian origins he now speaks with more of an American accent from years living here and he just flows through a story without fear of self-effacement at all and honestly had lived such a colorful life in itself that you truly can’t help but sit and listen. Lawson as well handles portraying such a vibrant person with what seems like ease and charm. There are many times where a story already has plenty that is funny, but his miming George’s speech or even delivery of a line on his own takes a funny scene to being laugh out loud. I was not familiar with him before this film, but he’s definitely a talent I want to see a bit more and makes me want to check his most recent work I’m aware of on the show Superstore which I hadn’t considered before.
A large part of what makes this documentary really stand out is the ideas and direction of Josh Greenbaum. This is only his second documentary, though he does have a fair amount of work in TV, but after this I certainly wish to see him work more in documentary. His idea to just have one subject interviewed for the whole film and building a complete narative for his performers off his words. Greenbaum had mentioned that when he decided to have the story fully reenacted he pretty much just story-boarded out his ideas for the reenactments around the interview audio which really helps structure it. Its clear that he has a skill for directing humor here and he makes for one of thee most colorful and interesting documentaries I’ve seen.
You probably know nothing about George Lazenby coming in. You may not like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But if you are interested in some laughs and great bit of storytelling then I have to highly recommend you watch this documentary, even if Documentaries aren’t normally your thing. It will also be appearing on Hulu so its even easier than going to a theater to see it.