Every serious 007 fan has a particular film that hooked them on the franchise. For Josh Greenbaum, the writer and director of Hulu’s new docudrama “Becoming Bond,” that film was the Pierce Brosnan blockbuster “GoldenEye.”
“That’s the one that did it for me,” says Greenbaum at a premiere screening at Cinefamily. “As many people my age will attest, the Nintendo game version of that film was huge. It took the movie and turned it into a first-person shooter where you could walk around the sets of a real James Bond film and kill your friends.”
“Becoming Bond” tells the unlikely story of George Lazenby, a charismatic Australian fashion model who fibbed his way into starring in the 1969 classic “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Though many Bond aficionados consider it one of the best entries in the series, Lazenby stunned audiences around the world when he walked away from the role after just one film.
“My producing partner and I share a mutual friend with George Lazenby,” says Greenbaum. “One day he asked me if I’d like to meet George. Of course, I was excited to talk to a real James Bond!”
After a long lunch with Lazenby, Greenbaum knew he’d make a fascinating documentary subject. “George is such a character and a great storyteller,” says Greenbaum. “I told him, you lived a crazier life in your first 12 years than I have in my 37!”
Gun-shy from some bad experiences with the press in the past, it took several more lunches before Lazenby agreed to star in the Hulu project. Eventually, a foundation of trust developed between the 78-year old former Bond and his new director, and a deal was struck.
The end result combines warmth, humor and a dose of magical realism.
Lazenby isn’t the only iconic Bond actor to appear in the film, however. Since every Bond adventure needs a Bond Girl, Greenbaum set his sights on casting Jane Seymour, who co-starred with Sir Roger Moore in the 1973 hit “Live and Let Die.”
“I really wanted Jane in this,” says Greenbaum. “So I reached out through agents and wrote her a letter. I just thought she’d be perfect in the film, both as a classic Bond Girl and as a phenomenal actress.”
In the film, Seymour plays Lazenby’s talent agent Maggie Abbott, the woman who first suggested that he should audition for the role of 007.
“When Jane arrived on set, she revealed to me that not only did she know Maggie Abbott in real life, but Maggie Abbott actually represented her when she worked out of London,” says Greenbaum.
Curiously enough, Lazenby isn’t the first James Bond actor that Greenbaum has directed. That honor belongs to the series’ current star Daniel Craig.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with Daniel Craig twice,” says Greenbaum. “He was in my first commercial about a year or two ago. And then this year I directed with him in a charity commercial sponsored by Omaze and Aston Martin.”
While shooting the most recent commercial, Greenbaum couldn’t resist mentioning “Becoming Bond” to Daniel Craig. “Between takes I saddled up to him and said, ‘By the way, I’m working on this other film about George Lazenby.’ And to my shock, he already knew about the film!”
It seems that a gaffer on Craig’s new Showtime series “Purity” had also worked on “Becoming Bond” and shared some info about the documentary with him.
“When I got over my surprise, I asked Daniel if he’d ever met George before. And he said, ‘I’ve never met him, but I like him.’ And that didn’t surprise me at all, having been around Daniel.”
Greenbaum sees a hint of similarity between the two Bond stars.
“It’s especially clear when you consider Daniel’s recent quotes about playing Bond again. It doesn’t surprise me that he finds a kindred spirit in George Lazenby, a guy who walked away from it all, even though the whole world thought he was crazy. I think Daniel probably identifies with that a little bit.”