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Since the 007 films premiered in 1962, six men have played the part of international man of mystery, James Bond. Of those six, only one quit the role after only a single appearance on-screen. He was an Australian model-turned-actor named George Lazenby – star of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, and BECOMING BOND is his life story.

The documentary takes an interesting approach to the proceedings by keeping George seated in front of a plain white wall to narrate his story. As he tells about his upbringing, we watch his memories play out through re-enactment, with a handsome go-getter named Josh Lawson standing in as The Man Who Would Be Bond. While at first the approach seems a tad jarring and gimmicky, we soon find our place within its rhythm and embrace it. Scenes play out with the honey-tinted glow of nostalgia, where we are our best selves, and the world around us is idyllic.

As we listen to George recount his life story, we realize he feels like something got away from him, and that something even starts with the letter ‘B’ – but it isn’t ‘Bond’. No, much of George’s recollections centre around a woman named Belinda (portrayed in the re-enactment by Cassandra Klementi). For George, she’s “the one that got away”, and even though they both went on to live fruitful lives, one can’t help but hear the words “what if” in the cadence of George’s voice.

This is a documentary that blends the aesthetic of Mad Men with the bittersweet reflection of The Wonder Years. It’s less interested in the man of mystery and more curious about the mystery of the man. What sort of character is required to walk into a casting office and bullshit your way into an audition for an iconic role? What sort of fortitude does it then take to realize what that role will do to a personal legacy and walk away from it all?

BECOMING BOND is a meditation on getting what you want in life. Sometimes we feel like we know what our heart desires, but we don’t throw ourselves completely towards getting it. Other times, we get what our heart desires, but we decide it’s not worth keeping. It can’t be helped with clarity of thought, or a varied approach. It’s only something that can be understood when you’re “in it”. Listening to George tell his tale, it’s clear he has regrets, but they aren’t the regrets one might expect. What’s more, one gets the impression that if he could go back and do it all differently, he wouldn’t change a thing.

George might not have got everything he wanted, but sure as there’s a twinkle in his eye – he wanted what he got.

 

BECOMING BOND plays at Hot Docs 2017 today – Thursday, May 4th, 3:45pm at The Isabel Bader Theatre. It then plays once more at TIFF Bell Lightbox, on Friday May 5th – 7pm.