A composite image of the five top candidates (including ultimate choice George Lazenby, bottom right). Published in the October 11, 1968, issue of LIFE.
VIEW GALLERY | 29 PHOTOS
A composite image of the five top candidates (including ultimate choice George Lazenby, bottom right). Published in the October 11, 1968, issue of LIFE.Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
A composite image of the five top candidates (including ultimate choice George Lazenby, bottom right). Published in the October 11, 1968, issue of LIFE.
John Richardson during James Bond auditions, 1967.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service director Peter R. Hunt oversees a test love scene between John Richardson and an actress, moving her leg just so.
John Richardson during James Bond auditions, 1967.
James Bond audition candidate John Richardson (left), in profile, 1967.
John Richardson reacts as his screen-test costar pulls out a gun, 1967.
Director Peter Hunt studies John Richardson during his audition, 1967.
John Richardson continued to act after he lost out on the Bond role, appearing in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and a string of Italian movies.
James Bond audition finalist Anthony Rogers, 1967.
Anthony Rogers and an actress during a screen test, 1967.
Anthony Rogers smokes a cigarette during his James Bond audition, 1967.
Anthony Rogers smokes a cigarette during his James Bond audition, 1967.
Robert Campbell during James Bond auditions, 1967.
Director Peter R. Hunt helps Robert Campbell get into a shoulder holster, 1967.
Robert Campbell checks a page of lines during a James Bond audition, 1967.
James Bond hopeful Robert Campbell adjusts his shirt and jacket, 1967.
Robert Campbell looks in the mirror between filming scenes for his James Bond audition, 1967.
Robert Campbell during a kissing test, opposite actress France Anglade, 1967.
Hans de Vries during James Bond audition, 1967.
Hans De Vries and France Anglade, James Bond audition, 1967.
Hans de Vries during James Bond audition, 1967.
George Lazenby during James Bond audition, 1967.
James Bond hopeful George Lazenby fiddles with a knife while chatting with Bond director Peter R. Hunt, 1967.
George Lazenby goofs off behind the scenes of his screen test, boxing with an unidentified man, 1967.
George Lazenby twirls a gun beside potential Bond Girl Marie-France Boyer, 1967.
George Lazenby during auditions for the role of James Bond, 1967.
George Lazenby and Bond Girl hopeful Agneta Eckemyr, 1967.
George Lazenby leans against a bar during a moment away from James Bond auditions, 1967.
George Lazenby, 1967.
A composite image of the five top candidates (including ultimate choice George Lazenby, bottom right). Published in the October 11, 1968, issue of LIFE.
Loomis Dean—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image
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Being 007: LIFE Behind the Scenes at James Bond Auditions

Apr 01, 2013

In the early 1960s, movie producers adapting Ian Fleming's novels about a suave British spy named James Bond plucked a relative unknown, Sean Connery, from obscurity and offered him the role of a lifetime. When Connery left the franchise after five movies (although he would briefly be back, in 1971, in Diamonds Are Forever) the hunt for another Bond was on.

George Lazenby wears a bowtie in his James Bond audition. George Lazenby, 1967

In 1967 LIFE sent photographer Loomis Dean to casting sessions for the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The magazine published a handful of those photos in an article on the film and on the Bond phenomenon. But some of Dean's choicest frames — Bond wannabes suiting up, brandishing guns, sipping faux martinis, wooing women — never ran in the magazine.

Here, LIFE.com presents photos from those 1967 auditions, featuring the five top candidates — including George Lazenby, who would eventually win the coveted role.

[Buy the LIFE book, 50 Years of James Bond.]

Critical reception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has hardly been uniform. There was much initial grumbling, for example, about Lazenby's performance — especially in light of Connery effectively defining the role for a generation of moviegoers. Lazenby was a 28-year-old Australian model living in London, with virtually no acting experience outside TV commercials. But there was something about George Lazenby that placed him a notch above his competitors. Particularly impressive was his physical prowess. (In a subsequent audition to test his fighting skills, Lazenby reportedly broke a stuntman's nose. That clinched it.)

"I'm really looking forward to being Bond, for the bread and the birds," he told LIFE after his casting.

Meanwhile, the years have been kind to the 1969 flick. Entertainment Weekly, for example, ranked On Her Majesty’s Secret Service the sixth best of the Bond series, which now includes more than 20 feature films and is one of the highest-grossing movie franchises of all time.

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