LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The James Bond franchise may be in grave danger thanks to its studio's financial woes, but a former 007 actor is not too shaken up about it.
George Lazenby, a plain-spoken Australian who played Bond a single time in the 1969 movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," happily detailed his sexual conquests and disdain for his leading lady and director on Wednesday.
But when he was asked during a Q&A for his thoughts on the future of the Bond franchise, he was decidedly blunt.
"Y'know, I couldn't give a s***," he said, to much laughter during an exchange that following a screening of the film.
The producers of the next Bond feature, known as "Bond 23," announced in April that development had been suspended "indefinitely," while debt-ridden studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc seeks a lifeline.
It could be several years before fans get a follow-up to 2008's "Quantum of Solace." Daniel Craig, who revived the almost 50-year-old franchise with 2006's "Casino Royale," has moved on to other projects in the meantime.
Lazenby, now 71, has moved on as well. But he gamely answered fans' questions about his experience in one of the more unusual films in the Bond franchise.
The melodrama saw his character escape from a mountaintop aerie to marry the daughter of a villain only to see her die in his arms as they were leaving the wedding.
"Too bad I couldn't act, but it was fun," Lazenby said, explaining that his arrogance and sure way with women helped get him the coveted role previously held by Sean Connery.
Asked about his sexual conquests during his glory days, the former model said, "I don't want to brag too much, but at least one a day."
His on-screen love interest, Diana Rigg, was not one of those. He described her as "a tough nut," who warned him against sleeping with so many women on the set. A chill set in once she caught him rolling about with a hotel receptionist on a mattress used by stuntmen, he recalled.
Relations with director Peter Hunt were similarly frosty, he said. The two did not speak at all during shooting, although Lazenby did not see this as a problem. "I didn't know the director had to talk to me."
Lazenby said he was "a dumb s***" for leaving the Bond series. "On the other hand, I wasn't, because I could have had four or five or 15 houses in Beverly Hills with different wives living in them, (been) a drug addict or me now, who missed out on everything and had to survive."
In reality, he has just two ex-wives, and joked that the second one, former tennis champ Pam Shriver, "wants to kill me."
He recalled that an adviser told him, "Bond is over, finished. It's Sean Connery's gig. You cannot match that guy." But when he sought work in other movies, he said producers were afraid to hire him because they wrongly thought he was under contract to do more James Bond movies.
His money ran out as his acting offers dried up, and he ended up living with his mother back in rural Australia. But he said his days are busy now with the three young children that he had with Shriver. A memoir is in the works, and a filmmaker wants to make a documentary about him, he added.
As for the best Bond? "Realistically" it was Connery, Lazenby said, but noted: "If I was allowed to be who I am now at that age, I think I could have given him a run for his money."
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Eric Walsh