Written By: Ben Cosgrove

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, and again in 1983 for Never Say Never Again) the hunt for another Bond was on.

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, and 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.

A composite image of the five top candidates (including ultimate choice George Lazenby, bottom right). Published in the October 11, 1968, issue of LIFE.

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/Life Pictures/Getty Image

John Richardson during James Bond auditions, 1967.

John Richardson during James Bond auditions, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

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.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service director Peter R. Hunt oversaw a test love scene between John Richardson and an actress, moving her leg just so.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

John Richardson during James Bond auditions, 1967.

John Richardson during James Bond auditions.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

James Bond audition candidate John Richardson (left), in profile, 1967.

James Bond audition candidate John Richardson (left), in profile, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

John Richardson reacts as his screen-test costar pulls out a gun, 1967.

John Richardson reacted as his screen-test costar pulled out a gun.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Director Peter Hunt studies John Richardson during his audition, 1967.

Director Peter Hunt studied John Richardson during his audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

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.

After he lost out on the Bond role, Richardson appeared in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) and a string of Italian movies.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

James Bond audition finalist Anthony Rogers, 1967.

James Bond audition finalist Anthony Rogers, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Anthony Rogers and an actress during a screen test, 1967.

Anthony Rogers and an actress during a screen test.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Anthony Rogers smokes a cigarette during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Anthony Rogers smoked a cigarette during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Anthony Rogers smokes a cigarette during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Anthony Rogers during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Robert Campbell during James Bond auditions, 1967.

Robert Campbell during James Bond auditions, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Director Peter R. Hunt helps Robert Campbell get into a shoulder holster, 1967.

Director Peter R. Hunt helped Robert Campbell get into a shoulder holster, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Robert Campbell checks a page of lines during a James Bond audition, 1967.

Robert Campbell checked a page of lines during a James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

James Bond hopeful Robert Campbell adjusts his shirt and jacket, 1967.

James Bond hopeful Robert Campbell adjusted his shirt and jacket, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Robert Campbell looks in the mirror between filming scenes for his James Bond audition, 1967.

Robert Campbell looked in the mirror between scenes for his James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Robert Campbell during a kissing test, opposite actress France Anglade, 1967.

Robert Campbell during a kissing test, opposite actress France Anglade, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Hans de Vries during James Bond audition, 1967.

Hans de Vries during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Hans De Vries and France Anglade, James Bond audition, 1967.

Hans De Vries and France Anglade, James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

Hans de Vries during James Bond audition, 1967.

Hans de Vries during his James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby during James Bond audition, 1967.

George Lazenby during James Bond audition, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

James Bond hopeful George Lazenby fiddles with a knife while chatting with Bond director Peter R. Hunt, 1967.

George Lazenby fiddled with a knife while chatting with Bond director Peter R. Hunt, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby goofs off behind the scenes of his screen test, boxing with an unidentified man, 1967.

George Lazenby goofed off behind the scenes of his screen test.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby twirls a gun beside potential Bond Girl Marie-France Boyer, 1967.

George Lazenby twirled a gun beside potential Bond Girl Marie-France Boyer, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby during auditions for the role of James Bond, 1967.

George Lazenby during auditions for the role of James Bond, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby and Bond Girl hopeful Agneta Eckemyr, 1967.

George Lazenby and Bond Girl hopeful Agneta Eckemyr, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby leans against a bar during a moment away from James Bond auditions, 1967.

George Lazenby leaned against a bar during a moment away from James Bond auditions, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

George Lazenby, 1967.

George Lazenby, 1967.

Loomis Dean/Life Pictures/Getty Image

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