Sean Connery, the actor who put the Scot in Scotland and arguably the ultimate 007, has passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 90. A tough-looking guy who played some tough roles, he was also a creative risk taker and passionate about self education.
He was born Thomas Sean Connery in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. Father Joseph worked factory shifts and drove lorries. Mother Euphemia cleaned to support “Tommy” and younger brother Neil. The future Bond’s first job was delivering milk.
Teenage Connery could have started a career in the Navy, though was discharged aged 19 with a duodenal (intestinal) ulcer. “I couldn’t wait to go to the war, that’s how smart I was” he quipped on the ‘Parkinson’ programme (2003). Following this, roles included polisher of coffins and artist’s model!
Bodybuilding naturally led to more attention. Already a strapping 6’2, he had the option to become a footballer. Acting won out, with the budding performer intrigued by goings on at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre whilst shifting scenery. A production of ‘South Pacific’ set him on the path to leading man status.
It was a dramatic rise from milk round to male icon. Speaking at the American Film Institute in 2006, he said of his background: “we didn’t know we lacked anything because we had nothing to compare it to.”
A lifelong reader, Connery credits the written word with expanding his horizons. Going to the pictures was also a formative experience. “You could spend a week there” he said on ‘Parkinson’.
Connery’s first TV part was in legendary police drama ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ (1957). Movie ‘Hell Drivers’ the same year saw him take his father’s occupation behind the wheel of a lorry. He made friends like Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. It was only a matter of time before he swapped beer for Martinis.
He reportedly bagged James Bond through Dana Broccoli, wife of franchise producer “Cubby”. She lobbied for him to get the part. Connery apparently took some persuading, as did author Ian Fleming. As mentioned by BBC News he called the Scotsman “an overgrown stunt-man” before realizing how good he was.
For Connery 007’s world seemed a pretty good stepping stone to high profile work. Between 1962 and 1967 he embodied the character’s no nonsense approach. A thumper of masterminds and seducer of women, the now-archaic superspy was all the rage in that swinging decade. By the time ‘You Only Live Twice’ rolled around, the man behind the brand had handed in his licence to kill.
When George Lazenby inherited the mantle and quit after one film, Connery decided to come back for ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ (1971).
Not that he played things too safe. He was a risk taker as well as a screen hero. During the Bond years Connery starred in simmering war picture ‘The Hill’ (1965). There he played Joe Roberts, a tortured army man trapped in an abusive prison camp.
The director was the noted Sidney Lumet, who he worked with numerous times. Another intense picture of theirs was ‘The Offence’, where Connery portrayed a shattered detective interrogating a sexual predator. A couple of years later he made John Boorman’s lusty and ludicrous fantasy epic ‘Zardoz’. 1981’s ‘Outland’ was a ‘High Noon’-style tale set on Jupiter’s moon Io. The actor certainly enjoyed going places!
From the future to the past… Connery filmed some notable historical epics. ‘The Wind and the Lion’ plus ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ (alongside Caine) were both released in 1975.
With Roger Moore settled into the role of Bond, it appeared Connery’s Walther PPK-packing days were over. However in 1983 he took one last assignment as 007 in rival production ‘Never Say Never Again’. Old glories revisited in more ways than one – the project was a remake of classic ‘Thunderball’ (1965).
Neil Connery played a 007-style agent in Italian comedy ‘OK Connery’ (1967)! Son Jason Connery later played a fictionalized Ian Fleming in 1990 production ‘Spymaker’.
Connery remained in demand, no more so than when Steven Spielberg cast him as Indiana Jones’ Dad Henry. ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989) featured a father and son team who only had a matter of years between them in real life! Nonetheless, the pairing was beloved by audiences.
Going into the 1990s, his career showed no signs of slowing. Variety notes, “he was so popular that his uncredited cameo as King Richard in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” became one of the film’s highlights.” Connery took the role of Hood himself in 1976’s critically-acclaimed ‘Robin and Marian’.
His last significant action part was in Michael Bay’s ‘The Rock’ (1996), opposite Nicolas Cage. Connery lent his old school charm to the character of British agent John Patrick Mason.
2003’s ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ became his last big screen role. As literary adventurer turned graphic novel hero Allan Quatermain he threw punches onscreen. If stories are to be believed he came to blows offscreen too. It was not a happy production. Retirement beckoned in 2006.
Connery wasn’t a man to be trifled with. In his twenties he fought off six gang members who tried to take his jacket. A few years later, Lana Turner’s boyfriend (and gangster) Johnny Stompanato showed up on the set of ‘Another Time, Another Place’. Brandishing a gun, he was after Connery for supposedly courting his sweetheart. The accused rejected the charge with extreme prejudice!
Classic character Jim Malone battled mobster-in-chief Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in ‘The Untouchables’ (1987). Connery received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts. He was made a Sir in 2000.
Jason was born to him and actress/author Diane Cilento in 1963. Connery and Cilento divorced a decade later. He wed Micheline Roquebrune and stayed with her from 1975 till his death.
The sad news was broken by the family. According to Jason he was surrounded by loved ones at home in the Bahamas and had been “unwell for some time” (BBC).
In a joint tribute on social media, Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli say Connery “revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal” of the part.
The late Sir Roger Moore’s official Twitter account posted: “He and Roger were friends for many decades and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP”
Connery famously endorsed Scottish independence. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweets: “Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons.”
Sam Neill, who shared the screen with Connery in ‘The Hunt For Red October’ (1990), tweets: “Every day on set with #SeanConnery was an object lesson in how to act on screen.” For that movie the star kept his own accent, despite being a Russian submarine commander.
Another Article From Us: Sean Connery Once Beat Up 6 Gang Members who Wanted to Steal his Jacket
How else would such an authentic and direct individual do it? Whether on the streets of Edinburgh or the exotic locations of his films, Sean Connery worked hard and left an incredible legacy. He’ll be forever remembered. RIP Sir.