Bond & Beyond: Sean Connery

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Tom Pheby pays tribute to the original...


Thomas Sean Connery was Born on August 25th 1930 in Fountainbridge , Edinburgh, Scotland. His mother, Euphamina, was a cleaner, his truck driving father, Joseph, also worked in a factory.
The young Scot worked from the age of 9 whilst still at School, regrettably at the expense of a full time education, leaving by the time he was 13. At 16 he joined the Navy, although he was discharged on medical grounds three years later.

Sean, as he became known, had many jobs before he began acting, such as Milkman, coffin polisher, artists model, and lorry driver, but at the age of 23 he found himself with a decision to make. To pursue a career as a footballer or turn towards acting.
"I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves."
Embarking on a new career path, it wasn't long before Connery had his first major role in the 1957 production No Road Back, directed by Montgomery Tully. Further roles came in a number of television ventures, yet he remained largely unnoticed by the public or indeed his peers, until 1959 when he was cast in Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People. Connery's performance as Michael McBride is said to be one of the reasons producer Albert R 'Cubby' Broccoli would go on to consider him for what was most definitely a career changing role.



Before that, 1961 would be a crucial year for Connery, appearing in Rudolf Cartier's productions of Adventure Story, and Anna Karenina. This raised the actors stock and profile considerably, so when he was invited to audition for the part of James Bond in the up and coming Eon Production of Ian Fleming's Dr. No, he was no longer an unknown.

Connery wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of screen testing for the role though, fearing it would limit his options because of the possible sequels attached. He also had doubts that the public would take kindly to the film or the character of Bond. It certainly wasn't a forgone conclusion that he would get the part either, as Connery was being thrown in with the likes of David Niven, James Mason, Cary Grant, Patrick Magoohan and Roger Moore, but the Scot came through, even though Fleming himself was less than complimentary.

Connery, or Big Tam as he was known in certain circles, was an imposing figure at 6'2", he was also fairly stocky and would probably admit that finesse was hardly a word that would've been associated with him. Fleming described him as "unrefined" and doubted that he could portray the cold, calculating spy or deliver the required charm and suaveness, but director Terence Young could see that there was genuine potential and worked closely with Connery to knock off the rough edges.

Connery's 1962 debut in Dr No was an instant success. He'd managed to make the fictional Bond edgy, he made the action scenes seem believable, and could be either the ultimate charmer or clinical killer within seconds, without a change of expression.


Bond and Connery quickly became global sensations. The movie pulled in around $60 million globally, yet the Scot was paid a paltry £100,000. Payment would later become a major issue between Connery and Broccoli, but the actor would also become equally frustrated with the amount of time he had to commit to the Bond projects which prevented him from starring in other preferential films.

Connery would become identified with the role of Bond for far longer than he was actually involved with it, and any thoughts about leaving it behind may have been a miscalculation on his part. For many he is James Bond, and no one else can ever come close. That image of Connery in a sharp suit, producing a silver cigarette case from his jacket pocket and announcing his name at the roulette table has become a precious piece of cinema history. His delivery of lines throughout his reign still resonates with film historians, Bond fans and casual movie goers alike. Quotes from the Connery era are frequently used as an icebreaker by anyone wearing dinner jackets. Who can forget Connery strapped to a table legs apart (stay with me), laser blazing towards his privates, with Bond nervously inquiring "Do you expect me to talk?", to which Goldfinger replies "No Mr Bond, I expect you to die". This type of dialogue is typical of the early Bond films, it helped to make Connery so iconic in the role, and set them up to become cinematic classics.



Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball were the best of Connery's tenure. Upon the release of You Only Live Twice it was clear that the star had lost interest in the role, and a split with EON would be inevitable. Indeed, in 1967, at the height of his fame and Bondmania, Connery decided he could no longer allow his talents to be sold cheaply at the expense of his artistry. He was also concerned about the lack of character development and that the franchise had become repetitive.
"One of the reasons I stopped doing it was because I got really fed up with the space stuff and special effects. I just found it getting more and more influential in the movies."
But the pressure of his stardom was also a major factor. The constant burden of being pursued everywhere he went had gone beyond the acceptable boundaries when the press followed him to the toilet! On one occasion producer Cubby Broccoli pleaded with the press to refrain from harassing the Scot, who had to abandon his lunch for the sanctuary of a hotel room after he was mobbed in the restaurant. Bondmania had become intense and Connery felt trapped, typecast and above all else, unrewarded financially

In 1971 Connery was enticed back to Bond for Diamonds Are Forever, with a fee that found its way into the Guinness Book of Records. The Scot was paid £1.25 million (which equates to £24 million in 2015 pounds), and the offer from United Artists to back any two films of his choice. The education Connery missed out on in his youth had always weighed heavily on his mind, and for some time he'd been determined to provide opportunities to others in a similar situation. So Connery used his fee to establish the Scottish International Education Trust.


Diamonds Are Forever was Connery's last official Bond outing, but he was coaxed back into the tuxedo for Kevin McClory's 1982 rival production, Never Say Never Again. It wasn't received with similar enthusiasm, affection or excitement by audiences as that years official Bond instalment, Octopussy, although it did reasonably well at the box office. The project itself was besieged with problems, and viewing it is a less than pleasurable experience - the repetition that Connery once complained of was evident in a film that was merely a second rate rehash of Thunderball.


Connery freely admitted that his work outside of Bond was based purely on instinct, choosing a collection of handpicked projects that interested him personally and professionally. As an actor he was always held in high regard by others for not compromising his artistic integrity. For instance in 1964 he was offered a role in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, but, in something that was almost unheard of at the time, he requested to read the script before committing to the project. The norm had been that if Hitchcock called, actors would just humbly accept and turn up on set.

As his career progressed he took risks and occasionally surprised us all. Appearing in a variety of movies which were radical departures from his Bond outings, including The Hill (1965), Shalako (1968), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Highlander (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and The Russia House (1990).


In 1987 his portrayal of Jim Malone in The Untouchables finally saw the Scot rewarded with an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor, but by this stage in his career his ambitions seemed to be elsewhere.
"You know, the Oscar I was awarded for The Untouchables is a wonderful thing, but I can honestly say that I'd rather have won the U.S. Open Golf Tournament."
Many of his films after this point were generally disappointing. As an actor, he was still very much in demand, but it's fair to say that some of his later choices were better received than others. Yet throughout the years, whether the films were good or bad, Connery remained a box office attraction and a hit with both sexes.

Golf would remain a life long passion. He was equally at home on a golf course as he was on a film set. It's said that he fell in love with the sport during the making of Goldfinger. You may recall the scene where Bond swaps the ball to steal the game from his adversary, and the less than chatty Odd Job as Goldfingers caddy. It's been said that he would consider a part if there happened to be a good course near where the film was shooting, and that several movie directors, or their representatives, had to feverishly pursue him around some course or another in an attempt to seal a deal. It all makes a beautiful story and adds to the mans appeal.


Connery grew tired of Tinseltown and was sceptical about the film business in general, noting that it was simply a job, one that paid well. In interviews he often sounded as though he was at odds with the industry and some of the passion had left him.
"I'm fed up with the idiots... the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies."
The League of Gentlemen, in 2003, was his last film. Big Tam had issues with its director whom it's rumoured had to leave at Connery's insistence. He had always been quite a force within the industry and not someone who suffered fools gladly. He was also quite a negotiator who would stand his ground for his art or to preserve his integrity. Right up until that last movie he remained brave, bold and driven. Occasionally stubborn, but always single minded in terms of his career.


The overuse of the word "Star" has detracted from its value, but Sean Connery was a Star in the truest sense, making a substantial contribution to the movie industry, with over 70 films to his name. Yet even though he has managed to attain so much success he has always remained extremely grounded and true to himself, scoffing at the trappings of stardom and even dismissing his Knighthood by saying.
"I doubt I'll use it in anyway now or in the future."
Bond and Connery will forever be seen as one and the same. He had many other roles in his long career, some that were equally worthy of acclaim and merit, but for many people because he established the blueprint for the franchise it was difficult to separate one from the other.

After an initial, quite understandable, reluctance, Connery grew to accept that he could never escape Bond. In interviews he would chat quite happily about his time as the spy, and the latest incumbent.
"Daniel Craig is fantastic, marvelous in the part. The danger element [of the character] - he really gets it."


Receiving the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award on June 8th 2006, Connery confirmed his retirement from acting. Rumours persisted that he would temporarily reverse that decision for the fourth Indiana Jones film, 2008's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but when the Scot was tracked down, on a golf course naturally, and asked about a return to film, he simply stated that:
"...retirement is just too much damned fun"
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter

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