Very sad news just breaking in the UK. James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery has died at the age of 90. For many he was the best 007 hands down.
Thomas Sean Connery was born in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh on 25 August 1930, the son of a Catholic factory worker and a Protestant domestic cleaner. In Edinburgh, he gained a reputation as “hard man” when six gang members tried to steal from his coat. When he stopped them, he was attacked. Connery bested all six of them.
Growing up in a depressed area he drove trucks, worked as a lifeguard and posed as a model at the Edinburgh College of Art to make ends meet. In his spare time he went bodybuilding. He was a good enough footballer to get an offer from Manchester United and was in London competing in a bodybuilding contest when it was suggested he try acting.
After time on the stage in South Pacific he got his first leading role in Blood Money, a BBC reworking of Requiem for a Heavyweight, in which he portrayed a boxer whose career is in decline in 1957.
A year later he was starring opposite Lana Turner in Another Time, Another Place. Her boyfriend, the mobster Johnny Stompanato, reacted badly to rumours of a romance. He stormed on set and pulled out a gun. Growing up in one of Scotland’s roughest areas, Connery had little regard for the reputation of the mobster. Connery grabbed the gun from his hand and had to be dragged off Stompanato by others on the production.
His biggest role came when Producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had acquired the rights to film Ian Fleming’s novels and were looking for an actor to portray 007. Richard Burton, Cary Grant and Rex Harrison were all considered. It was Broccoli’s wife, Dana, who persuaded her husband that Connery had the magnetism and sexual chemistry for the part.
Fleming initially disliked him but admitted he was wrong. He even wrote a half-Scottish history for the character in some of his later works as a result of Connery.
After his debut in Dr No more movies swiftly followed. From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967).
He turned down On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the role given to Australian actor George Lazenby. Saltzman and Broccoli lured him back for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, meeting the actor’s demand for a then record $1.25 million fee. He used it to set up the Scottish International Education Trust, supporting the careers of up and coming Scottish artists.
He won his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Untouchables. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, he played Harrison Ford’s father, despite being only 12 years older. James Bond stayed with him, even with a hint and a nod to the character in The Rock, where he was a British secret agent kept imprisoned for decades.
His post Bond career soared with The Hunt for Red October, The Russia House and Entrapment. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen however made him retire from the movies as he grew disillusioned with the industry. He turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings saying he was sick of the:
“…idiots now making films in Hollywood”.
Despite living in the Caribbean he was always a passionate Scotsman. Famously grumpy at times he said this was his Celtic genes.
“My view is that to get anywhere in life you have to be anti-social, otherwise you’ll end up being devoured.”
A knighthood was granted in 2000, rumored to have been delayed by the Labour government because of Connery’s support for Scottish independence. Until today’s news he was often considered the Greatest Living Scot.
Rest In Peace Sir Sean. And thanks for the memories.