Connery in 1983
August 25 1930
Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
|Died||October 31 2020 (aged 90)|
Nassau, The Bahamas
(m. 1962; div. 1973)
|Relatives||Neil Connery (brother)|
Sir Sean Connery (August 25, 1930 – October 31, 2020) was a Scottish actor. He gained recognition as the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond in film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. Originating the role in Dr. No, Connery played Bond in six of Eon Productions' entries and made his final appearance in the Jack Schwartzman-produced Never Say Never Again.
As an actor, Connery brought the characters he played to life, providing entertainment to millions. His life was a real "rags to riches" story. Born into a poor, working class Scottish family in Edinburgh, still Connery never forgot his roots despite achieving fame and fortune. His proudest moments involved recognition not just as a successful actor but as a Scot, appearing in full Highland dress, including a tartan kilt of his mother's clan, for the ceremony for his knighthood and at the opening of the new Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
Thomas Connery, named Thomas after his grandfather, was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 25, 1930. His mother, Euphemia "Effie" McBain McLean, was a cleaning woman and worked in a laundry. She was born the daughter of Neil McLean and Helen Forbes Ross, and named after her father's mother, Euphemia McBain, wife of John McLean and daughter of William McBain from Ceres in Fife. Connery's father, Joseph Connery, was a factory worker and lorry driver.
Two of his paternal great-grandparents emigrated to Scotland from Wexford, Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century, with his great-grandfather, James Connery, being an Irish Traveller. The remainder of his family was of Scottish descent, and his maternal great-grandparents were native Scottish Gaelic speakers from Fife and Uig on Skye. His father was a Roman Catholic, and his mother was a Protestant. Connery had a younger brother, Neil. He was generally referred to in his youth as "Tommy." Although he was small in primary school, he grew rapidly around the age of 12, reaching his full adult height of 6 feet 2 inches (190 cm) at 18. As a teenager, he was called "Big Tam."
Connery's first job was as a milkman in Edinburgh with St. Cuthbert's Co-operative Society. In 2009, Connery recalled a conversation in a taxi:
When I took a taxi during a recent Edinburgh Film Festival, the driver was amazed that I could put a name to every street we passed. "How come?" he asked. "As a boy I used to deliver milk round here", I said. "So what do you do now?" That was rather harder to answer.
In 1946, at the age of 16, Connery joined the Royal Navy, during which time he acquired two tattoos:
However, unlike many tattoos, his were not frivolous – his tattoos reflect two of his lifelong commitments: his family and Scotland. After six decades, his tattoos still reflect those two ideas: One tattoo is a tribute to his parents and reads “Mum and Dad,” and the other is self explanatory, “Scotland Forever.”
He trained in Portsmouth at the naval gunnery school and in an anti-aircraft crew. However, he was discharged from the navy at the age of 19 on medical grounds because of a duodenal ulcer, a condition that affected most of the males in previous generations of his family.
He returned to the co-op, then worked as, among other things, a lorry driver, a lifeguard at Portobello swimming baths, a laborer, an artist's model for the Edinburgh College of Art, and after a suggestion by former Mr. Scotland, Archie Brennan, a coffin polisher. Artist Richard Demarco, at the time a student who painted several early pictures of Connery, described him as "very straight, slightly shy, too, too beautiful for words, a virtual Adonis."
Connery began bodybuilding at the age of 18, and from 1951 trained heavily with Ellington, a former gym instructor in the British Army. He was soon deterred when he found that Americans frequently beat him in competitions because of sheer muscle size and, unlike Connery, refused to participate in athletic activity which could make them lose muscle mass.
Connery was a keen footballer, having played for Bonnyrigg Rose in his younger days. He was offered a trial with East Fife. While on tour with South Pacific, Connery played in a football match against a local team that Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United, happened to be scouting. According to reports, Busby was impressed with his physical prowess and offered Connery a contract worth £25 a week immediately after the game. Connery said he was tempted to accept, but he recalls, "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."
Connery was also keen golfer. English professional golfer Peter Alliss gave Connery golf lessons before the filming of the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger, which involved a scene where Connery, as Bond, played golf against gold magnate Auric Goldfinger at Stoke Park Golf Club in Buckinghamshire. Record major championship winner and golf course designer Jack Nicklaus said:
He loved the game of golf - Sean was a pretty darn good golfer! - and we played together several times. ... In May of 1993, Sean and legendary driver Jackie Stewart helped me open our design of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Scotland.
Connery married actress Diane Cilento in 1962, and they had a son, actor Jason Connery. They separated in 1971, and divorced in 1973. In her 2006 autobiography, Cilento alleged that he had abused her mentally and physically during their relationship. Connery cancelled an appearance at the Scottish Parliament in 2006 because of controversy over his alleged support of abuse of women. He denied claims he told Playboy magazine in 1965, "I don't think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman, though I don't recommend you do it in the same way you hit a man," stating "I don't believe that any level of abuse of women is ever justified under any circumstances. Full stop."
In 1975, Connery married Moroccan-French painter Micheline Roquebrune (born 1929). The marriage lasted until his death. They relocated to The Bahamas in the 1990s, where Connery owned a mansion in Lyford Cay on New Providence.
Sean Connery died in his sleep on October 31, 2020, aged 90, at his home in the The Bahamas. His son Jason said he had been unwell for some time. It was later disclosed that he died of pneumonia and heart failure.
Connery began acting in smaller theatre and television productions until his breakout role as James Bond. Originating the role in Dr. No, Connery played Bond in seven films between 1962 and 1983. Although he did not enjoy the off-screen attention the role gave him, the success brought offers from famed film directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, and John Huston. Those films included Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) and Lumet's The Hill (1965), Marnie (1964), The Hill (1965), and Huston's The Man Who Would Be King (1975) opposite Michael Caine. After his final Bond movie, he continued acting, later playing older mentors to younger leads. Connery officially retired from acting in 2006, although he briefly returned for voice over roles in 2012.
Before beginning his acting career, Connery helped out backstage at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh in late 1951 as a way to supplement his income. In 1953, during a bodybuilding competition he entered in London, one of the competitors mentioned that auditions were being held for a production of South Pacific, and Connery landed a small part as one of the Seabees chorus boys. By the time the production reached Edinburgh, he had been given the part of Marine Cpl. Hamilton Steeves and was understudying two of the juvenile leads. The production returned the following year, out of popular demand, and Connery was promoted to the featured role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams, which Larry Hagman had portrayed in the West End.
During this production at the Opera House, Manchester over the Christmas period of 1954, Connery developed a serious interest in the theatre through American actor Robert Henderson who lent him copies of the Ibsen works Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck, and When We Dead Awaken, and later listed works by the likes of Proust, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Bernard Shaw, Joyce, and Shakespeare. Henderson urged him to take elocution lessons and got him parts at the Maida Vale Theatre in London.
Connery had already begun a film career, having been an extra in Herbert Wilcox's 1954 musical Lilacs in the Spring alongside Anna Neagle. Although he had secured several roles as extras, he was struggling to make ends meet, and was forced to accept a part-time job as a babysitter for journalist Peter Noble and his actress wife Marianne, which earned him 10 shillings a night. One night at Noble's house, Connery met Hollywood actress Shelley Winters, who described him as "one of the tallest and most charming and masculine Scotsmen" she'd ever seen. Henderson landed Connery a role in a £6 a week Q Theatre production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, during which he met and became friends with fellow-Scot Ian Bannen. This role was followed by Point of Departure and A Witch in Time at Kew, a role as Pentheus opposite Yvonne Mitchell in The Bacchae at the Oxford Playhouse, and a role opposite Jill Bennett in Eugene O'Neill's play Anna Christie.
During his time at the Oxford Theatre, Connery won a brief part as a boxer in the TV series The Square Ring, before being spotted by Canadian director Alvin Rakoff, who gave him multiple roles in The Condemned, shot on location in Dover in Kent. In 1956, Connery appeared in the theatrical production of Epitaph, and played a minor role as a hoodlum in the "Ladies of the Manor" episode of the BBC television police series Dixon of Dock Green. This was followed by small television parts in Sailor of Fortune and The Jack Benny Program (on a special episode filmed in Europe).
In early 1957, Connery hired agent Richard Hatton who got him his first film role, as Spike, a minor gangster with a speech impediment in Montgomery Tully's No Road Back alongside Skip Homeier, Paul Carpenter, Patricia Dainton, and Norman Wooland. In April 1957, Rakoff – after being disappointed by Jack Palance – decided to give the young actor his first chance in a leading role, and cast Connery as Mountain McLintock in BBC Television's production of Requiem for a Heavyweight. He then played small parts in a number of rather unsuccessful movies.
Connery had a major role in the melodrama Another Time, Another Place (1958) as a British reporter named Mark Trevor, caught in a love affair opposite Lana Turner and Barry Sullivan. During filming, Turner's possessive gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, who was visiting from Los Angeles, believed she was having an affair with Connery. Stompanato stormed onto the film set and pointed a gun at Connery, only to have Connery disarm him and knock him flat on his back. Stompanato was then banned from the set. Connery later recounted that he had to lay low for a while after receiving threats from men linked to Stompanato's boss, Mickey Cohen.
In 1959, Connery landed a leading role in director Robert Stevenson's Walt Disney Productions film Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) alongside Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, and Jimmy O'Dea. Upon the film's initial release, A. H. Weiler of The New York Times praised the cast (save Connery whom he described as "merely tall, dark, and handsome") and thought the film an "overpoweringly charming concoction of standard Gaelic tall stories, fantasy and romance." He also had prominent television roles in Rudolph Cartier's 1961 productions of Adventure Story and Anna Karenina for BBC Television. Also in 1961 he portrayed the title role in a CBC television film adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.
James Bond: 1962–1971, 1983
Connery's breakthrough came in the role of British secret agent James Bond. He was reluctant to commit to a film series, but understood that if the films succeeded, his career would greatly benefit. Between 1962 and 1967, Connery played 007 in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, and You Only Live Twice, the first five Bond films produced by Eon Productions. After departing from the role, Connery returned for the seventh film, Diamonds Are Forever, in 1971. Connery made his final appearance as Bond in Never Say Never Again, a 1983 remake of Thunderball produced by Jack Schwartzman's Taliafilm. All seven films were commercially successful. James Bond, as portrayed by Connery, was selected as the third-greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute.
James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, originally doubted Connery's casting, saying, "He's not what I envisioned of James Bond looks," and "I'm looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man," adding that Connery was unrefined. Fleming changed his mind after the successful Dr. No première. He was so impressed, he wrote Connery's heritage into the character: In his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, Fleming wrote that Bond's father was Scottish and from Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands.
Connery's portrayal of Bond owes much to stylistic tutelage from director Terence Young, who helped polish him while using his physical grace and presence for the action. Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny, related that "Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat."
Following the release of the film Dr. No in 1962, the line "Bond ... James Bond", became a catch phrase in the lexicon of Western popular culture. Film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote:
It is the most famous self-introduction from any character in movie history. Three cool monosyllables, surname first, a little curtly, as befits a former naval commander. And then, as if in afterthought, the first name, followed by the surname again. Connery carried it off with icily disdainful style, in full evening dress with a cigarette hanging from his lips. The introduction was a kind of challenge, or seduction, invariably addressed to an enemy. In the early 1960s, Connery's James Bond was about as dangerous and sexy as it got on screen.
Having played Bond six times, Connery's global popularity was such that he shared a Golden Globe Henrietta Award with Charles Bronson for "World Film Favorite – Male" in 1972.
Connery agreed to reprise Bond as an ageing agent 007 in Never Say Never Again, released in October 1983. The title, contributed by his wife, refers to his earlier statement that he would "never again" return to the role. Although the film performed well at the box office, it was plagued with production problems: strife between the director and producer, financial problems, the Fleming estate trustees' attempts to halt the film, and Connery's wrist being broken by fight choreographer, Steven Seagal. As a result of his negative experiences during filming, Connery became unhappy with the major studios and did not make any films for two years.
In 2005, he recorded voiceovers for the From Russia with Love video game with recording producer Terry Manning in The Bahamas, and provided his likeness. Connery said he was happy the producers, Electronic Arts, had approached him to voice Bond.
Although Bond had made him a star, Connery grew tired of the role and the pressure the franchise put on him, saying "I have always hated that damned James Bond. I'd like to kill him." Michael Caine said of the situation:
If you were his friend in these early days you didn't raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He'd be walking down the street and people would say, 'Look, there's James Bond'. That was particularly upsetting to him.
While making the Bond films, Connery also starred in other films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1964) and Sidney Lumet's The Hill (1965), which film critic Peter Bradshaw regards as his two great non-Bond pictures from the 1960s. While The Hill was not a financial success it was a critical one, debuting at the Cannes Film Festival and winning Best Screenplay. The first of five films he made with Lumet, Connery considered him to be one of his favorite directors. The respect was mutual, with Lumet saying of Connery's performance in The Hill:
The thing that was apparent to me — and to most directors — was how much talent and ability it takes to play that kind of character who is based on charm and magnetism. It’s the equivalent of high comedy and he did it brilliantly.
Connery appeared in John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King (1975) opposite Michael Caine, whom Connery first met at a party during the production of South Pacific in 1954, the two later becoming close friends. Playing two former British soldiers who set themselves up as Kings in Kafiristan, both actors regarded it as their favorite film. The same year, he appeared in The Wind and the Lion opposite Candice Bergen, and in 1976 played Robin Hood in Robin and Marian opposite Audrey Hepburn, who played Maid Marian. Film critic Roger Ebert, who had praised the double act of Connery and Caine in The Man Who Would Be King, praised Connery's chemistry with Hepburn, writing:
Connery and Hepburn seem to have arrived at a tacit understanding between themselves about their characters. They glow. They really do seem in love.
During the 1970s Connery was part of ensemble casts in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with Vanessa Redgrave and John Gielgud, and playing a British Army general in Richard Attenborough's war film A Bridge Too Far (1977), co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier. In 1974, he starred in John Boorman's sci-fi thriller Zardoz. Despite being panned by critics at the time, the film has developed a cult following since its release.
In 1981, Connery appeared in the film Time Bandits as Agamemnon. The casting choice derives from a joke Michael Palin included in the script, which describes the character's removing his mask and being "Sean Connery – or someone of equal but cheaper stature." When shown the script, Connery was happy to play the supporting role.
Following the successful European production The Name of the Rose (1986), for which he won a BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Connery's interest in more commercial material was revived. That same year, a supporting role in Highlander showcased his ability to play older mentors to younger leads, which became a recurring role in many of his later films.
In 1987, Connery starred in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, where he played a hard-nosed Irish-American cop alongside Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness. The film was a critical and box office success. Many critics praised Connery for his performance including Roger Ebert:
The best performance in the movie is Connery's ... [he] brings a human element to his character; he seems to have had an existence apart from the legend of the Untouchables, and when he's onscreen we can believe, briefly, that the Prohibition Era was inhabited by people, not caricatures."
For his performance Connery received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Connery starred in Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), playing Henry Jones, Sr., the title character's father, and received BAFTA and Golden Globe Award nominations. Harrison Ford said Connery's contributions at the writing stage enhanced the film:
It was amazing for me in how far he got into the script and went after exploiting opportunities for character. His suggestions to George [Lucas] at the writing stage really gave the character and the picture a lot more complexity and value than it had in the original screenplay.
His subsequent box-office hits included The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Russia House (1990), The Rock (1996), and Entrapment (1999). In 1996, he voiced the role of Draco the dragon in the film Dragonheart. He also appeared in a brief cameo as King Richard the Lionheart at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).
Connery's later films included several box office and critical disappointments such as First Knight (1995), Just Cause (1995), The Avengers (1998), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003); however, he received positive reviews for his performance in Finding Forrester (2000). He also received a Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.
The failure of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was especially frustrating for Connery. He spent considerable effort in trying to salvage the film through the editing process, ultimately deciding to retire from acting rather than go through such stress ever again.
Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films, saying he did not understand the role. He also confirmed that he had no plans to do any more films. 
When Connery received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award on 8 June 2006, he confirmed his retirement from acting. In 2007, he denied rumors that he would appear in the fourth Indiana Jones film, saying "retirement is just too much damned fun."
In 2012, Connery briefly came out of retirement to voice the title character in the Scottish animated film Sir Billi the Vet.
Connery was fiercely proud of his Scottish background, his love for his home country manifesting itself in his support for a variety of educational projects. He was also active in petitioning the Scottish government to issue a ban on all handguns.
A member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), he campaigned he supported the party financially and through personal appearances. His funding of the SNP ceased in 2001, when the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed legislation prohibiting overseas funding of political activities in the United Kingdom.
In the run-up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Connery's brother Neil said Connery would not come to Scotland to rally independence supporters, since his tax exile status greatly limited the number of days he could spend in the country.
Connery's achievements in film were recognized with an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards (including the BAFTA Fellowship), and three Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and a Henrietta Award. In 1987, he was made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in France, and he received the US Kennedy Center Honors lifetime achievement award in 1999. He also received the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 2006.
As significant as his achievements in acting were, to Connery it was recognition by his native Scotland that was truly gratifying: One of Connery’s proudest moments came when he received the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh from his hometown in 1991. He was polled in the Sunday Herald as "The Greatest Living Scot" in 2004,  and in a 2011 EuroMillions survey as "Scotland's Greatest Living National Treasure."
Connery was knighted by the Queen at an investiture ceremony at Holyrood Palace in his hometown of Edinburgh in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to film drama. For the ceremony he wore full highland dress including a green-and-black hunting tartan kilt of his mother's MacLean clan, and noted that it was as "one of the proudest days of my life" and "a great honour for Scotland." 
In 2010, a bronze bust sculpture of Connery was placed in Tallinn, Estonia, outside The Scottish Club, whose membership includes Estonian Scotophiles and a handful of expatriate Scots. At the unveiling of the statue, British Ambassador Peter Carter said:
Sir Sean Connery is, without a doubt, an icon ... He is variously known as James Bond or the sexiest man of the century. He's a great British actor, a great Scot actor and a great symbol for Scotland.
Following the announcement of Connery's death, many co-stars and figures from the entertainment industry paid tribute. Connery's longtime friend Michael Caine called him a "great star, brilliant actor and a wonderful friend." James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli released a statement saying Connery had "revolutionized the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him."
Other celebrities paying tribute to Connery include Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, Sam Neill, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford. Catherine Zeta Jones said: “Farewell my friend. I love you Sean Connery with all my heart. Until we meet again, I will cherish every moment I shared with you.” Actor Hugh Jackman also shared: “I grew up idolising Sean Connery. A legend on screen, and off.”
Eighteen-time major champion golfer Jack Nicklaus described the Scottish icon, whom he got to know well through golf, as “just the best”:
The world has lost a wonderful actor, a wonderful man, and someone truly special in our family’s world. I have known Sean Connery for close to 50 of his 90 years. ... The game of golf allowed our lives to intersect often, and through that, we became good friends.
Nicklaus added that he was "a huge fan of the Scot’s films – and not just the James Bond ones."
|1987||Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actor||The Untouchables||Won|
|1987||British Academy Film Awards||Best Actor||The Name of the Rose||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor||The Untouchables||Nominated|
|1989||Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||Nominated|
|1990||Best Actor||The Hunt for Red October||Nominated|
|1965||Golden Globe Awards||Henrietta Award (World Film Favorite - Male)||Nominated|
|1987||Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture||The Untouchables||Won|
|1989||Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||Nominated|
|1995||Cecil B. DeMille Award||Recipient|
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ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Bray, Christopher. Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man. Faber & Faber, 2011. ISBN 978-0571238088
- Callan, Michael Feeney. Sean Connery. Virgin Pub., 2002. ISBN 978-1852279929
- Connery, Sean, and Murray Grigor. Being a Scot. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008. ISBN 978-0297855408
- Cork, John, and Bruce Scivally. James Bond: The Legacy. Harry N. Abrams, 2002. ISBN 978-0810932968
- Kohn, George C. The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal. Checkmark Books, 2000. ISBN 978-0816044207
- Macintyre, Ben. For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0747598664
- Morella, Joe, and Edward Z. Epstein. Lana: The Public and Private Lives of Miss Turner. Berkley Pub. Group, 1989. ISBN 0440148170
- Sellers, Robert. Sean Connery: A Celebration. Robert Hale, 1999. ISBN 978-0709067917
- Telotte, J.P., and Gerald Duchovnay (eds.). Science Fiction Double Feature: The Science Fiction Film as Cult Text. Liverpool University Press, 2015. ISBN 978-1781381830
- Yule, Andrew. Sean Connery: Neither Shaken Nor Stirred. Little, Brown and Co., 1993. ISBN 978-0316903479
All links retrieved January 25, 2023.
- Sean Connery official website
- Sean Connery IMDb
- Sean Connery British Film Institute
- Sean Connery Rotten Tomatoes
- Sean Connery James Bond Wiki
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