Updated: Jul 29, 2022
Sir Thomas Sean Connery 25 August 1930 - 31 October 2020
Sean Connery was born in the Fountainbridge are of Edinburgh to his mother Euphemia "Effie" McBain McLean, a cleaning woman and Joseph Connery, a factory worker and lorry driver. His paternal grandfather had come to Scotland from Ireland but his mother's heritage was Scottish. His father was Roman Catholic and his mother, Protestant. He was a slight boy at school but grew quickly, becoming known as "Big Tam" in his teenage years and he has been quoted as saying he lost his virginity at the age of 14 to an adult woman in an Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform.
His first job was as a milkman in Edinburgh, which clearly had a lasting impact on him as he returned to the city in 2009 and was able to name all the streets whilst in the taxi to his destination.
Connery joined the Navy in 1946 and served as an Able Seaman on HMS Formidable before being discharged at the age of 19 with a duodenal ulcer. During his time in the services he acquired tattoos which reflected the commitments important to him at the time, his parents and Scotland. He returned to Edinburgh and during this time took up body building. He was advised that he could make extra money modelling and artist Richard Demarco, a student who painted several early pictures of Connery, described him as "very straight, slightly shy, too, too beautiful for words, a virtual Adonis".
The acting superstar was a capable footballer and turned out for Bonybrigg Rose as a youth. He was offered a trial with East Fife and was even scouted by Matt Busby and offered a contract. Connery concluded that if he selected football as a career he would be finished at the age of 30 and he was already 23, he decided to commit to his pursuance of acting.
It was during a body building competition in 1953 that he was made aware that a production of South Pacific holding auditions. He was cast as a member of the chorus company but worked his way to a named part and understudy for lead parts. It was around this time, whilst in Edinburgh that Connery was approached by members of the Valdor gang. After he prevented them from stealing his jacket he was pursued by six of the gang before he fought off the group single handedly.
As Connery developed his acting talents, through theatre and a variety of small movie roles he made friends with various significant people along the way, including Michael Caine. He demonstrated his strength and bravery during the filming of one of his first major film roles. He played a reporter in a melodrama called Another Time, Another Place (1958) which saw his character in a doomed affair opposite Lana Turner. The possessive boyfriend of Turner was a gangster named Johnny Stomponato who interrupted filming to confront Connery with a gun believing the actor was having an affair with Turner. Connery disarmed him and put him on his back. Stomponato was advised to return to the US by Scotland Yard and Connery received death threats from the gangster's boss, Mickey Cohen.
A leading role in the Disney tale of an Irishman attempting to outwit Leprechauns, Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) before the casting call came for the role that would catapult him to stardom.
His success in being cast as James Bond is ostensibly down to Dana Broccoli, wife of Producer Alberto Broccoli. She pressed the case to her husband even as creator Ian Fleming expressed his reservations. He envisaged the spy as looking somewhat different, describing Connery as an "overgrown stuntman". Once more, the fairer sex came to the rescue, on this occasion Blanche Blackwell, Fleming's partner convinced the writer Connery had the requisite sexual charisma to play the part. Fleming would come around to the casting decision, even working Connery's Scottish heritage into the canon of the character.
Director Terence Young was then pivotal in coaching Connery, polishing his physical grace and presence. Connery became a global sex symbol overnight.
During the filming of Thunderball he was in considerable danger when a shark managed to navigate past the protective plexiglass, Connery had expressed concern regarding the scene so was prompt in getting out of the pool. Connery played the iconic spy for the first five films of the franchise but he grew frustrated with the role. He said he wanted to kill the character. Friend Michael Caine had said "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". He famously returned to Bond for Diamonds are Forever (1971). He was wooed back to perform after Lazenby quit the role. The producers had found an alternate actor but United Artists were unconvinced and felt the public demand was for Connery to return. The actor used his pay day from the film to set up the Scottish International Educational Trust before determining never to take on the role again.
Throughout his stint as Bond he was married to Diane Cilento and had a son Jason Connery. They separated in 1971 and divorced in 1973. She would go on to talk about the mental and physical abuse she endured during their relationship and a controversy emerged over his opinions on whether it was acceptable to slap women. He always insisted he had been misquoted on the issue. In 1975 Connery married Micheline Roquebrune and they remained married until his death despite a well publicised affair in the 80s with singer songwriter Lynsey de Paul.
He finally got to star alongside good friend Michael Caine in The Man Who Would be King (1975) which both men considered their favourite film. The seventies also saw him play an aging Robin Hood in Robin and Marion (1976) with Audrey Hepburn and performances in ensemble casts such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and A Bridge Too Far (1977) and a standard disaster romp, Meteor (1979).
It was in the 1980s that Connery started to emerge from the Bond shadow, even as he was lured back to play the role in the surreal Never Say Never Again (1983). The title was an idea of Connery's wife, referring to his previous outright refusal to play the part again but the project was a troubled affair, with legal wrangles regarding the development of Thunderball resulting in a release rights option to make an alternative film. Production difficulties were rife and Connery was unimpressed with the perceived lack of professionalism behind the scenes. He went on record to say it was a "bloody Mickey Mouse operation!" Despite the complications, audiences were thrilled to see Connery back in the tuxedo playing a Bond brought out of retirement to solve a case even if Connery was three years younger than the official Bond incumbent Roger Moore.
The experience left Connery weary with the studio system and he withdrew from film work for the next three years before returning to win a BAFTA for his performance in medieval murder mystery monk drama The Name of the Rose (1986). It was to spark a Connery revival as his unlikely role as The Spaniard alongside Christopher Lambert's equally unlikely Highlander (1986) in the film of the same name saw him find his new role, the elder mentor. It was followed by a fabulous turn in The Untouchables (1987) which earned him his only Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.
This was then followed by one of his most iconic roles as the father of Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Ford would talk enthusiastically about the engagement Connery had with the script development. He then starred in Hunt for Red October (1990) and returned to the Robin Hood universe with his cameo as Richard Lionheart in the Kevin Costner smash Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991). He then found a whole new generation of fans with his role in the Jerry Bruckhiemer box office smash The Rock (1996) which spawned a whole host of online theories that suggested his character in the film was actually written as an elderly 007, an imprisoned British secret service agent who is released to fight a terrorist plot in San Fransisco. It would not take too much imagination for Connery Bond fans to watch this film as a bookend to the Connery Bond career.
He received universally positive reviews for his role in Finding Forrester (2000) but then finally lost his patience when filming The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). It was his frustration with the experience on that film which led him to walk away from the entertainment industry.
As he was growing tired of the studio industry he was honoured in 2000 as a Knight for his services to the world of drama. He was nominated in 1997 and 1998 but it was reported that he was blocked by Donald Dewar due to his strong political views in favour of Scottish independence.
After this appearance, his career was defined by his determination to resist some of the most eye watering financial offers that Hollywood had to offer, to do some of the most iconic roles fo the next decade. Some of the decisions he made were to reject Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, the Architect in the Matrix and even a reprisal of the father of Indiana Jones. he was quoted as saying "retirement is just too much damned fun".
Connery was often respected for his rapid off the cuff responses to questions,
he has been quoted as saying "some age, others mature", also
"laughter kills fear, and without fear there can be no faith. For without fear of the devil there can be no God."
A further quote, which when taken in connection with his divisive quotes on relationships will find popularity and anger in equal measure, "I like women, I don't understand them, but I like them."
Sir Thomas Sean Connery passed away in his sleep in the Bahamas after being unwell for some time. His wife, Micheline Roquebrune, revealed in the days after his death that the James Bond star had been suffering from dementia.