Scottish actor forever associated with his role as the first screen James Bond
Despite turning his back on his alter ego, and no matter what else he did, Connery would continue to be associated principally with Ian Fleming’s secret-agent hero, and remain the actor against whom all the subsequent James Bonds are measured – generally to their disadvantage. As one critic put it: “Basically, you have Connery, and then you have all the rest.”
[…] Born in the Fountainbridge district of Edinburgh, he was the son of Joseph Connery, a lorry driver and factory worker, and Effie (nee McLean), a cleaner. After leaving school, at the age of 16, Connery enlisted in the Royal Navy. There followed various manual jobs: lifeguard, bricklayer and even coffin polisher, as well as a nude model for Edinburgh art students.
Stage experience in the sailor chorus in the West End production of South Pacific in 1953 and work in rep led him to films (though not before Matt Busby saw him playing in a football match while South Pacific was in Manchester and offered Connery a contract with Manchester United, which he turned down).
Among his dozen or so pre-Bond films were Hell Drivers (1957) and Action of the Tiger (1957), […].so he did not exactly come from nowhere when, from a number of contenders, he was chosen by the producers to become Fleming’s licensed-to-kill hero in Dr No. Fleming initially doubted the casting of Connery, remarking, “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stuntman.” Connery’s Bond was a rougher diamond but blessed with a wry sense of humour that diffused the violence. In fact, Fleming changed his mind after a girlfriend told him Connery had the requisite sexual magnetism.
Dr No was a big hit and, although the following films became increasingly packed with technical wizardry, it immediately established the successful recipe of sex, violence and campy humour that remained virtually unchanged for decades to come. […] . Increasing in confidence and wealth, Connery went on to make From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965) and You Only Live Twice (1967).
[…] After the shooting of You Only Live Twice, Connery said that he was giving up Bond for good. […] Lumet’s The Offence (1973) was part of the two-picture deal made by United Artists with Connery in exchange for his appearance in Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The Offence opened the way for Connery to enter second adulthood as a mature hero, standing (often literally) head and shoulders above most of his co-stars. Where Bond was always on the winning side, amoral and assured, Connery began appearing as a lost-cause moralist. He also shed the toupee he had worn in the Bond movies and all the inhibitions to which sex objects and superstars are prey.
[…] After a few less than inspiring ventures, he returned for his valedictory performance as Bond in the aptly titled Never Say Never Again (1983). At the age of 53, Connery relied on his charisma to get him through the film, though he commented at the time that “Bond should be played by an actor 33 to 35 years old”.
[…] His involvement with the Scottish National Party caused controversy because he had not lived in his native country for several decades, though he claimed that he would return to Scotland when it gained independence; he was a vocal supporter of the Yes campaign in 2014. Adverse comment came too for his acceptance of a knighthood in 2000 as the SNP is generally regarded as a republican party.
Adapted by Susan Blattes