Former James Bond actor Sean Connery dies on the age of 90. From Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Actor Sean Connery arrives to the Edinburgh International Film Festival
By Will Dunham
(Reuters) – Scottish film legend Sean Connery, known internationally as the polite, sexy and sophisticated British agent James Bond and starring on the big screen for four decades, has died at the age of 90.
“His wife Micheline and his two sons Jason and Stephane have confirmed that he died peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by a family,” said family spokeswoman Nancy Seltzer on Saturday.
Growing up in poverty in the Edinburgh slums, Connery worked as a coffin polisher, milkman and lifeguard before his bodybuilding hobby helped spark an acting career that made him one of the greatest stars in the world.
“Sean was a global legend, but first and foremost he was a patriotic and proud Scot,” said Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Connery will first be remembered as British Agent 007, the character of writer Ian Fleming, whom Connery immortalized in 1962 films beginning with “Dr. No”.
As Bond disproved his cheeky manner and ironic humor of thwarting flamboyant villains and frolicking with beautiful women, a darker, violent edge, and he developed a depth of character that set the standard for those who followed him in the role .
He would introduce himself in the films as “Bond – James Bond”. But Connery was unhappy with the role and once said he “hated that damn James Bond”.
Connery was tall and handsome with a throaty voice that suited a sometimes crusty personality. He played a number of notable roles alongside Bond and won an Oscar for portraying a tough Chicago cop in “The Untouchables” (1987).
He was 59 years old when People magazine declared him the “sexiest man living” in 1989.
Connery was a passionate supporter of Scottish independence and had the words “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm when he was serving in the Royal Navy. When he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh in 2000 at the age of 69, he wore a full Scottish dress, including his mother’s green and black plaid kilt of his mother’s MacLeod clan.
Was fed “idiots”
Some notable non-Bond films were “Marnie” (1964) directed by Alfred Hitchcock, “The Wind and the Lion” (1975) with Candice Bergen, John Huston’s “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975) with Michael Caine , Director Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) and Cold War Story “The Hunt for Red October” (1990).
Alternative cinema fans will always remember that he appeared as “Brutal Exterminator” Zed in John Boorman’s stunning fantasy epic “Zardoz” (1974), in which a heavily moustached Connery walked around much of the film in a tight red loincloth, Thigh-high leather boots and a ponytail.
Connery retired from the film business after disputes with the director of his last outing, the unforgettable “League of Exceptional Men” in 2003.
“I’m sick of dealing with idiots,” he said.
The Bond franchise was still going strong more than five decades after Connery launched. The lavishly produced films, which were filled with high-tech equipment and spectacular effects, broke box-office records and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars.
After the overwhelming success of “Dr. No”, other Bond films for Connery followed in quick succession: “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965) and “You Only Live Twice “(1967).
Connery then worried about the typography and decided to tear himself away. In 1969, Australian actor George Lazenby succeeded Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
But without Connery, what the public wanted was lacking and he was lured with temptations for “Diamonds Are Forever” in 1971 that included a portion of the profits he said would go to a Scottish education foundation. He insisted it would be his last time as Bond.
Twelve years later, at the age of 53, Connery was back as 007 on “Never Say Never Again” (1983), an independent production that infuriated his old mentor, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.
PREFERRED BEER FOR MARTINIS
In a 1983 interview, Connery summed up the ideal Bond film with “wonderful locations, interesting ambience, good stories, interesting characters – like a detective story with espionage and exotic backdrops and cute birds”.
Connery was a very different guy from Fleming’s Bond character with his impeccable social background. He preferred Bier Bond’s vodka martini cocktails that were “shaken, not stirred”.
But Connery’s influence has shaped the character in both the books and the movies. He never tried to disguise his Scottish accent, which led Fleming to give Bond Scottish heritage in the books published after Connery’s debut.
Born Thomas Connery on August 25, 1930, the eldest of
two sons of a trucker and a mother who worked as a cleaning lady. At the age of 13 he dropped out of school and worked in various simple professions. At 16, two years after the end of World War II, Connery was drafted into the Royal Navy and served for three years.
“I grew up with no idea of a career, much less an actor,” he once said. “I sure never planned it. It was really all a coincidence.”
Connery played a small role in theatrical repertoire companies before moving to film and television.
It was his role in a 1959 Disney Leprechaun film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, that helped take on the role of Bond. Broccoli, a producer for the Bond films, asked his wife to see Connery in the Disney movie while he was looking for the right lead actor.
Dana Broccoli said her husband told her he wasn’t sure Connery had sex appeal.
“I saw that face and the way he moved and talked and I said, ‘Cubby, he’s fab!'” She said. “He was just perfect, he had star material right there.”
Connery married actress Diane Cilento in 1962. Before they divorced 11 years later, they had a son, Jason, who became an actor. In 1975 he married the French artist Micheline Roquebrune, whom he met while playing golf.