Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sean Connery: Man's Man

Sean Connery, As Tough as He Looks

Sean Connery
Sean Connery as a wee lad.
Thomas Sean Connery, named after his grandfather, was born on August 25, 1930, in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland to Effie Connery, a cleaning lady, and Joseph Connery, a factory worker. His background, however, was mixed. Effie was a Protestant, and his father a Roman Catholic. His father's religion may have been partly due to the fact that his family came from Ireland. "Tommy" soon became "Sean" because of a childhood friendship with someone named Seamus. "There go, Sean and Seamus," you can just hear his friends say.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery in the Royal Navy.
Sean's first job was as a milkman, but he soon joined the Royal Navy and got some tattoos. Naturally, they were serious, one saying "Scotland Forever," the other "Mum and Dad." After getting an ulcer, Sean was discharged from the Navy and worked a series of odd jobs. During this time, most likely bored, he took up bodybuilding. He developed quickly and participated in the Mr. Universe competition. During it, he auditioned for and won a part in a production of "South Pacific."

Sean Connery
Modeling sportswear for Vince of Newburgh Street, from "Films and Filming," in the 1950s
Modeling became an increasingly important part of Sean Connery's life during this time. It certainly helped to pay the bills. With his muscular build and classic good looks, he sold a lot of clothes for local merchants.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery, world-class bodybuilder.
Edinburgh was a rough town in those days. There was a gang that terrorized working-class kids, and they picked on Sean. After a confrontation, Sean took on six of them at once and subdued them.

Sean Connery Mr. Universe
Sean in the middle, in... white.
Sean also excelled at football and received an offer to join Manchester United. He turned it down, figuring he had a brighter future as an actor.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery with a friend during his bodybuilding days.
Sean had a variety of small stage and English film roles. The parts gradually grew larger, but this drew the attention of Lana Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Jealous of what he thought Connery might be doing with Turner, Stompanato came after Connery with a gun.

Sean Connery The Molly Maguires
Sean Connery, here in "The Molly Maguires," does look authentically tough.
Once again, Connery showed he knew how to take care of himself. He floored the gangster, though he later had to "lie low" to avoid retaliation. Stompanato, of course, was later shot dead "accidentally" by Turner herself.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery in "Darbie O'Gill and the Little People."
Connery's first big role was in "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959), a Disney production involving leprechauns. This led directly to the role for which he is most famous, James Bond, as it got him noticed and an audition.

Bond, James Bond

Sean Connery
Sean  Connery as James Bond in "Dr. No."
Cubby Broccoli owned the rights to most of the Ian Fleming stories about British super-spy James Bond, but he wasn't the one who had the most influence in Connery's selection for the part of Bond. Dana Broccoli, Cubby's wife, liked him, and that turned out to be enough even though Ian Fleming himself disapproved. Fleming, in fact, thought of Connery as just an "overgrown stuntman."

Sean Connery

Ian Fleming actually thought that Cary Grant or David Niven better fit the part. After the success of the first Bond film, "Dr. No," Fleming changed his mind and tailored his subsequent stories about Bond to fit Connery rather than vice versa. That may be a first in the history of film.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery as James Bond in "Goldfinger."
Terence Young, the director of "Dr. No" and several other Bond films, worked with Connery to make him into a more polished actor. The effort worked, and soon Connery was swaggering across the screen with the best of them. After "Dr. No," Connery filmed "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," and "You Only Live Twice." Everything worked to perfection, and Sean Connery's name was on everyone's lips.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery got right down to business as James Bond in "Never Say Never Again."
He became one of the most famous men in the world, but it all became too much for him to handle. People were hounding him, even in Japan. After filming the 1967 "You Only Live Twice" there, Connery refused to do any more Bond films. However, in 1971, he was persuaded to reprise the role again when Cubby Broccoli agreed to fund Connery's pet project to help Scottish artists with over $1 million - in addition to his huge salary. He simply couldn't refuse the offer. This resulted in the final Connery performance in the "official" line of Bond films, "Diamonds are Forever" (1971).

A Hollywood Hired Gun

Sean Connery
Sean invents the mankini in "Zardoz."
After finally cutting his ties with the James Bond character, Sean moved on to a wide variety of films. His best films are often considered to be "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975) and "The Wind and the Lion" (1975). One could argue that Sean Connery's career peaked in that year, though he had several solid hits in the '80s, too, and no doubt made much more money then. He had a memorable supporting part as Agamemnon in "Time Bandits" (1981). Not all of his films during this period were classics. "Zardoz" is often regarded as an embarrassing footnote to Sean Connery's career, and likely one that, but for the money, he wishes that he had skipped.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery returns to Bond for the last time in "Never Say Never Again."
Connery played James Bond one more time, in 1983's "Never Say Never Again. He received fine reviews but found the complete experience distasteful. As with "Time Bandits," he returned to form by playing a supporting role in "Highlander. The experience was much more to his liking, and he focused primarily on supporting roles thereafter. "The Untouchables" featured his classic line about "If they come after you with a knife, you pull out a gun," and for that role, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. That propelled the last major surge in his phenomenal career. "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "The Hunt for Red October" were perhaps his best films after that win, though he also appeared in many lower-profile pictures.

Sean Connery
Sean Connery starred in "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (2003), after which he retired because the experience was so trying.
The role of Allan Quatermain during the early 2000s in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" was a tough one for Sean Connery. He fought with the director, Stephen Norrington, and the location shooting was troubled by horrible weather and other problems. By all accounts, he was very unhappy. While not a particularly bad film, "League" did not do well at the box office. Sean Connery decided that enough was enough, and he decided to retire then and there (Norrington also did not work again as a director for a full decade). Connery even turned down a fantastically lucrative role as Gandalf in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" series, another decision he may well regret - but every major star has those kinds of things happen to them. Since then, Sean Connery only has done occasional voice acting, though rumors abound about roles that he agreed to do, but that fell through for one reason or another. That, again, it typical for legendary actors who have retired before their time.


Sean Connery
Sean Connery in his beloved Scotland.
Aside from his Academy Award, Sean Connery has been honored as "The Greatest Living Scot." One can only assume that he treasures that award the highest of any that he has received. A bronze bust sculpture of Sean Connery stands in the capital city of Estonia. He has continued his strong advocacy of Scottish independence, and upon occasion returns there. However, he currently lives in the Bahamas, where he is said to play a lot of golf.

Sean Connery
Bond. James Bond.


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