Sean Connery’s humble beginnings, growing up in a working class neighborhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, gave no indication of the achievements that were destined to come. Sean was born into a working class family on 25th August 1930. The oldest of two boys, he spent much of his youth working at menial jobs, just to get by. He left school at an early age and went to work full-time. At sixteen, he enlisted in the Royal Navy. Like many young men in the Navy, he opted for a tattoo. 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.”
After three years of Naval service, a long bout with a stomach ulcer shortened his “naval career”. He returned to Edinburgh and seemed to settle into a life of hard work: bricklayer, lifeguard, and coffin polisher. Sean spent much of his free time bodybuilding, a pastime that eventually started his acting career. His hobby of bodybuilding culminated in a bid for the 1950 Mr. Universe title where he placed third.
From his early acting days until his first superstar role, Sean’s stardom was certainly not an over-night success story. From his first work in modeling, bit theatrical parts, and chorus appearances, it was almost eight years before he was cast opposite Lana Turner in Another Time, Another Place (1958). It would be another four years before he first uttered those unforgettable words, “Bond, James Bond.”
Early in his career, he developed a unique screen presence and a dashing romantic manor. He was admired by both men and women. It was this quality that allowed Connery to beat out many far bigger (and more expensive) names to play Ian Fleming’s superspy James Bond in Dr. No, which made him a major 60s icon. He leavened the inherent violence of the character with his unflappably cool sophistication and humor.
Sean Connery periodically escaped Bond to tackle a wider range of roles in other features, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964); A Fine Madness (1966) and The Molly Maguires (1970), but most were box-office duds. He did some of his best work over the course of his significant collaboration with director Sidney Lumet: The Hill (1965), as a convict in a military prison; The Anderson Tapes (1972), as an ex-con masterminding a large-scale heist; The Offence (1973), as a London detective who beats a suspect to death; Murder On The Orient Express (1974), as part of the all-star ensemble; and Family Business (1989), a critical and commercial misfire in which he portrays the proud patriarch of a criminal clan, with Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick as his son and grandson respectively.
Sean Connery attempted to abandon 007 time and again but audiences did not at first support his efforts. Diamonds Are Forever (1971) marked the beginning of his 12-year absence from Bond pictures. Connery utilized this period to star in a wide range of interesting adventure films, including John Boorman’s Zardoz (1974), John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975), John Milius’s The Wind And The Lion (1975), Richard Lester’s Robin And Marian (1976), and, in a crucial supporting role, Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits (1981). Bald, a little paunchy, but still handsome and charismatic, Connery donned his toupee and returned to his most celebrated role for the aptly titled Never Say Never Again (1983). The film was a hit.
Connery followed up with the popular fantasy film, Highlander (1986) and the successful international co-production The Name Of The Rose (1986) before hitting a home run with an Oscar-winning supporting role in Brian De Palma’s adaptation of The Untouchables (1987). Playing Malone, a sly and crafty old Irish cop, he easily eclipsed Kevin Costner, the film’s ostensible leading man. The success of this film placed Connery firmly back on the A-list of modern Hollywood leading men, albeit often in older, fatherly roles (often older than his actual age). His renewed star shone particularly brightly in Steven Spielberg’s third installment of the Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989), as the alternately aloof and irascible father of Harrison Ford.
Though he is an enduring presence harking back to the stars of the Hollywood studio system, Connery is also a serious actor who meticulously prepares for his roles. He has trained extensively in movement and has claimed that he never accepts a role until he has worked out how the character should move. Connery has achieved impressive subtleties of characterization within a surprisingly wide range of parts.
One of the most sought-after actors in the industry, Connery keeps busy regardless of whether his films hit or miss. He is a proponent of the always-keep-working school, in part because of his financial support of the Scottish National Theater. The 90’s brought such great films as The Hunt for Red October (1990, as a Russian sub commander); and 1993’s Rising Sun (as an expert in all things Japanese); Dragonheart (1996); and the successful contemporary action dramas Just Cause (1995); and The Rock (1996). In 1999, Connery starred in and produced (Fountainbridge Films) Entrapment, a love story-thriller, costarring Catherine Zeta-Jones. The year 2000 brought what many have said to be one of his best films, Finding Forrester.
Many critics and fans alike have said that the quality of his acting has only improved with age. Certainly his personal appeal has. In 1989, at almost 60 years of age he was voted People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” When advised of the award, Sean seemed to be unaffected as he replied, “Well there aren’t many sexy dead men, are there.”
Other James Bond Actors
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