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Sean Connery: Scottish actor was a screen icon for 40 years

Sean Connery: Scottish actor was a screen icon for 40 years

The James Bond movies that starred Sean Connery, whose death at 90 was announced Sunday, would actually be more than a little embarrassing in a society sensitized by the Me Too movement. His James Bond was an unapologetic hard-drinking, chain smoking hairy-chested womanizer. James Bond was the product of a post-war generation where being a rogue was admired by men for sure, but also supposedly by women as well.  In the end he starred in seven Bond films (every film from Dr. No to You Only Live Twice, plus Diamonds Are Forever and Never Say Never Again) between 1962 and 1983. Although the Bond series made his career, Connery grew tired of the role and the pressure the franchise put on him, saying “I am fed up to here with the whole Bond bit” and “I have always hated that damned James Bond. I’d like to kill him,” in comments not unlike those we hear today from Daniel Craig about his Bond roles.

Connery as Bond with Ursula Andress in the first Bond Film, Dr. No

Edinburg -born Connery’s pre-Bond career was eclectic. He joined the British Navy at 16, where he obtained two tattoos–one tattoo is a tribute to his parents and reads ‘Mum and Dad,’ and the other is self-explanatory, ‘Scotland Forever.” Out of the Navy at 19, Connery worked as a truck driver, a lifeguard, even a coffin polisher. The modelling earned him 15 shillings an hour. Artist Richard Demarco, at the time a student who painted several early pictures of Connery, described him as “very straight, slightly shy, too, too beautiful for words, a virtual Adonis”. A body-builder at 18, Connery competed in the Mr. Universe competition in the early 1950’s. He was a good football player and was offered a minor league contract by the Manchester United team, which he turned down because he had decided to become an actor.

Connery (C) as a Mr. Universe contestant

He started out as a backstage worker in live theatre. Soon he found himself out front as an actor in a travelling version of South Pacific, soon rising to a lead role. He became a serious student of theatre reading the Henrik Ibsen works Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck, and When We Dead Awaken, and later works by the likes of Marcel Proust, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and William Shakespeare.

Connery was in smaller theatre and television productions until he got his break with the Bond films. He became a major actor with the success of his Bond role. But between the first five Bond movies and the later two in the 1980’s  his films also included Marnie (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Untouchables (1988), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Dragonheart (1996), The Rock (1996), and Finding Forrester (2000). Connery retired from acting in 2006. His achievements include one Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards (one being a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award), and three Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and a Henrietta Award. He received a lifetime achievement award in the US with a Kennedy Center Honor in 1999. Connery was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to film drama.

Connery had a glancing Hamilton connection when he filmed Finding Forrester in 1980. Although the film was shot in New York, there were some location shots taken  in Toronto and Hamilton. A building at Bay Street and Barton subbed for a Bronx walk up where Connery’s character, a reclusive and cantankerous writer lived.

The building at Barton and Bay that was used in the Connery film Finding Forrester

As much as he was admired for his athletic physique and good looks as a young man, Connery showed little vanity, allowing himself to age in his later movie roles. Culminating with his Oscar-winning performance in the Untouchables. During the Bond era, even Connery took a break from the glamour to star in a small black and white Sydney Lumet film, The Hill, where he played a prisoner in a stockade.

Connery was knighted by The Queen at an investiture ceremony at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh on 5 July 2000Sean Connery had a villa in Kranidi, Greece. His neighbour was King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, with whom he shared a helicopter platform. Michael Caine (who co-starred with Connery in The Man Who Would Be King in 1975) was among Connery’s closest friends. Connery was a supporter of Scottish football club Rangers F.C. Connery was a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), a centre-left political party campaigning for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, and supported the party financially.

Connery died in his sleep on Saturday, aged 90, at his home in Nassau in the Bahamas. His son stated that he “had been unwell for some time”.

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