Sean Connery: We look back at the career of a Hollywood giant

Sean Connery 1930 – 2020

Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930, Connery’s home for many years was the challenging Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh. His early life one of hardship and a need for employment in supporting the family home. By 14 he had left school, taking up work as a Co-op milkman, and by 16 he had joined the Royal Navy; only to later be discharged on medical grounds. But, Connery’s slow journey to the big screen began when he started bodybuilding aged 18. A decision that would ultimately lead him to enter the ‘Mr Universe’ contest of 1953. A competition that would bring him to London, where he also auditioned for the stage musical South Pacific; landing a role in the chorus. And it was this break that would provide Thomas Sean Connery with a range of small TV opportunities.

Connery’s early TV career ranged from small bit parts in Dixon of Dock Green to The Sailor of Fortune. However, his big break came in 1957 with the BBC adaptation of Requiem for a Heavyweight; a drama that allowed him to stretch his wings in a leading role. From this point on, Connery’s career in film took flight, from Another Time, Another Place (1958) to Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). But, it was his 30th birthday that would seal his place as a legend of modern cinema. When a young Barbara Broccoli suggested his name for the new adaptation of Ian Flemings Dr No. And despite the risk of hiring a mostly unknown actor as James Bond, and fierce opposition from Fleming, Albert Broccoli took a gamble on Connery.

The rest, as they say, is history, as Connery made the character of James Bond his own. His success in the role both a blessing and a curse, as the money came flooding in. The doors to Hollywood fame opened, just as he fell out of love with the spy he had helped create. His arguments with the Bond team on the set of You Only Live Twice leading to his departure from the role; only to be coaxed back with a large paycheque several years later for Diamonds are Forever.

Sean Connery worked hard in the years that followed to shake off the ghost of Bond—taking roles that subverted the all-action hero image, from In the Name of the Rose to Robin and Marian. However, this was often met with mixed critical success. In truth, the spirit of Bond was never too far away from some of his best-known and highly praised work. By the mid-1980s Connery opted for larger than life-supporting characters over the leading man. This decision would ultimately lead to some of his best-known work outside of Bond, from The Untouchables through to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. With his final physical appearance on screen coming in the 2003 flop The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And while he undertook some voice-over work after this, he mostly chose to retire from the movie business.

Connery was undoubtedly a Hollywood giant, his name on any upcoming film poster enough to ensure audience success. However, he was also a private man, never shying away from expressing his disdain for the press. And this fiery temperament also led to many disagreements over the years with producers, directors and fellow actors. While at the same time his passion for Scottish Independence led to numerous large financial donations to the SNP, despite him having tax exile status. A move that reportedly held up his knighthood several times over the years. However, in 2000 he finally became Sir Sean Connery.

Connery leaves behind his second wife Micheline Roquebrune and only son Jason, from his first marriage to Diane Cilento.