Sean Connery 1930 – 2020
Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930, Connery’s home was the challenging Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh for many years. His early life was one of hardship and a need for employment to support the family home. By 14, he had left school, taking up work as a Co-op milkman; by 16, he had joined the Royal Navy, only to be later 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. Mr Universe brought Connery to London, where he auditioned for the stage musical South Pacific, landing a role in the chorus. This break would provide Thomas Sean Connery with a range of small TV opportunities.
Connery’s early TV career ranged from small 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 films took flight with Another Time, Another Place (1958) and Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). But, as he hit his 30th birthday, his place as a legend of modern cinema would be born. When a young Barbara Broccoli suggested his name for the new adaptation of Ian Flemings, Dr No, fierce opposition came from Fleming; however, for Albert Broccoli, Connery was a gamble worth taking.
The rest, as they say, is history; Connery made the character of James Bond his own, his success in the role a blessing and a curse as the money flooded in. Bond would open the door to Hollywood fame, but Connery fell out of love with the spy he had helped create after his fifth film. Here his arguments with the Bond team on the set of You Only Live Twice led to his departure from the role, only to be coaxed back with a significant pay cheque 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 appraisal. In truth, the spirit of Bond was never too far away from some of his best-known and highly praised works. By the mid-1980s, Connery opted for larger than life-supporting characters over the leading man. This decision would lead to some of his best-known works outside of Bond, from The Untouchables to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. His final physical appearance on screen would come in the 2003 flop, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, although he continued voice-over work before retiring from the movie business.
Connery was a Hollywood giant, his name on any film poster was enough to ensure audience success. However, he was also a private man, never shying away from his disdain for the press. He had a fiery temperament that led to many disagreements with producers, directors and fellow actors over the years. He was also a passionate advocate for Scottish Independence. Connery leaves behind his second wife, Micheline Roquebrune and only son, Jason, from his first marriage to Diane Cilento.
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