Actor, who died Saturday, remembered for powerful acting
James Bond was a charming, romantic and dramatic hero, but let’s face it. There were times he was more shaken than stirred.
You would be too if you were tied to a table and faced a laser beam charging toward you.
“You expect me to talk?” agent 007 yelled.
“No, Mr. Bond,” replied Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe). “I expect you to die!”
But Bond talked his way out of that near-death experience and defeated the gold-obsessed villain in “Goldfinger” (1964). He also beat the bad guys in “Dr. No,” (the 1962 film that started the Bond franchise), “From Russia with Love (1963), “Thunderball” (the 1965 film that was complete with a giant wall map to stress the point SPECTRE was threatening the world), “You Only Live Twice” (1967), “Diamonds Are Forever” (the 1971 film shot in Las Vegas) and the “Thunderball” remake, “Never Say Never Again” (1983).
Never say that as James Bond, Sean Connery didn’t always win.
And he did it with class, wearing a tuxedo, drinking those vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred), driving his Aston Martin DB5 with the guns and other gadgets (ejector seats and oil slicks!), saying one-liners and puns with a straight face, and ultimately proving himself irresistible to women, good or bad.
As the character created by author Ian Fleming, Mr. Connery defeated terrorists in the sky, on the land and under the sea. He prevented the Cold War from becoming a deep freeze, and bad guys fighting him on a train couldn’t stay on track.
For Baby Boomers and other fans of spy movies, Mr. Connery leaves behind a powerful, cinematic legacy. He was the first actor to play “Bond, James Bond,” as he introduced himself in movies from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Sir Sean Connery died Saturday after a distinguished career that continued to thrive after his days as 007. The Scottish actor, who lived during his final years in the Bahamas, was 90.
His son, Jason Connery, said Mr. Connery died peacefully in his sleep.
“We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently, even though my dad has been unwell for some time,” he told the BBC. “A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.”
Many fans considered Mr. Connery to be the best of all the actors who played 007. Better in their views than George Lazenby, the late Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, the current James Bond whose next movie, “No Time to Die,” was pushed to 2021 because of COVID-19.
Of all of them, Mr. Brosnan of “Remington Steele” fame, at least in this writer’s opinion, seemed to be the closest in capturing Mr. Connery’s unflappable, charming style, but in the end, this icon was a unique, cinematic phenomenon.
He was Connery, Sean Connery.
Born in 1930, Mr. Connery grew up in the tough Fountainbridge section of Edinburgh, Scotland, and left school at 14 to work as a milkman. He joined the Royal Navy in 1948, but was later discharged for medical reasons.
A bodybuilder, he entered the Mr. Universe contest in 1953, but didn’t win. Success came when he landed a role in the chorus for the stage version of “South Pacific” in London.
He didn’t need the help of Q, the gadget genius in the Bond movies, to get further success. He had small roles on TV shows, then got his first credited film role in 1957 as a hoodlum in the British thriller “No Road Back,” then played a boxer in the BBC’s take on “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight.”
Mr. Connery starred with Lana Turner in “Another Time, Another Place” (1957), then was cast at age 30 in the part that would change his life.
Bond, James Bond.
Reportedly he was the choice of Dana, producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s wife, and the first movie, “Dr. No” (1962), proved a big hit in Britain and the U.S.
After his days as 007, Mr. Connery took on a variety of other roles. He won his only Oscar in 1988 for playing the Irish cop Malone in “The Untouchables.” He also portrayed the stubborn father of Indiana Jones in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989).
His most memorable post-Bond role could arguably be that of a renegade Russian submarine captain in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990).
But Mr. Connery also could do a lot on the big screen without a submarine, big action or the stuff of international intrigue. He proved to be eloquent, insightful and a bit cranky (in an adorable way) as reclusive author Forrester in “Finding Forrester” (2000).
His character mentored Jamal (Rob Brown), a student with a talent for writing. The film proved dramatic because of the chemistry of the two talented actors and something that Mr. Connery brought to every movie: a lot of heart.
Unlike Bond’s martinis, Mr. Connery was more stirred than shaken. He knew the power of a gradual crescendo to make a point, whether he was playing 007, King Arthur in “First Knight” (1995) or the leader of heroic horror-genre creatures in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003). His acting never seemed rushed. Mr. Connery took his time and did it right.
And he had a Santa Barbara County connection.
Mr. Connery played King Richard in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” a 1991 movie starring Carpinteria actor Kevin Costner. (Mr. Connery played Robin Hood himself in “Robin and Marian” in 1976.)
The man who was Bond retired from acting in 2003 and declined an offer to be in another Indiana Jones film in 2007. “Retirement is just too damned much fun,” he said at the time, but he did later voice the title role of a Scottish animated movie, “Sir Billi.”
Outside of movies, Mr. Connery promoted Scottish independence from the United Kingdom. But of course, that didn’t stop the U.K. from loving him, and he was knighted in 2000.
He was married to Australian actress Diane Cilento from 1962-1973, then to French-Moroccan painter Micheline Roquebrune in 1975. He is survived by Ms. Roquebrune and Jason Connery, his son with Ms. Cilento.
The estate of the late Roger Moore tweeted a statement after hearing about Mr. Connery’s death.
“How infinitely sad to hear the news Sir Sean Connery has passed away. He and Roger were friends for many decades, and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP.”