For many, the quintessential image of James Bond comes from Sean Connery, the iconic actor who played the British spy across seven total films in the franchise but did so with his trademark Scottish accent. Sadly, the star of Dr. No and From Russian with Love has passed away at age 90, leaving behind a long legacy of memorable roles.
In a statement from Sean Connery’s publicist Nancy Seltzer, it was confirmed that the actor died peacefully in his sleep overnight surrounding by family. James Bond franchise producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli also offered up a statement on the passing of Sean Connery:
“We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words — “The name’s Bond… James Bond” — he revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”
Sean Connery was the first actor to play James Bond on the big screen in Dr. No in 1962. He would then go on to star in From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. But Connery left the series after a dispute about how he was being compensated for his role and James Bond. He came back to the franchise for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, and coincidentally wrapped up his time as 007 in Never Say Never Again.
Before he became an actor, Connery lived a blue collar life, having dropped out of school during World War II when he was just 13. He worked as a milkman, a steel bender, a cement mixer, and took any job he was lucky enough to get. Eventually, he signed up for the British Royal Navy and served three years before a stomach ulcer forced him to withdraw. He returned to take on various jobs as a bricklayer, a lifeguard and even a coffin polisher. It wasn’t until 1953, after auditioning to be on the touring chrous for a production of South Pacific that he began his acting career, eventually jumping to the screen with an uncredited role in Lilacs in the Spring in 1955, and a more significant role in No Road Back in 1957.
Connery’s fame came from his turn as James Bond in Dr. No in 1962, but before that he had already appeared in films such as Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, The Frightened City, Operator Snafu, and The Longest Day. Funnily enough, he also starred in a TV movie called Without the Grail, not to mention other small screen films like Macbeth, Adventure Story, and Riders to the Sea.
After playing James Bond, Connery was a huge star, and would go on to appear in the likes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie in 1964, Sidney Lumet’s The Hill in 1965, Irvin Kershner’s A Fine Madness in 1966, and The Anderson Tapes in 1971.
After also starring in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971, Connery took an even longer break from James Bond. During the 12 years he stepped down from playing 007, Connery starred in both the wild Zardoz and Murder on the Orient Express in 1974. He would also star in films such as John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King, Richard Lester’s Robin and Marion, John Milius’ The Wind and the Lions, Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far, Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, and Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits. But he eventually returned to James Bond one last time in 1983 for Never Say Never Again.
Throughout the rest of the 1980s, Connery would find some of his other famous roles outside of James Bond, including Ramirez in Highlander, Jim Malone in The Untouchables, a role which won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and of course, as Dr. Henry Jones, father to the famed titular archaeologist in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Connery continued to work steady through the 1990s, including the naval thriller The Hunt for Red October, a return to sorcery in Highlander II: The Quickening, and some kingly appearances in both Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and First Knight. He also lent his voice to a dragon in Dragonheart, and tried to control the weather as the villain in the modern big screen adaptation of the British spy series The Avengers. Connery even saddled up with Michael Bay to star in The Rock, a role that some theorize is an unofficial return of his portrayal of James Bond.
Into the late 1990s and early 2000s, Connery only took on three more major big screen roles in Entrapment alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones, Finding Forrester from Gus Van Sant, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003. After that, Connery was revived somewhat as James Bond in a modern video game version of From Russia with Love in 2005, but his last real acting role was providing the voice for the lead character in Sir Billi, and animated movie about a retired veterinarian living in a remote Scottish village. It was nowhere near any of his iconic performances over the years, but it was kind of the perfect role for the actor to go out on. Connery remained retired after that.
In addition to winning an Oscar, Connery also won and was nominated for several Golden Globes and BAFTAs, not to mention being knighted in 2000 for his contribution to the arts. Connery was such a legend that even Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to the actor upon hearing of his death, saying in statement:
“Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons. Sean was born into a working class Edinburgh family and through talent and sheer hard work, became a film icon and one of the world’s most accomplished actors. It was a privilege to have known Sean. When I last spoke to him it was clear even then that his health was failing – but the voice, the spirit and the passion that we all loved so well were still there. I will miss him. Scotland will miss him. The world will miss him.”
Connery was not only a big screen icon, but a big supporter and lover of his country, even going so far as to get a tattoo that read “Scotland For Ever.” Perhaps that’s why he never bothered to ever hide his Scottish accent in any of his roles across his storied career.
Our thoughts go out to Sean Connery’s friends and family during this difficult time. Rest in peace.
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