Sean Connery, the irascible Scot in the slums of Edinburgh who found international fame as Hollywood’s first James Bond, dismayed his fans by walking away from the Bond franchise and proceeded to have a long and profitable career as a respected actor and an always bankable star, has died at Nassau, the Bahamas. He was 90.
Sir Sean died peacefully in his sleep at the Bahamas, having been “unwell for a while”, his son said.
His acting career spanned five years and he won the Oscar in 1988 for his role in The Untouchables.
Jason Connery stated his dad “had many of his family, who would be in the Bahamas, around him” when he died immediately in Nassau. A lot of the Bond film Thunderball had been filmed there.
He said: “We are all working at understanding this huge event as it merely happened so recently, though my dad has ever been unwell for a while.
His departure, in his sleep late Friday or early Saturday, was supported by his family.
“Bond, James Bond” was the character’s recognizable self-introduction, and to legions of fans who’ve watched a parade of actors play the function — otherwise called Agent 007 on Her Majesty’s Secret Service — none uttered the words or played the part as magnetically or as indelibly as Mr. Connery.
Tall, dark and dashing, he embodied the novelist Ian Fleming’s suave and resourceful secret agent at the first five Bond movies and seven all, vanquishing diabolical villains and voluptuous women alike beginning with “Dr. No” in 1962.
As a more violent, moody and dangerous guy than the James Bond in Fleming’s books, Mr. Connery was the top box-office star in both Britain and the United States in 1965 after the achievement of “From Russia With Love” (1963),”Goldfinger” (1964) and “Thunderball” (1965). But he grew tired of playing Bond after the fifth movie in the series, “You Only Live Twice” (1967), and has been replaced by George Lazenby, a little-known Australian actor and model, in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969).
Mr. Connery was lured back for one more Bond movie, “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971), only by the offer of $1 million as an advance against 12% of this film’s gross revenues. Roger Moore took over for “Live and Let Die” (1973) and proceeded to play the role for another 12 years. George Lazenby’s career never took off. James Bond was played by Daniel Craig since 2006.
Mr. Connery would reevaluate the character one more time a decade later, in the elegiac “Never Say Never Again” (1983), in which he wittily played a rueful Bond sense the anxieties of middle age. But he had made apparent long before then that he wasn’t going to let himself become typecast.
He searched out characters that allowed him to stretch as an actor even during his Bond years, among them as a widower obsessed with a female who’s a compulsive thief in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” (1964) and as a ferocious, amoral poet from the satire “A Fine Madness” (1966). His very first post-Bond performance was as a burned-out London police officers that defeats a defendant to death in “The Offence” (1972), the third of five films he made for the celebrated director Sidney Lumet. The others were “The Hill” in 1965,”The Anderson Tapes” in 1971,”Murder on the Orient Express” in 1974 and “Family Business” in 1989.
A Graceful Transformation
From the 1970s and’80s, Mr. Connery Gradually transformed himself into one of the grand old men of the movies. If his trained killer at the futuristic dream “Zardoz” (1974), his Barbary pirate in “The Wind and the Lion” (1975) or his middle-aged Robin Hood in “Robin and Marian” (1976) didn’t erase the memory of his James Bond, they surely blurred the picture.
Mr. Connery won a best-actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for “The Name of the Rose” (1986), based on the Umberto Eco novel, where he played a crime-solving medieval monk, and the Academy Award as best supporting actor for his performance as an honest cop about the corrupt Chicago police force in “The Untouchables” (1987). Mr. Connery educated himself to realize that character — Jim Malone, a cynical, streetwise police officer whose sole goal would be to be alive at the conclusion of his change — by imagining that the other characters’ attitudes toward him.
After studying Malone’s scenes,” he told The Times in 1987, he read the scenes in which his character didn’t appear. “That way,” he stated, “I expect to know what the character is conscious of and, more importantly, what he is unaware of. The snare that poor actors encounter is playing with information they don’t have.”
Even before his acting ability was clear, the 6-foot-2 Mr. Connery had a remarkable physical existence, onscreen and off. Lana Turner picked him to play the war correspondent with whom she tumbles into bed in the forgettable 1958 melodrama “Another Time, Another Place.” He earned his opportunity since Bond when the manufacturers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman watched him walk. “We signed without a screen test,” Mr. Saltzman said.
Mr. Connery’s magnetism didn’t fade as he grew old. Back in 1989, when he was 59 years old and had long since lost his James Bond toupee, People magazine anointed him the “Sexiest Man Alive.” His answer was to growl that not many men are hot when they’re dead.
He was born Thomas Sean Connery on Aug. 25, 1930, and his crib has been the bottom drawer of a dresser in a cold-water flat next door to a brewery. The two bathrooms in the hall were shared with three other households. His dad, Joe, made two pounds per week at a rubber mill. His mother, Effie, sometimes got work as a cleaning girl.
In age 9, Thomas discovered an early-morning job delivering milk at a horse cart to get four hours until he went to college. His brother, Neil, had been born in December 1938, and the usual meals of porridge and potatoes had to be stretched four manners. Once a week, if the household needed a sixpence to spare, Thomas would walk into the public bathrooms and swim “only to get clean”
Just like the weeks that 12-year-old Charles Dickens spent working in a factory that made shoe blacking, Mr. Connery’s deprived childhood informed the remainder of his life. When he was 63, he told an aide a bath was still “something unique.”
His anger was never much below the surface. What he called his “violent side,” he told The Times, could have been “ammunitioned” by his childhood. (He sometimes acknowledged that unwanted in shocking ways. In a 1965 interview, he explained, “I do not think there’s anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman”; requested about these words by Barbara Walters in 1987, he said, “I have not altered my view.” He’d eventually say he had been incorrect, but maybe not until many years later.)
The same was true of his odd combination of penury and generosity.
A passionate golfer — he discovered that the game about the exact same time he detected James Bond — he was the only player in the Bel-Air Country Club at Los Angeles who carried his own bag. Nevertheless he gave the million dollars he earned on “Diamonds Are Forever” to the Scottish International Education Trust, a company he founded to assist bad Scots get an instruction.
When asked why he was ready to take second billing as a coal miner saboteur into Richard Harris’s firm spy “The Molly Maguires” (1970), he said, “They paid me a million dollars for it, and, for that kind of cash, they can place a mule ahead of me.” However he contributed 50,000 pounds to England’s National Youth Theater after he read that the theater needed money. An enthusiastic supporter of Scottish nationalism, he also gave 5,000 pounds per month into the Scottish National Party.
As a federal referendum on autonomy approached in 2014, Mr. Connery wrote an opinion article for The New Statesman arguing in favor it.
“As a Scot as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I feel the chance of independence is too good to miss,” he wrote. “Simply put — there isn’t any more creative act than creating a new nation.” But since his principal residence wasn’t in Scotland, Mr. Connery was not qualified to vote.
In age 13, Thomas Connery became a full-time milkman. Britain had been at war for four years, and any able-bodied boy could get a job. Three years later, together with the soldiers coming home and also work scarcer, he joined the Royal Navy.
He signed up for 12 years, but was discharged at 19 after obtaining an ulcer. He had also obtained two tattoos on his right arm –“Mum and Dad” and “Scotland Forever” — along with a small disability grant, he utilized to find furniture polishing. He then went to work on putting the end on coffins. In his off hours he took up soccer (he played semiprofessionally) and bodybuilding.
Bodybuilding led to acting. In 1953, he and a buddy went to London to compete in the Mr. Universe contest. Mr. Connery acquired a minor award — third place from the tall man branch, according to many accounts — butmuch more important, while there he heard about auditions for a touring production of this musical “South Pacific.” He was picked for the chorus because he looked like a sailor and may do handstands.
Throughout the year Mr. Connery toured in “South Pacific,” he lost much of a Scottish accent so impenetrable that, he later claimed, other actors initially thought he had been Polish. His name has been shortened to Sean Connery. And he found himself a mentor. An American actor from the cast, Robert Henderson, gave him a reading program that included All of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Henrik Ibsen, along with the novels of Thomas Wolfe, Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” and Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
“I spent my ‘South Pacific’ tour in each library in Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales,” Mr. Connery told The Houston Chronicle in 1992. “And on the nights we had been dark, I’d see every play I could. Nonetheless, it’s the books, the reading, which could change one’s life. I am the living evidence.”
The upcoming few years were a blend of small stage and tv roles. His lucky break came on March 31, 1957. Jack Palance was to have starred in Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight” on television for the BBC. Mr. Palance had triumphed at precisely the same role the previous year on “Playhouse 90.” But he canceled at the last moment, and Mr. Connery inherited the role of the aging boxer Mountain McClintock. Although miscast, a reviewer for The Times of London wrote, he’d “shambling and inarticulate charm.” Within one day, Mr. Connery had gotten his first movie offers.
A string of B-movies followed, including “Action of the Tiger” (1957), a thriller starring Van Johnson where he had a little part, and “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure” (1959), where he played a villain out to destroy a village. He also played with a personal in the all-star D-Day saga “The Longest Day” (1962) and a man enchanted into falling in love in Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (1959).
“In these early films,” observed the novelist and filmmaker Michael Crichton, who headed Mr. Connery in “The Great Train Robbery” (1979),”Connery exudes a rich, dark creature presence that is almost overpowering.”
His Count Vronsky opposite Claire Bloom’s Anna in a 1961 BBC television version of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” caught the attention of those guys who were about to make “Dr. No.”
Both Mr. Connery and the character he played were instant sensations. “James Bond is clearly here to stay,” Variety wrote prophetically after “Dr. No” opened. “He will win no Oscars however a lot of enthusiastic followers.”
Mr. Connery and Diane Cilento, an actress he had met when they played lovers in a television version of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie” in 1957, were married on Nov. 30, 1962. Their son, Jason, who would grow up to become a celebrity, was born six months later.
The union lasted, more or less, before Mr. Connery met Micheline Roquebrune, a French performer and also obsessive golfer, at a golf tournament in Morocco in 1970. She had been married, he had been married, and they both won medals. After their marriage in 1975, they lived in Marbella, Spain, mostly to prevent British income taxation but partially due to Marbella’s 24 golf courses.
From the time he returned to the role of James Bond in “Never Say Never Again,” in Ms. Roquebrune’s proposal, Mr. Connery was in financial trouble because his former accountant’d set the money he earned by the Bond films into unsecured property investments. Mr. Connery sued and won a $4.1 million judgment for neglect in 1984, but told reporters, “I do not foresee I will get any money.”
007 – Connery’s Bond Films
Dr No (1962)
From Russia with Love (1963)
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Diamonds are Forever (1971)
Never Say Never Again (1983)
Sir Sean was a long-time supporter of Scottish independence, stating in interviews in the run-up to the 2014 referendum he could return from his Bahamas home to live in Scotland if it voted to break away from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I was heartbroken to find out this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our state today mourns one of her best loved ones.