Sir Thomas Sean Connery (/ˈʃɔːn ˈkɒnəri/; born 25 August 1930) is a retired Scottish actor and producer who has won an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards (one of them being a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award) and three Golden Globes (including the Cecil B. DeMille Award and a Henrietta Award).
Connery was the first actor to portray the character James Bond in film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. In 1988, Connery won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Untouchables. His film career also includes such films as Marnie, The Name of the Rose, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, Finding Forrester, Highlander, Murder on the Orient Express, Dragonheart, and The Rock.
Connery has been polled as “The Greatest Living Scot” and “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure”. In 1989, he was proclaimed “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine, and in 1999, at age 69, he was voted “Sexiest Man of the Century”. Connery was knighted by Elizabeth II in the 2000 New Year Honours for services to Film Drama.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 1950s
- 2.2 James Bond: 1962–1971, 1983
- 2.3 Beyond Bond
- 2.4 Retirement
- 3 Personal life
- 3.1 Scottish National Party
- 4 Filmography
1 | Early life
Thomas Sean Connery, named Thomas after his grandfather, was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland on 25 August 1930. His mother, Euphemia McBain “Effie” (née McLean), was a cleaning woman, and his father, Joseph Connery, was a factory worker and lorry driver.His paternal grandfather’s parents emigrated to Scotland from Ireland in the mid-19th century. The remainder of his family was of Scottish descent, and his maternal great-grandparents were native Scottish Gaelic speakers from Fife (unusually, for a speaker of the language), and Uig on the Isle of Skye. His father was a Roman Catholic, and his mother was a Protestant. He has a younger brother, Neil (b. 1938). Connery has said that he was called Sean, his middle name, long before becoming an actor, explaining that when he was young he had an Irish friend named Séamus and that those who knew them both had decided to call Connery by his middle name whenever both were present. He was generally referred to in his youth as “Tommy”. Although he was small in primary school, he grew rapidly around the age of 12, reaching his full adult height of 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) at 18. He was known during his teen years as “Big Tam”, and has stated that he lost his virginity to an adult woman in an ATS uniform at the age of 14.
An Edinburgh “Co-op milk cart” photographed in 1981
Connery’s first job was as a milkman in Edinburgh with St. Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society. He then joined the Royal Navy, during which time he acquired two tattoos, of which his official website says “unlike many tattoos, his were not frivolous—his tattoos reflect two of his lifelong commitments: his family and Scotland. … One tattoo is a tribute to his parents and reads ‘Mum and Dad,’ and the other is self-explanatory, ‘Scotland Forever.'”
Connery was later discharged from the navy on medical grounds because of a duodenal ulcer, a condition that affected most of the males in previous generations of his family. Afterwards, he returned to the co-op, then worked as, among other things, a lorry driver, a lifeguard at Portobello swimming baths, a labourer, an artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art, and after a suggestion by former Mr. Scotland, Archie Brennan, a coffin polisher. The modelling earned him 15 shillings an hour. Artist Richard Demarco, at the time a student who painted several notable early pictures of Connery, described him as “very straight, slightly shy, too, too beautiful for words, a virtual Adonis”.
Connery began bodybuilding at the age of 18, and from 1951 trained heavily with Ellington, a former gym instructor in the British army. While his official website claims he was third in the 1950 Mr. Universe contest, most sources place him in the 1953 competition, either third in the Junior class or failing to place in the Tall Man classification. Connery stated that he was soon deterred from bodybuilding when he found that the Americans frequently beat him in competitions because of sheer muscle size and, unlike Connery, refused to participate in athletic activity which could make them lose muscle mass.
Connery was a keen footballer, having played for Bonnyrigg Rose in his younger days. He was offered a trial with East Fife. While on tour with South Pacific, Connery played in a football match against a local team that Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United, happened to be scouting. According to reports, Busby was impressed with his physical prowess and offered Connery a contract worth £25 a week immediately after the game. Connery admits that he was tempted to accept, but he recalls, “I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.”
2 | Career
2.1 | 1950s
Looking to pick up some extra money, Connery helped out backstage at the King’s Theatre in late 1951. He became interested in the proceedings, and a career was launched. During a bodybuilding competition held in London in 1953, one of the competitors mentioned that auditions were being held for a production of South Pacific, and Connery landed a small part as one of the Seabees chorus boys. By the time the production reached Edinburgh, he had been given the part of Marine Cpl Hamilton Steeves and was understudying two of the juvenile leads, and his salary was raised from £12 to £14–10s a week. The production returned the following year out of popular demand, and Connery was promoted to the featured role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams, which Larry Hagman had portrayed in the West End. While in Edinburgh, Connery was targeted by the notorious Valdor gang, one of the most ruthless gangs in the city. He was first approached by them in a billiard hall on Lothian Street where he prevented them from stealing from his jacket and was later followed by six gang members to a 15 ft high balcony at the Palais. There Connery launched an attack singlehandedly against the gang members, grabbing one by the throat and another by a biceps and cracked their heads together. From then on he was treated with great respect by the gang and gained a reputation as a “hard man”.
Connery first met Michael Caine at a party during the production of South Pacific in 1954, and the two would later become close friends. During the production of South Pacific at the Opera House, Manchester over the Christmas period of 1954, Connery developed a serious interest in the theatre through American actor Robert Henderson who lent him copies of the Henrik Ibsen works Hedda Gabler, The Wild Duck, and When We Dead Awaken, and later listed works by the likes of Marcel Proust, Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Turgenev, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce and William Shakespeare for him to digest. Henderson urged him to take elocution lessons and got him parts at the Maida Vale Theatre in London. In addition, he had already begun pursuing a film career, having been an extra in Herbert Wilcox’s 1954 musical Lilacs in the Spring alongside Anna Neagle.
Although Connery had secured several roles as extras, he was struggling to make ends meet, and was forced to accept a part-time job as a babysitter for journalist Peter Noble and his actress wife Mary, which earned him 10 shillings a night. He met Hollywood actor Shelley Winters one night at Noble’s house, who described Connery as “one of the tallest and most charming and masculine Scotsmen” she’d ever seen, and later spent many evenings with the Connery brothers drinking beer. Around this time Connery was residing at TV presenter Llew Gardner’s house. Henderson landed Connery a role in a £6 a week Q Theatre production of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, during which he met and became friends with fellow-Scot Ian Bannen. This role was followed by Point of Departure and A Witch in Time at Kew, a role as Pentheus opposite Yvonne Mitchell in The Bacchae at the Oxford Playhouse, and a role opposite Jill Bennett in Eugene O’Neill’s production of Anna Christie. During his time at the Oxford Theatre, Connery won a brief part as a boxer in the TV series The Square Ring, before being spotted by Canadian director Alvin Rakoff who gave him multiple roles in The Condemned, shot on location in Dover in Kent. In 1956, Connery appeared in the theatrical production of Epitaph, and played a minor role as a hoodlum in the “Ladies of the Manor” episode of the BBC Television police series Dixon of Dock Green. This was followed by small television parts in Sailor of Fortune and The Jack Benny Program.
In the spring of 1957, Connery hired agent Richard Hatton who got him a role as Spike, a minor gangster with a speech impediment in Montgomery Tully’s No Road Back alongside Skip Homeier, Paul Carpenter, Patricia Dainton and Norman Wooland. In April 1957, Rakoff—after being disappointed by Jack Palance—decided to give the young actor his first chance in a leading role, and cast Connery as Mountain McLintock in BBC TV’s outstanding production of Requiem For a Heavyweight, which also starred Warren Mitchell and Jacqueline Hill. He then played a rogue lorry driver, Johnny Yates, in Cy Endfield’s Hell Drivers (1957) alongside Stanley Baker, Herbert Lom, Peggy Cummins and Patrick McGoohan. Later in 1957, Connery appeared in Terence Young’s poorly received MGM action picture Action of the Tiger opposite Van Johnson, Martine Carol, Herbert Lom and Gustavo Rojo; the film was shot on location in southern Spain. He also had a minor role in Gerald Thomas’s thriller Time Lock (1957) as a welder, appearing alongside Robert Beatty, Lee Patterson, Betty McDowall and Vincent Winter; this commenced filming on 1 December 1956 at Beaconsfield Studios.
He had a major role in the melodrama Another Time, Another Place (1958) as a British reporter named Mark Trevor, caught in a love affair opposite Lana Turner and Barry Sullivan. During filming, star Lana Turner’s possessive gangster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, who was visiting from Los Angeles, believed she was having an affair with Connery. He stormed onto the set and pointed a gun at Connery, only to have Connery disarm him and knock him flat on his back. Stompanato was banned from the set. Connery later recounted that he had to lie low for a while after receiving threats from men linked to Stompanato’s boss, Mickey Cohen.
In 1959, Connery landed a leading role in Robert Stevenson’s Walt Disney Productions film Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) alongside Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, and Jimmy O’Dea. The film is a tale about a wily Irishman and his battle of wits with leprechauns. Upon the film’s initial release, A. H. Weiler of the New York Times praised the cast (save Connery whom he described as “merely tall, dark, and handsome”) and thought the film an “overpoweringly charming concoction of standard Gaelic tall stories, fantasy and romance.”. In his book The Disney Films, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin stated that, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People is not only one of Disney’s best films, but is certainly one of the best fantasies ever put on film.” He also had prominent television roles in Rudolph Cartier’s 1961 productions of Adventure Story and Anna Karenina for BBC Television, in the latter of which he co-starred with Claire Bloom.
2.2 | James Bond: 1962–1971, 1983
Connery during filming for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971
Connery’s breakthrough came in the role of British secret agent James Bond. He was reluctant to commit to a film series, but understood that if the films succeeded, his career would greatly benefit. He played 007 in the first five Bond films: Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967) – then appeared again as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983). All seven films were commercially successful. James Bond, as portrayed by Connery, was selected as the third-greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute.
Connery’s selection for the role of James Bond owed a lot to Dana Broccoli, wife of producer “Cubby” Broccoli, who is reputed to have been instrumental in persuading her husband that Sean Connery was the right man. James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, originally doubted Connery’s casting, saying, “He’s not what I envisioned of James Bond looks”, and “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man”, adding that Connery (muscular, 6′ 2″, and a Scot) was unrefined. Fleming’s girlfriend told him that Connery had the requisite sexual charisma, and Fleming changed his mind after the successful Dr. No première. He was so impressed, he created a half-Scottish, half-Swiss heritage for Bond in the later novels.
Connery’s portrayal of Bond owes much to stylistic tutelage from director Terence Young, which helped polish the actor while using his physical grace and presence for the action. Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny, related that “Terence took Sean under his wing. He took him to dinner, showed him how to walk, how to talk, even how to eat.” The tutoring was successful; Connery received thousands of fan letters a week, and the actor became one of the great male sex symbols of film.
During the filming of Thunderball in 1965, Connery’s life was in danger in the sequence with the sharks in Emilio Largo’s pool. He had been concerned about this threat when he read the script. Connery insisted that Ken Adam build a special Plexiglas partition inside the pool, but this was not a fixed structure, and one of the sharks managed to pass through it. He had to abandon the pool immediately.
In 2005, From Russia with Love was adapted by Electronic Arts into a video game, titled James Bond 007: From Russia with Love, which featured all-new voice work by Connery as well as his likeness, and those of several of the film’s supporting cast.
2.3 | Beyond Bond
Connery starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie
Although Bond had made him a star, Connery eventually grew tired of the role and the pressure the franchise put on him, saying “[I am] fed up to here with the whole Bond bit” and “I have always hated that damned James Bond. I’d like to kill him”. Michael Caine said of the situation, “If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, “Look, there’s James Bond.” That was particularly upsetting to him.” While making the Bond films, Connery also starred in other acclaimed films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) and The Hill (1965). Apart from The Man Who Would Be King and The Wind and the Lion, both released in 1975, most of Connery’s successes in the next decade were as part of ensemble casts in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974) with Vanessa Redgrave and John Gielgud, and A Bridge Too Far (1977) co-starring Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Olivier. Connery shared a Henrietta Award with Charles Bronson for “World Film Favorite – Male” in 1972.
In 1981, Connery appeared in the film Time Bandits as Agamemnon. The casting choice derives from a joke Michael Palin included in the script, in which he describes the character removing his mask as being “Sean Connery — or someone of equal but cheaper stature”. When shown the script, Connery was happy to play the supporting role. In 1982, Connery narrated G’olé!, the official film of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
Connery at the 1988 Academy Awards
Connery agreed to reprise Bond as an aging agent 007 in Never Say Never Again, released in October 1983. The title, contributed by his wife, refers to his earlier statement that he would “never again” play Bond. Although the film performed well at the box office, it was plagued with production problems: strife between the director and producer, financial problems, the Fleming estate trustees’ attempts to halt the film, and Connery’s wrist being broken by fight choreographer, Steven Seagal. As a result of his negative experiences during filming, Connery became unhappy with the major studios and did not make any films for two years. Following the successful European production The Name of the Rose (1986), for which he won a BAFTA award, Connery’s interest in more commercial material was revived. That same year, a supporting role in Highlander showcased his ability to play older mentors to younger leads, which would become a recurring role in many of his later films. The following year, his acclaimed performance as a hard-nosed Irish-American cop in The Untouchables (1987) earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, his sole nomination throughout his career. Fellow nominees included Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, both of whom would go on to win the award. His subsequent box-office hits included Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), in which he played Henry Jones, Sr., the title character’s father, The Hunt for Red October (1990) (where he was reportedly called in at two weeks’ notice), The Russia House (1990), The Rock (1996), and Entrapment (1999). In 1996, he voiced the role of Draco the dragon in the film Dragonheart. In 1998, Connery received a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award.
Connery in 2004 at a Tartan Day celebration in Washington D.C. with members of the USAF Reserve Pipes and Drums.
Connery’s later films included several box office and critical disappointments such as First Knight (1995), Just Cause (1995), The Avengers (1998), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), but he also received positive reviews, including his performance in Finding Forrester (2000). He also received a Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.
Connery stated in interviews that he was offered a role in The Lord of the Rings series, declining it owing to his “not understanding the script”. CNN reported that the actor was offered up to 15% of the worldwide box office receipts to play Gandalf, which—had he accepted—could have earned him as much as $400 million for the trilogy. Connery’s disillusionment with the “idiots now making films in Hollywood” was cited as a reason for his eventual decision to retire from film-making.
2.4 | Retirement
When Connery received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award on 8 June 2006, he confirmed his retirement from acting. On 7 June 2007, he denied rumours that he would appear in the fourth Indiana Jones film, stating that “retirement is just too much damned fun”.
Connery returned to voice acting, playing the title character in the animated short Sir Billi the Vet, and in 2005 he recorded voiceovers for a new video game version of his Bond film From Russia with Love. In an interview on the game disc, Connery stated that he was very happy that the producers of the game (EA Games) had approached him to voice Bond and that he hoped to do another one in the near future. In 2010, he reprised his role in an expanded 80-minute version of Sir Billi, serving also as executive producer. In 2010, a bronze bust sculpture of Connery was placed in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia.
In the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the character Sentinel Prime’s features were mostly based on Connery. When Leonard Nimoy was to voice the role, however, the effects were altered to incorporate Nimoy’s acting as well.
3 | Personal Life
Connery’s former wife, Diane Cilento
During the production of South Pacific in the mid-1950s, Connery dated a “dark-haired beauty with a ballerina’s figure”, Carol Sopel, but was warned off by her Jewish family. He then dated Julie Hamilton, a blonde woman, daughter of documentary filmmaker and feminist Jill Craigie. Given Connery’s rugged appearance and rough charm, Hamilton initially thought he was a most appalling person and was not attracted to him until she saw him in a kilt, declaring him to be the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen in her life. He also shared a mutual attraction with black jazz singer Maxine Daniels, whom he met at the Empire Theatre. He made a pass at her, but she informed him that she was already happily married with a baby daughter. Connery was married to actress Diane Cilento from 1962 to 1973. They had a son, actor Jason Connery.
Connery and his wife, Micheline Roquebrune, in 1983
Connery has been married to Moroccan-French painter Micheline Roquebrune (born 1929) since 1975. A keen golfer, Connery owned the Domaine de Terre Blanche in the South of France for twenty years (from 1979) where he planned to build his dream golf course on the 266 acres (108 ha) of land, but the dream was not realised until he sold it to German billionaire Dietmar Hopp in 1999. He has been awarded the rank of Shodan (1st dan) in Kyokushin karate.
Connery was knighted by Elizabeth II in Edinburgh in July 2000. He had been nominated for a knighthood in 1997 and 1998, but these nominations were reported to have been vetoed due to Connery’s political views by Donald Dewar. Sean Connery has a villa in Kranidi, Greece. His neighbour is King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, with whom he shares a helicopter platform. Michael Caine (who co-starred with Connery in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), which saw the double act receive critical acclaim) is among Connery’s closest friends. Connery is a keen supporter of Scottish Premiership football club Rangers F.C.
3.1 | Scottish National Party
Connery is a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), a centre-left political party campaigning for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, and has supported the party financially and through personal appearances. His funding of the SNP ceased in 2001, when the UK Parliament passed legislation that prohibited overseas funding of political activities in the UK. In response to accusations that he is a tax exile, Connery released documents in 2003 showing that he had paid £3.7 million in UK taxes between 1997/98 and 2002/03.
4 | Filmography
Sir Sean Connery is a retired Scottish actor and producer. He was the first actor to have portrayed the literary character James Bond in a film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. He is also known for his roles as Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables (1987), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, along with his portrayals of Mark Rutland in Marnie (1964), Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez in Highlander (1986), Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Captain Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius in The Hunt for Red October (1990), and Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). Along with his Academy Award, Connery has won two BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globes, and a Henrietta Award.