On October 31, 2020 Sean Connery died almost two months after his 90th birthday. With him one of the greatest actors of the last century leaves this world.

But who was this cinema legend? 

On August 25, 1930, the son of a truck driver and cleaner was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before Connery became an actor, he finished school early and kept his head above water with various temporary jobs such as milkman, lifeguard or horse-drawn carriage driver. On the side, Sean Connery also worked in bodybuilding. In 1950, he even became a Scottish bodybuilding champion and took third place in the renowned Mister Universe competition. From 1954 onwards, his bodybuilding successes led to several small engagements in theater, film and TV productions. He appeared in supporting roles in the 1957 films „No Road Back” and „Hell Drivers”. In 1958 Connery achieved a more prominent role for the first time in “Another Time, another Place”. Four years later he also had a supporting role in the war movie “The Longest Day”, in which well-known actors like Curd Jürgens, Robert Mitchum, John Crawford, Henry Fonda and John Wayne took part. 

The 1960s

From the 1960s onwards, Connery also became known worldwide. For the producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman cast him as the first actor of the British secret agent “James Bond”, although Ian Fleming, author of the novel series, was against Connery as the leading actor. This was followed by the films “Dr. No” (1963), “From Russia with Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball“ (1965), “You Only Live Twice” (1967) and “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971). For “Diamonds Are Forever” Connery received a record sum of 1.25 million US dollars at the time. 

Sean Connery also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s melodrama “Marnie” in the 1960s alongside Tippi Hedren. Furthermore, Sean Connery often wore a toupee during this decade, as his hair thinned considerably.

The 70s and 80s

In the seventies, the Scotsman concentrated on films that were more demanding in terms of art and content and established himself as an excellent character actor.  In 1975, for example, he starred in John Huston’s film “The Man Who Would Be King”. There he played the role of the former soldier “Daniel Dravot”, who in the 19th century has the mission to take over the kingdom of Kafiristan, which lies in British India.After an attack, the natives at first regard him as a god and make him king.  At the end of the film he is exposed as an impostor and is executed by the locals. Sean Connery also played a role in Richard Attenborough’s war film „A Bridge Too Far” in the seventies. At the end of the film he is exposed as an impostor and is executed by the locals. Sean Connery also played a role in Richard Attenborough’s war film “The Bridge of Arnhem” in the seventies. In this film he worked with the film stars Hardy Krüger, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Gene Hackman. 

In the following and last two decades of Connery’s acting career he had the most success. 

In 1982 he returned again as James Bond in “Never Say Never Again”. In 1986, the world-famous film “Highlander” was released, in which Connery starred alongside Christopher Lambert in the role of “Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez”, the mentor of the “Highlander”. The following year, Connery gave the extremely astute Franciscan monk “William of Baskerville” in the literary adaptation of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”, which solves a complicated series of murders in a medieval monastery.

In 1989, in Steven Spielberg’s film “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, the Scotsman played the character of “Professor Dr. Henry Jones”, the father of the title character, who was also played by Harrison Ford. At the beginning of the nineties Connery starred again in a world-famous movie.Together with Alec Baldwin he appeared in „The Hunt for Red October”, an action movie by director John McTiernan, which is based upon the eponymous bestseller by political thriller writer Tom Clancy.  In it, Connery plays the Russian submarine commander “Marko Ramius”, who was in contact with the Soviet nuclear warhead during the Cold War.

The end of his career

Some more films with Sean Connery followed until 2003, after which his career as an actor ended after more than 80 films (his career officially ended in 2007). His last film role was in 2003 as “Allan Quatermain” in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. Although the film was financially successful, it was torn to shreds by the critics. By the way, Connery also had an offer for the role of “Gandalf” in “The Lord of the Rings”, but turned it down due to problems of understanding the extensive Tolkien world. Previously, for similar reasons, he turned down a role in the “Matrix” films. 

Connery received numerous awards during his life, including

  • 1972: Golden Globe Award as “World Film Favorite” together with Charles Bronson
  • 1987: Oscar and Golden Globe Award as best male supporting actor for “The Untouchables”
  • 1987: German Film Award as best male leading actor for “The Name of the Rose”
  • British Academy Film Award as best male lead actor for “The Name of the Rose”
  • 1989: Sexiest Man Alive
  • 1991: Légion d’Honneur, France
  • 1996: Golden Globe Award (Cecil B. DeMille Award) for his life’s work
  • 1998: Honorary Prize of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)
  • 1999: European Film Award as best European actor in “Entrapment“
  • 1999: Hand and shoe prints in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles
  • 2000: Adulation as Knight Bachelor (“Sir”)
  • 2005: European Film Prize for Lifetime Achievement

Sean Connery married the actress Diane Cilento in 1962, from this marriage a son was born. He divorced her in 1973 and married his second wife, painter Micheline Roquebrune, in 1975. Connery also remained loyal to his homeland Scotland throughout his life. Therefore, his foundation has the mission to provide educational grants for talented Scotsmen and to support projects which in their opinion contribute to the society, environment, economy or culture of Scotland. His entire fee from „Diamonds Are Forever” also went into this foundation 

It is especially memorable that Connery always spoke with his Scottish accent in all his films. He was often criticized for this. 

With the death of Sir Thomas Sean Connery, the film world is poorer for one of its best and most talented actors. But just as Connery’s character “James Bond” never ages and dies, Connery’s acting and filmography remains for posterity.

Maximilan Jaszkowsky

Cover picture: Sean Connery as James Bond in 1971 on the set of Diamonds Are Forever, © Nationaal Archief (CC BY-SA 3.0 NL), taken from Wikimedia Commons

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