Sir Sean Connery

Sean Connery at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival
Sean Connery at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Born Thomas Sean Connery
August 25, 1930 (Age 86)
Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
Occupation Actor
Years Active 1954 to 2012
Spouses Diane Cilento (m. 1962; div. 1973)
Micheline Roquebrune (m. 1975)
Child Jason Connery
Brother Neil Connery
Sean Connery's Signature

Sir Thomas Sean Connery (born August 25, 1930) is a retired Scottish actor and producer who won an Academy Award, two BAFTA Awards (one of which was the British Academy of Film and Television Arts [BAFTA] Academy Fellowship Award), and three Golden Globes (such as the Henrietta Award and Cecil B. DeMille Award).

Sean Connery was the first actor to play the character James Bond in film; starring in seven James Bond films from 1962 to 1983.[1] In 1988, Sean Connery won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Untouchables. His film career also includes films such as DragonheartFinding ForresterHighlanderThe Hunt for Red OctoberIndiana Jones and the Last CrusadeThe League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, MarnieMurder on the Orient Express, The Name of the Rose, and The Rock.

Sean Connery has been known as “The Greatest Living Scot”[2] and “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure”.[3] In 1989, Sean Connery was declared, “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine and in 1999, at 69 years old, Sean Connery was voted “Sexiest Man of the Century”. Sean Connery was designed by Elizabeth II in the 2000 New Year Honors for services to Film Drama.[4]

Early Life of Sean Connery

Thomas Sean Connery, named Thomas after his grandfather, was born in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland on August 25, 1930. His mother, Euphemia McBain also known as Effie, was a cleaning woman, and Joseph Connery, his father, was a factory worker and lorry driver.[5] His paternal grandfather’s parents emigrated to Scotland from Ireland in the mid-19th century.[6] 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.[7] [8] His father was a Roman Catholic, and his mother was a Protestant. Sean Connery has a younger brother, Neil (born in 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”.[9] 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 called “Big Tam” during his teen years and stated that he lost his virginity to an older woman in an Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) uniform at the age of 14.[10] [11]

Sean Connery's First Job Milk Cart
An Edinburgh “Co-op milk cart” photographed in 1981.

Sean Connery’s first job was as a milkman in Edinburgh with Saint Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society. Sean Connery joined the Royal Navy, during which time he obtained 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.'”[12]

Sean 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.[13] Afterwards, he returned to the co-op, then worked as, among other things, a lorry driver, a lifeguard at Portobello swimming baths, a laborer, an artist’s model for the Edinburgh College of Art, and after a suggestion by former Mr. Scotland, Archie Brennan, [14] a coffin polisher. The modeling earned him 15 shillings ($0.14 USD in today’s dollar exchange) an hour.[14] 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”.[15]

Sean Connery began bodybuilding at 18 years old and since 1951 he trained heavily with Ellington, a former gym instructor in the British army.[16] 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[17] or failing to place in the Tall Man classification.[18] 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.[19]

Sean Connery was a determined football player, for which he played for Bonnyrigg Rose in his younger years.[20] He was offered a tryout with East Fife. While on tour with South Pacific, Sean Connery played in a football match against a local team, with which Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United, happened to be scouting.[21] According to some reports, Busby was impressed with his physical skill and offered Sean Connery a contract worth £25 ($32.73 USD in today’s dollar exchange) a week immediately after the game. Connery admits that he was tempted to accept, but he recalls, “I realized 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.”[22]



Looking to make some extra money, Sean Connery helped out backstage at the King’s Theatre in late 1951.[17] Sean Connery became interested in the activities and a career was started. 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,[17] 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.[23] The following year, the production returned out of popular demand and Sean Connery was promoted to the featured role of Lieutenant Buzz Adams that Larry Hagman portrayed in the West End.[23]  While in Edinburgh, Connery was targeted by the notorious Valdor gang, one of the most ruthless gangs in the city. Sean Connery was first approached by them in a pool hall on Lothian Street where he stopped them from stealing from his jacket and was later followed by 6 gang members to a fifteen foot high balcony at the Palais.[24] There Sean Connery single-handedly attacked 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”.[25]

Sean Connery first met Michael Caine at a party during the production of South Pacific in 1954 and the two would later become close friends.[23] During the production of South Pacific at the Opera House, Manchester over the Christmas period of 1954, Connery developed a serious interest in the theater 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.[26] 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.[27]

Even though Sean 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 wife Mary, who was an actress, which earned him 10 shillings ($0.10 USD in today’s dollar exchange) a night.[27] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[28] 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.[28] This was followed by small television parts in Sailor of Fortune and The Jack Benny Program.[28]

In Spring of 1957, Sean 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 with Paul Carpenter, Patricia Dainton, Skip Homeier, and Norman Wooland.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] [32] 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 December 1, 1956 at Beaconsfield Studios.[33]

Sean Connery 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. Johnny Stompanato stormed onto the set and pointed a gun at Sean Connery only to have Sean 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, Sean Connery landed a leading role in Robert Stevenson’s Walt Disney Productions film, Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) with Janet Munro, Jimmy O’Dea, and Albert Sharpe. The movie 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.”.[34] 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.”[35] 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.[36]

James Bond

Sean Connery Filming Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery during filming for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971.

Sean Connery’s breakthrough came in the role of British secret agent James Bond also known as 007. Sean Connery was opposed to commit to a film series, however, he 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 successful. James Bond, as portrayed by Connery, was selected as the third-greatest hero in cinema history by the American Film Institute.[37]

Sean Connery’s selection for the role of James Bond owed a lot to Dana Broccoli, wife of producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who is thought to have been instrumental in persuading her husband that Connery was the right man.[38] 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.

Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond owes much to stylistic guidance from director Terence Young that helped perfect Sean Connery while using his physical grace and presence for the action. Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny, related that “Terence took Sean under his wing. Terence Young took Sean Connery 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.

While filming of Thunderball in 1965, Sean 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 leave the pool immediately.

In 2005, From Russia with Love was transformed by Electronic Arts into a video game, titled James Bond 007: From Russia with Love that featured all-new voice work by Sean Connery as well as his likeness and those of several of the film’s supporting cast.

Beyond Bond

Sean Connery starring in Marnie
Sean Connery starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie.

Even though James Bond had made him a star, Sean Connery eventually grew tired of the role and the pressure the movie series 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”.[39] Michael Caine said of the situation, “If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. Sean Connery was, and still is, a much better actor than just playing Bond, however, he became synonymous with James Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, “Look, there’s James Bond.” That was particularly upsetting to him.”[40]  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, Sean 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”.[41] When shown the script, Sean Connery was glad to play the supporting role. In 1982, Connery narrated G’olé!, the official film of the 1982 FIFA World Cup.[42]

Sean Connery at the 1988 Academy Awards
Sean Connery at the 1988 Academy Awards.

Sean Connery agreed to redeem James Bond as an aging agent 007 in Never Say Never Again, which was released on October 7, 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 pessimistic experiences during filming, Sean Connery became unsatisfied with the major studios and did not make any films for the following 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 Sean Connery’s ability to play older mentors to younger leads, which would become an ongoing 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.

Sean Connery in 2004
Sean Connery at a Tartan Day celebration in Washington D.C. with members of the United States Air Force Reserve Pipes and Drums in 2004.

Fellow nominees included Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, both of whom would go on to win the award. Sean Connery’s following 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, Sean Connery voiced the role of Draco the dragon in the movie, Dragonheart. In 1998, Connery received a BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award.

Sean Connery’s later films included several box office disappointments such as First Knight (1995), Just Cause (1995), The Avengers (1998), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003); however, Sean Connery also received positive reviews, such as his performance in Finding Forrester  (2000). Sean Connery also received a Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema.

Sean Connery stated in interviews that he was offered a role in The Lord of the Rings series;[43] however, declined it because of 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.[44] 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.


When Sean Connery received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award on June 8, 2006, he confirmed his retirement from acting. On June 7, 2007, he denied rumors that he would appear in the fourth Indiana Jones film, stating that, “retirement is just too much damn fun”.[45]

Sean 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 James Bond film From Russia with Love.[46] In an interview on the game disc, Sean Connery said that he was very excited that the producers of the game (Electronic Arts) had approached him to voice James Bond and that he hoped to do another one in the future. In 2010, Sean Connery regained his role in an expanded 80-minute version of Sir Billi, also being the executive producer.[47] Also in 2010, a bronze bust sculpture of Connery was placed in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia.

In the film Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, the character Sentinel Prime’s features were mostly based on Sean Connery. When Leonard Nimoy was to voice the role, however, the effects were altered to incorporate Nimoy’s acting as well.

Director Sam Mendes verified that Sean Connery was considered for the role of Kincade, portrayed by Albert Finney, in Skyfall; however, stated the idea was shelved as being distracting to the film.[48]

Personal Life

Diane Cilento, Sean Connery's First Wife
Diane Cilento, Connery’s first wife.

During the production of South Pacific in the mid-1950s, Sean Connery dated a “dark-haired beauty with a ballerina’s figure”, Carol Sopel; however, was run off by her Jewish family.[49] 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.[50] Sean Connery also shared a mutual attraction with black jazz singer Maxine Daniels, which he met at the Empire Theatre. Sean Connery made a pass at her, however, she told him that she was already happily married with a baby daughter.[51] Sean Connery was married to actress Diane Cilento between 1962 and 1973. Diane Cilento and Sean Connery had a son together, actor Jason Connery.

Sean Connery and Roquebrune
Sean Connery and his wife, Micheline Roquebrune, in 1983.

Sean Connery was married to Moroccan-French painter Micheline Roquebrune (born in 1929) since 1975.[52] A keen golfer, Connery owned the Domaine de Terre Blanche[53] 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 realized until he sold it to German billionaire Dietmar Hopp in 1999. Sean Connery was awarded the rank of Shodan (1st dan) in Kyokushin karate.[54]

Sean Connery was designated by Elizabeth II in Edinburgh in July of 2000.[55] 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[39] by Donald Dewar.[55] Sean Connery has a villa in Kranidi, Greece. His neighbor is King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, with whom he shares a helicopter platform.[56] 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.[57]  Connery is a keen supporter of Scottish Premiership football club Rangers F.C.[58]

Scottish National Party

Sean Connery is a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP),[59] a center-left political party campaigning for Scottish independence from the United Kingdom and has supported the party financially[60] 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.[60] 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.[61]


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Further Reading

  1. Cohen, D., & Cohen, S. (1985). Hollywood Hunks and Heroes (p. 33). New York: Exeter Books. ISBN 0671075284. OCLC 12644589.
  2. Sellers, R. (1999). Sean Connery: a celebration. London: Robert Hale. ISBN 9780709061250. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  3. Yule, A. (2009). Sean Connery: neither shaken nor stirred. London: Sphere. ISBN 9780751540970.

External Links

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