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Published: November 1st 2020
Sean Connery has died aged 90 - a good innings, so we shouldn’t feel too sad. However, he means a lot to me, and I want to share some personal opinions and a few things that may not feature in the obituaries.
Sean Connery has a connection with Vietnam. When I visited the Furama Resort, a beach hotel in Danang, around 2005, there was a sign telling us that Sean Connery reckoned it to be the best hotel he’d ever stayed in. I tried, today, to verify this on the internet but found nothing. However, I have a clear memory of Mr Connery’s fulsome endorsement.
Sean Connery has a connection with me! On at least five occasions, a stranger has remarked on my facial resemblance to Sean Connery, which I have taken as a huge compliment.
I have a distant memory of a comedy sketch on TV, where a woman pronounces Connery’s name as SEE-AN CANARY. A logical pronunciation, albeit hilariously wrong.
But it is, of course, as an actor that I remember him most. Was he a great actor? People make fun of him because of his indelible Scottish accent. Whatever role he played – James
Bond, King Arthur, Indiana Jones’s father, a Russian submarine captain - he sounded like Sean Connery from Scotland. In 1988 he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in ‘The Untouchables
’ – for playing an Irish-American who spoke with a Scottish accent! This earned him another award - first place in an Empire
magazine poll for worst ever film accent.
However, between 1954 (‘Lilacs in the Spring
’) and 2003 (‘Alan Quatermain
’), Sean Connery was never out of work and became one the best-known and most sought after actors in the movie world. Clearly, there was something special about him.
I once heard that a successful actor needs three things: an interesting voice, an interesting face and acting intelligence.
Well, Sean Connery’s voice – although it never varied – was powerful, manly and distinctive. Born in Edinburgh, he did not have a typical Edinburgh accent. And the rather strange “shh-ing” lisp that Connery is so famous for is peculiarly his own.
He had a most interesting face. The young Sean Connery (as in ‘Dr No
’) was ruggedly handsome, while the older Connery countenance (‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
’) was weathered and creased yet still virile.
There is no doubt that Sean Connery was an actor of great intelligence. He played a huge number of widely differing roles, and I cannot remember him ever being less than very competent.
I would like to mention one other thing that made Sean Connery stand out: his presence. Some actors are able to dominate a movie through sheer force of personality, and Sean Connery was one of these. John Wayne was another one. Neither of these actors were adaptable - they always played themselves more or less – but they dominated the movies they were in because of the way they looked and moved and sounded. In ‘The Hunt for Red October
’, Sean Connery has very little to say or do, but his portrayal of the Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius is unforgettably powerful.
Finally, let me briefly mention my favourite Sean Connery movies.
I think ‘Goldfinger
’ and ‘From Russia With Love
’ are the two best Bond movies. When, in 1964, aged 12, I watched ‘Goldfinger
’ at the Odeon cinema in my native Reading, I was thrilled to bits. James Bond was my hero, the sort of man I aspired to become. I doubt if I’ve
ever enjoyed a movie more. There have been two other very good James Bonds – Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan – but, for me, Sean Connery is the definitive 007.
Before I move on from Connery’s James Bond, let me mention some of his memorable lines.
I love the scene in ‘From Russia with Love
’ when Bond is reporting from Russia to his paymasters in London. M, Moneypenny and other officials are listening to Bond's taped interview with Tatiana Romanov, the Russian spy who has fallen for him. While giving important information, she asks Bond: ‘Will you make love to me all the time in England?’
Sean Connery’s deadpan and dismissive reply - ‘Day and night’ -
is brilliantly comic.
Connery utters numerous double entendres as James Bond, but the best occurs in ‘Goldfinger
’. Bond is canoodling in bed with Shirley Eaton when M telephones. Bond apologizes that he is busy, hanging up with the immortal words: ‘Something big’s come up
My favourite Sean Connery movie outside of James Bond is ‘Outland
’. This is essentially ‘High Noon
’ in Outer Space. Connery, playing a federal lawman, is sent to one of the moons of Jupiter to investigate
unexplained deaths in a mining colony. He uncovers a drug distribution ring and a corrupt boss who places profit before human lives. The boss sends a couple of professional hit-men after Connery who, all alone, like Will Kane in ‘High Noon
’, kills them. Then he deals with the other bad guys. It is a tight, suspenseful movie with a typically powerful performance by Connery.
I never heard Sean Connery talk on a TV chat show – like so many other big movie stars. I suspect he treasured his privacy. As far as I know, he was never a hell-raiser or a boozer, like Richard Harris, but he was definitely a ladies’ man. His heroic presence on the silver screen belies his quiet life off it. He enjoyed being retired, once saying: "retirement is just too much damned fun
." I am impressed that he turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings
trilogy. Connery was reportedly offered $30 million along with 15 percent of the worldwide box office receipts for the role, which – had he accepted – would have earned him $450 million. Clearly, he was not mercenary. I will remember him as a self-effacing man and the definitive James Bond.
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