He passed away in his sleep. But to repeat a cliche, Sean Connery is fated to live forever. The man who first essayed the role of secret agent James Bond on the silver screen, remained for many people (especially the older generation), the best to ever get a Licence to Kill onscreen. But while he was best-known for his James Bond portrayal, there was a whole lot more to Sir Sean Connery (oh yes, he was a knight) than just portraying a cynical, singe eyebrow raising, charismatic secret agent with a penchant for getting into trouble. And we do not just mean in terms of films (he got an Oscar for a non-Bond role!).
Sean Connery was a multi-layered person. A person full of life. And not surprisingly, his life was a full one. And there is a lot that many folks – even his most ardent fans – do not know about him. So, as the first Bond passes into human history and perhaps suits up to meet his maker, here are a dozen facts about him that not too many know:
He started out as a milkman…
He might have had dashing good looks, but Connery was not exactly born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He came from a humble background, and his first job actually was as a milkman in Edinburgh with St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society. He would later surprise cab drivers by revealing his knowledge of almost every street in the city!
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….and took on several jobs
Connery was anything but settled in professional terms before coming to Hollywood. He worked in the navy (was discharged because of health issues), worked as a lifeguard, a labourer and at one stage, even polished coffins! He also worked as an artist’s model at the Edinburgh College of Art, earning fifteen shillings an hour.
Before Mr Bond was Mr Universe
Sean Connery is believed to have got into bodybuilding in his late teens. And he got so good at it that he actually entered the Mr Universe competition. Just when this happened and how well he did is not very clear though. Some sources say that he stood third in the competition in 1950, some others say that he was third in the junior class of the competition in 1953…in best Bond tradition, there is some mystery surrounding this.
He almost ended up at Man U
Well, if you have got the drift of things up till now, Connery was a person of many talents. And he was evidently a dab hand (or rather a foot) at football as well. He was offered a trial with East Fife. But the best offer of all came from the legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Matt Busby who offered him a contract with the club, which some say was worth 25 GBP a week – a fair amount of money in the fifties. Connery is believed to have been tempted but turned down the offer because the playing life of a football player was a short one. But imagine…with a bit of luck in an alternate universe, Manchester United could have had both George Best and Sean Connery in the same team. They would have been tops in the good looks stakes anywhere!
He beat up members of a notorious gang
He might have been super svelte as James Bond, but Connery was a handful in a brawl too. In the 1950s, he had a violent confrontation with one of the most notorious gangs in Edinburgh, the Valdor gang. A member of the gang tried to steal Connery’s jacket, and although Connery tried to avoid a confrontation, one thing led to another, and before you knew it, fists and kicks were being thrown. It was Connery against six of the gang members. And at the end of it all, Connery was the one left standing. The gang is believed to have respected him as a “hard man” since then and as per some, even made him an offer to join their ranks.
He got into theatre…and raised Caine!
Connery’s interest in acting is believed to have stemmed from helping out backstage at the King’s Theatre in the early 1950s. He got a small role in South Pacific in 1954, and did so well that he was moved up the cast. It was during the production of South Pacific that Connery met one of his best friends, Michael Caine, who would go on to become a film star in his own right. However, many credit Robert Henderson, another actor, for Connery’s interest in acting and theatre. Henderson is believed to have introduced Connery to several interesting works, and the rest is history.
He did not impress Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond
Irony of ironies – the man many consider to be the best James Bond of them all, was not considered suitable for the role by the man who created the character. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was not too impressed by Connery and thought he was too unrefined for the role. He is even believed to have said that he was looking for Commander Bond and not “an overgrown stuntman.” Ouch! Dana Broccoli, the wife of Albert R Broccoli, the producer of the Bond films, however, was sure that Connery was the right man for the job and convinced her husband to cast him, as per many sources. And of course, once the films did well, Fleming changed his mind.
He wore a hairpiece whenever he was Mr Bond!
He was blessed with charisma, good looks, muscle and athleticism, but one thing Connery lacked from a very early time (some even say in his teens) was hair. It was a genetic issue, evidently. He never let it hold him back and was very comfortably donning wigs and hairpieces for roles. In fact, many claim he always wore a wig or hairpiece while being Agent 007 onscreen.
And he hated James Bond…
“I have always hated that damned James Bond. I would like to kill him.” No, that statement was not made by a Bond villain, but by Connery himself, who by all accounts, was fed up of the character, which he felt restricted him. Michael Caine used to warn people about not discussing Bond with him. Shades of Conan Doyle hating Sherlock Holmes!
…not just because he had his wrist broken by another action legend!
While shooting for Never Say Never Again in 1983, a film in which he made a comeback as James Bond, Connery had his wrist broken during the choreography of a fight sequence. The name of the fight choreographer? A certain Steven Seagal!
He turned down LOTR and The Matrix
As he grew in stature, Sean Connery’ fame extended beyond James Bond and he even won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in The Untouchables in 1987. However, he remained very picky when it came to roles. Among the famous ones he turned was that of The Architect in The Matrix trilogy, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings.
He appeared in Asterix!
In 1981, when Albert Uderzo was working on a new Asterix comic, he needed a character who was a druid but was also a secret agent with an array of gadgets and mastery of disguise. He created a character called Doubleosix. And he looked just like Sean Connery. It was 1981 and the man had not acted in a Bond film for a while, but that was the extent to which he was identified with the role. We are not sure if Roger Moore, the then-current Bond, was amused.
…and one more thing, Mr Bond
On October 26, 1967, Sean Connery was pulled over for speeding in London. The name of the policeman who fined him a royal fifteen pounds? Bond. James Bond. (Sergeant James Bond, actually).
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