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His life took an iconic turn as the first actor to portray James Bond on the big screen, one of many in a long line of lead roles that he would play over the course of his career. A former milkman, brick layer, truck driver and bodybuilder (back in the days when that meant 'big and athletic' rather than 'steroid-fuelled and vein-covered') notable for his impressive body hair, effortless masculinity and unique variation on the Scottish accent, Connery's sex-symbol status proved surprisingly durable despite the ravages of time, the early onset of baldness (he wore a toupee to play Bond - and reputedly wanted to go without for Never Say Never Again), and occasional press stories of misogyny on his part notwithstanding.
Although the Bond films made him a star, after some less than impressive acting ventures, Connery eventually tired of the role and the pressure the franchise put on him, and made not one but two attempts to leave it (barring his return for the non-EON produced Never Say Never Again), which reportedly angered Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli. Connery continued on, often playing tough guys and the occasional Lovable Rogue. For a time his career was in a rut due to headlining a string of flops, which eventually led to reinventing himself as a Cool Old Guy type, and spent the latter half of his career playing The Mentor to younger heroes, such as Kevin Costner's street smart teacher in The Untouchables for which Connery won an Oscar.
Also played Henry Jones Sr., father of Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas had wanted to outdo the James Bond films; therefore, James Bond was both metaphorically and literally Indiana Jones's father. Clearly, Badass is genetic.
After starring as Allan Quartermain in the... some would say polarizing The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, Connery retired from acting. Some suggest that these facts are related, that the film was so terrible that he just gave up. He steadfastly refused to come out of retirement, including refusing a cameo in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The only exceptions were a Role Reprise for the 2005 Licensed Game 007: From Russia with Love and the voice of the title character in the low-budged Scottish animated film Sir Billi (the less said of which, the better). His final role was narrating the 2012 documentary Ever to Excel about the history of St Andrews University in Scotland.
On October 31, 2020, he eventually passed on in his sleep from natural causes in his Bahamas residence at the age of 90. It was revealed by his widow after his death that he had struggled with dementia prior to his death.
A major supporter of Scottish independence (though the fact that he hadn't actually lived there for fifty years before his death tended to undermine this a little). Particularly famous for Not Even Bothering with the Accent.
Younger fans may identify with him from Saturday Night Live's Celebrity Jeopardy! recurring sketches, thanks to long-time cast member Darrell Hammond, the anthesis of Will Ferrell's Alex Trebek and was considered a highlight to said recurring sketch (though in the earlier Celebrity Jeopardy sketches, that honor went to Norm Macdonald as Burt Reynolds). Unlike Trebek, the real Connery never commented on the sketches, and Trebek said he'd never met the actual man.note
Connery was married to the late Australian actress Diane Cilento from 1962 to 1973, and had one son with her, actor Jason Connery. The marriage did not end well, to put it nicely. Following this failed marriage and her own faltering career as an actress, Cilento said some very nasty things about Connery in her later years, claims and accusations that Connery himself vehemently denied. Connery was married to Frenchwoman Micheline Roquebrune from 1975 until his death.
Also notable for trying to shoot you in every video store in the world. And YOU'RE THE MAN NOW, DOG!
There was even a website for things Sean Connery should say. Unfortunately, it no longer exists. Thankfully, "Shubreddit" on Reddit gives us things that would sound hilarious with Sean Connery's voice. You can also find the old site here.
He won the 2006 AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, with tributes from Mike Myers (whose James Bond films helped inspire Austin Powers), his later James Bond successor Pierce Brosnan, Harrison Ford (his onscreen son and fellow AFI Lifetime Achievement Award winner), and James Earl Jones.
Also notable for the "Rule of Sean Connery," something that he (and few other people) have been able to accomplish in their lifetimes.
Works starring Sean Connery include:
- Hell Drivers (1957) - Johnny Kates; a small appearance, however, one of the most notable ones in a film full of Retroactive Recognition.)
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) - Michael McBride; this Disney studio classic is where Broccoli discovered Connery.)
- The Longest Day (1962) - Pvt. Flanagan
- James Bond - Commander James Bond, Agent 007
- Marnie (1964) - Mark Rutland
- The Red Tent (1969) - Dr. Roald Amundsen
- The Molly Maguires (1970) - Jack Kehoe
- The Anderson Tapes (1971) - Robert 'Duke' Anderson
- Zardoz (1974) - Zed
- Murder on the Orient Express (1974) - Colonel Arbuthnot
- The Man Who Would Be King (1975) - Daniel Dravot
- The Wind and the Lion (1975) - Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni
- Robin and Marian (1976) - Robin Hood
- A Bridge Too Far (1977) - Maj. Gen. Roy Urquhart
- The Great Train Robbery (1978) - Edward Pierce
- Meteor (1979) - Dr Paul Bradley
- Time Bandits (1981) - King Agamemnon
- Outland (1981) - Marshal William T. O'Niel
- Wrong is Right (1982) - Patrick Hale
- Highlander (1986) - Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez
- The Name of the Rose (1986) - William of Baskerville
- The Untouchables (1987) - Jimmy Malone; Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor
- The Presidio (1988) - Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) - Dr. Henry Jones, Sr.
- Family Business (1989) - Jessie McMullen
- The Hunt for Red October (1990) - Capt. Marko Ramius
- The Russia House (1990) - Barley Blair
- Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) - Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) - King Richard the Lionhearted (uncredited)
- Medicine Man (1992) - Dr. Robert Campbell
- Rising Sun (1993) - Capt. John Connor
- First Knight (1995) - King Arthur
- The Rock (1996) - Capt. John Patrick Mason
- Dragonheart (1996) - Draco (voice)
- The Avengers (1998) (1998) - Sir August de Wynter
- Entrapment (1999) - Robert MacDougal
- Finding Forrester (2000) - William Forrester
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) - Allan Quatermain
- The Thief and the Cobbler : The Recobbled Cut (2006) - Provides the otherwise mute Tack's sole line, "I love you," cut from the studio-mandated released versions, in which Tack is under a different actor.
- Sir Billi (2012) - Sir Billi (voice)
- Ever to Excel (2012) - Narrator
Tropes applicable to Sean Connery:
- Ability over Appearance: Connery was cast as James Bond due to the aggressiveness he brought to the role. However, the working-class Scotsman Connery knew next to nothing about the finer things Bond was supposed to be an expert in so Terence Young, Dr. No's director, dragged Connery to tailors and restaurants all over London to give the actor a crash course in how to be a gentleman.
- Badass Baritone: His commanding voice combined with his famous accent gave him one of the most famous and recognizable voices in pop culture. He backed it up with experience in martial arts (he was a black belt in Kyokushin Karate) and doing action films even in his sixties.
- Chronically Killed Actor: Got into this in his later career (Draco, Arthur, Allan Quartermain).
- Fake Nationality: Provides the trope image for a reason. Connery's list of foreign roles include American (particularly Irish-American), Soviet Lithuanian, English, Egyptian-Spanish, Arab-Berber, etc. In fact, the only explicitly Scottish role that he's played was Sir Billi in the animated film of the same name.
- Heroic Build: Had one as Bond, owing to his years as a body builder.
- I Am Not Spock: He got swept up in Bond-mania and realized that the role was taking over his career (even though he did do other films while playing Bond) and that led to his decision to retire from that role. Even if he came back to it. Twice. He was successful in showing what else he could do for the rest of his long career in a number of very different roles.
- According to longtime friend Michael Caine, James Bond was the one thing you learned to never talk about in his presence, as it upset him a great deal that many people only thought of him in that role.
- No Stunt Double: You know that long scene from The Great Train Robbery where Edward Pierce was hopping from train car to train car? Connery did that himself. Yeah.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Connery's foreign characters always have his trademark Scottish accent regardless of their country of origin.
- Playing Against Type: Often cast as tough cunning heroes (and later wise mentors), Connery goes in the opposite direction with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he plays a bumbling, tweedy, mildly absent minded professor not prepared for his son's more adventurous escapades. And he is absolutely HILARIOUS in the film.
- Singing Against Type: In hindsight, singing in Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and a single line of "Underneath the Mango Tree" in Dr. No.
- In Outland he seems at first to be playing a very typical character, but is eventually revealed to be plagued by self-doubt in perhaps the most emotionally vulnerable scene in his career.
- Prematurely Bald: Connery started losing his hair at age 21. He wore a toupee in his James Bond flicks.
- Self-Made Man: Connery was born into a working class family in Edinburgh, Scotland, dropped out of school at 13, and worked many jobs including as a milkman, a coffin polisher, a lorry driver, a lifeguard, served in the Royal Navy, then worked as a nude model for art students before entering bodybuilding, which led him to acting and eventually his breakthrough role of James Bond, and his portrayal of the sophisticated secret agent propelled him into international superstardom.
- Silver Fox: He was still admired for his rugged good looks even in his seventies.
- There Are No Coincidences: If you add up the individual digits in the date of Sean Connery's death [10-31-20; one + zero + three + one + two + zero], they add up to... "007."
- Trope Namer: For Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You and Rule of Sean Connery.
- What Could Have Been:
- He turned down both the roles of Gandalf in Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and the role of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. Madnessh!
- He also turned down the role of the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. He said that both the Matrix and Lord of the Rings scripts made absolutely no sense to him when he read them. This gets weirder when you consider the film he did instead was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
- Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond character which made Connery famous, reportedly disliked Connery being chosen for the role at first because he happened to be a big, stocky Scottish guy with a rough and rugged face as opposed to the more refined look Fleming imagined for the character.note Fleming later changed his mind after actually seeing Connery in action and, before he died, he even retconned Bond's origin to give him Scottish heritage (possibly just to make sure the cinematic and literary incarnations would match since he undoubtedly realized that the films would reach more people than the books).
- He was also considered for the voice of Cassim in Aladdin and the King of Thieves, though the role ended up being played by John Rhys-Davies.
- Was considered for the voice of Professor Hale in the English dub of Pokémon 3, but turned it down (by which point the producers decided that celebrity voices would distract from the appeal of the franchise's world-building).
- Connery turned down an appearance in Indiana Jones 4 stating "Retirement is just too much damned fun."
- Kincade in Skyfall was written as a Remake Cameo for Connery, but it was decided that Connery's presence would have been too distracting, and it didn't seem right to make a Bond movie with Connery where he's not Bond (though given he didn't return for Indy 4 it's doubtful Connery would have accepted the part).