Website last updated: 15-9-2021

FSWL contributor Mark Cerulli remembers Sir Sean Connery

By: Mark Cerulli
Published:
2020-10-31
Sean Connery Mark Cerulli
Of all the Bond obituaries I’ve had to write, THIS is the one I’ve dreaded most of all. Sir Sean Connery - one of the greatest actors of our time and the man who defined the very essence of cool - has passed at the age of 90.

Growing up on the rough streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, the young Sean Connery was known as a “hard man” for fighting back when a notorious street gang tried to steal his jacket. (He kept it.) He held numerous odd jobs and served in Her Majesty’s Navy when by chance he stumbled into acting as an extra with the stage version of South Pacific. Small parts in cinema followed until his physical presence and stunning good looks landed him an interview with producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman who were looking for someone to play Ian Fleming’s James Bond in their fist 007 film, Dr. No (1962). His self confidence and swagger impressed them. The approval of Cubby’s wife, Dana Broccoli (“He’s gorgeous!”), helped and he won the role over candidates as diverse as Trevor Howard, Richard Todd, David Niven (Fleming’s choice), even Cary Grant.

Jerry Juroe, EON’S long-time head of publicity, worked with Connery on all the early Bond press events, starting with Dr. No. He said, “I never knew an actor who had a natural accent and was able to hide it with a British accent.” That points to Connery’s superb skill as an actor – playing Bond required humor, strength, vulnerability and a sense of style. Connery made it all look effortless. Juroe went on to say, “He could be a difficult person, but he came up from nothing and did very well for himself.”


After Bond #3, 1964’s Goldfinger, Connery was a bona fide superstar. An intensely private man, he wasn’t ready for massive worldwide fame – who could be?

He sparred with intrusive press and overzealous fans, all while trying to lead his life as normally as possible. The long Bond shooting schedules and gripes over profits started to wear on him. You Only Live Twice (1967) was a very tough shoot during a broiling Asian summer. The producers did their best to shield their star from the relentless press who stalked Connery’s every move. Connery finally exploded and wanted out – and the producers released him from his contract even though he owed them one more film. (1969’s On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which opened the door for actor George Lazenby.)

For 99% of actors, a wild ride like that would be the peak of their careers and they would fade into supporting roles, but not Connery. He walked away from Bond and into classic films like The Anderson Tapes (one of five films he’d make with director Sidney Lumet), The Man Who Would Be King (for screen legend John Huston), and Robin & Marion co-starring Audrey Hepburn. He tried his hand in every genre – from 1974’s sci-fi epic, Zardoz to 1977’s World War II actioner, A Bridge Too Far. He took audiences to the Middle Ages with 1986’s The Name of The Rose, the Roaring Twenties in The Untouchables and became a beloved addition to another major franchise in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (playing Indy’s father).

In 1995, at the age of 65, he was still making action films, notably The Rock for director Michael Bay.

I was invited onto the set at Sony Studios and watched Connery at work. At one point when a shot was taking too long, he strode up to the volatile director and said (in that famous Scottish accent), “If we can’t get this shot in two hours, we don’t belong making films.” “You’re right, Sean.” Michael Bay meekly replied.


I also remember him leaving his trailer, dressed in his black commando outfit. As he passed two Mexican stagehands cleaning out a piece of the tunnel set, he stopped and said hello, then walked away. The two workers grinned from ear to ear – James Bond had said hello to them! One other vignette I recall that speaks volumes about the kind of man Connery was – he and his son Jason were waiting in line at a local cinema. The manager came out and offered to usher them inside but Connery said no – they’d wait with the rest of the audience.

Connery did return to the role that made him famous with one final Bond, 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which held its own box office-wise against Roger Moore’s Octopussy (1983), also released that year.

Reportedly, Connery found the experience of making The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003, so disheartening, he retired from acting. Years later, he would provide his iconic voice for Sir Billi (2012) - a Scottish animated film - and narrating 2012’s Ever to Excel - a documentary celebrating the 600th anniversary of Scotland’s St. Andrew’s University. That was his final credit.

In his later years, he lived quietly, surrounded by his loving family, in an exclusive area of Nassau in the Bahamas. He also owned an apartment in New York and could occasionally be seen in the VIP box at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. (On one of his last appearances there, the organizers played the James Bond theme on the sound system and the audience erupted in cheers.)

For us fans, Connery will always be that suave, debonaire, tough as nails hero, James Bond. Although five other actors have stepped into the role, each bringing their unique talents to it, as Connery once said in The Highlander – “There can be only one.”

Thank you for the magic, Sir Sean. Rest in Peace.


Mark Cerulli with Sean Connery in New York
Mark Cerulli with Sean Connery in New York, May 5, 1997. Photo by Sandra Carvalho. All rights reserved.

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