Hemsidan senast uppdaterad: 2024-03-21

From Scotland with Love: FSWL:s Brian Smith om Sean Connery

Av: Brian Smith
Sean Connery From Scotland with Love
Skottland, och i synnerhet staden Edinburgh, sörjer sin mest kända son. Sir Sean Connery var en stolt skotte som aldrig förlorade kärleken till det gamla hemlandet och dess folk. Efter den ursprungliga nyheten om hans bortgång lördagen den 31 oktober 2020 har stadsbor lagt blommor under Fountainbridge-plaketten för att hedra hans status som Oscar-vinnande internationell filmstjärna.

Seans bror Neil Connery, som fortfarande bor i Edinburgh, var för upprörd för att prata igår. Hans fru Eleanor sa att ”Neil är väldigt ledsen och bedrövad över att förlora sin äldre bror.” Hans son Jason sa i ett uttalande att det var en ”sorglig dag för alla som kände och älskade min pappa och en sorglig förlust för alla människor runt om i världen som åtnjöt den underbara gåvan han hade som skådespelare.

Född 1930 växte de två bröderna upp i Fountainbridge, ett av de fattigaste områdena i Edinburgh vid den tiden. Senare skulle Eleanor visa missnöje mot alla som hänvisade till deras hyreshus som ett slumområde. Hon sa att pojkarnas mor, Effie, höll ett fläckfritt rent hem och trappa (de gemensamma stegen till hyreshusen).

Vägen från Co-op milkman via Royal Navy till internationell filmstjärna var knappast en självklar sådan, men framgången i Mr Universe-tävlingen och en efterföljande turné i kören för SOUTH PACIFIC visade sig bli vändpunkten.

1953 bildade besättningen en 'South Pacific Soccer XI'. Det var under en match med Manchester Uniteds juniorlag som den legendariska managern Matt Busby - en annan stor skotte - upptäckte Connerys potential och erbjöd honom ett korttidskontrakt. En entusiastisk Connery berättade för Robert Henderson, som var den ledande amerikanska skådespelaren i showen, om erbjudandet. ”Det råd som denna anmärkningsvärda man sedan gav mig skulle förändra mitt liv,” mindes Connery i hans memoar, BEING A SCOT (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008). Henderson rådde Connery att en karriär inom fotboll bara kan ta tio år medan du som skådespelare kan fortsätta och fortsätta. Han påpekade emellertid två problem. Först var hans ”nästan ogenomträngliga skotska burr”, och den andra var att han skulle behöva utbilda sig själv. ”Jag hade fått en definitiv riktning för att göra något i livet och har en halv chans att vara någon.”

Sean Connery Being A Scot International Book Festival
Sean Connery Being A Scot International Book Festival. Foto av Brian James Smith. Alla rättigheter förbehållna.

Seven years later, hard work and modest success in theatre, film and television, brought Connery to the attention of film producers Harry Saltzman and Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli. Connery auditioned for James Bond and secured the role six months ahead of filming Dr. No (1962). He wasn’t quite what Ian Fleming had in mind when he was writing his books, but any concerns the bestselling author may have had were quickly dispelled when he saw Sean in action in Jamaica.

Fleming already had an unused Scottish backstory for James Bond but had never disclosed much about his hero (Fleming’s own father was born in Newport-on Tay, a small Scottish town in north-east Fife). While Dr. No was shooting, Fleming was writing On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1963) at Goldeneye. In this new book he revealed that Bond’s father was Scottish as a tacit nod to his approval of Connery. In the following novel, You Only Live Twice (1964), we learn that Bond was expelled from Eton and finished his education at Fettes, the public school in Edinburgh. Ironically, the closest Connery got to Fettes was when he used to deliver milk there.

Connery’s dissatisfaction with the Bond role by the time of his fifth film, You Only Live Twice (1967) has been well documented. He was lured back for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 (leaving George Lazenby to wear the kilt in 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service) with the then unheard of fee of $1.25 million which he used to set up the Scottish International Education Trust to ‘give financial help to men and women who show exceptional ability and promise.’ Connery was grateful for the help given to him by Robert Henderson and believed ‘other talented Scots deserved a “leg up” too.’ Diamonds Are Forever opened in London without the usual premiere, but it received a Gala Premiere at the Odeon, Clerk Street, Edinburgh on 14 January, 1972.

As part of the Bond deal United Artists financed The Offence (1973), probably Connery’s most powerful screen performance.

Connery’s career in the 1970s never reached the heights of James Bond although he gave many fine performances in films such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975) with Michael Caine, Robin and Marian (1976), opposite Audrey Hepburn (all of his merry men with the exception of Ronnie Barker’s Friar Tuck had Scottish accents!), and The First Great Train Robbery (1978).

His 1983 comeback as James Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983) began something of a renaissance for Connery. A slew of hit movies followed - Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986) for which he won the BAFTA Best Actor award, The Untouchables (1987) which garnered him an Oscar and a Golden Globe, The Presidio (1988), and as Harrison Ford’s father in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

The following decade produced another string of hits, including The Hunt For Red October (1990), The Russia House (1990), Medicine Man (1992), Rising Sun (1993), A Good Man In Africa (1994, written by future Bond novelist William Boyd), Just Cause (1995), First Knight (1995), Dragonheart (1996), The Rock (1996) and Entrapment (1999). He even returned under the official Bond banner to record his voice for the 2005 video game of the 1963 film From Russia with Love.

Around this time, Scotland began to take notice of his achievements. On 8 July, 1988 Connery received an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews. In 1991 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh ‘for his tremendous achievements as an ambassador for Edinburgh’ and for recognising ‘his longstanding commitment to the education of young people in Scotland, and his artistic contribution to motion pictures.’ The UK House of Commons applauded ‘the decision of the City of Edinburgh Council to confer the Freedom of the City on the distinguished actor Sean Connery’.

Six weeks short of his 70th birthday, Connery knelt before the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh to receive his knighthood. The investiture drew a line under a political controversy that had denied him this honour in previous years. Afterwards he said, ‘It’s one of the proudest days of my life.’

Although he was a well-known advocate for Scottish independence, he lived abroad for the last 47 years. In a sense his outlook was actually less as a nationalist and more as an internationalist; he never missed an opportunity to promote Scotland around the world. ‘He hovers over Scotland,’ Billy Connolly once joked, ‘like a great colossus – from the Bahamas!’

Sean Connery's emotional BAFTA Fellowship acceptance speech in 1998

Tributes came from across the political spectrum - such was the esteem in which he was held. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, ‘Sean was a global legend but, first and foremost, he was a patriotic and proud Scot.’ Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Twitter that he was ‘sorry to see that Sean Connery passed away. I enjoyed many conversations with him over the years.’

Former First Minister Henry McLeish added, ‘He always carried Scotland with him, taking a great pride in his country. No one can forget his great and varied acting career and for many of us, the majority of us, he remains the only James Bond.’

On 25 August, 2000, a double-bill screening of Dr. No and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was held in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. The evening was called ‘A Knight Under The Stars’ and was co-organised by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh International Film Festival to honour Sir Sean on his 70th birthday.

Connery appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 25 August, 2008 to launch his memoir, BEING A SCOT. In front of a 300-strong crowd he discussed the book with his co-author Murray Grigor. The previous evening he introduced a rare screening of his 1965 masterpiece The Hill at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse Cinema. Connery was patron of the Edinburgh International Film Festival for almost twenty years, bowing out in 2010 with a screening of The Man Who Would Be King in the city’s Festival Theatre.

Sean Connery and his co-author Murray Grigor in the Bahamas before the launch

Connery effectively retired from films following The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman in 2003, although he did lend his voice to, and executive produced, the quirky animated Scottish movie Sir Billi (2012) for which Shirley Bassey recorded the title song.

Sean Connery was the only actor to explore the whole gamut of celluloid Bond, from the relatively faithful Fleming adaptations of Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965), to the science fiction grandeur of You Only Live Twice and the more comedic approach of Diamonds Are Forever which ushered in the 1970s. He was a Scottish icon, patriot and benefactor. As an actor, his legacy will endure. You only live once, but movies are forever.

Bilder ovan. Copyright © 2020 Brian James Smith. Alla rättigheter förbehållna.



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