Veteran actor Sean Connery passed away at the age of 90 in the Bahamas on October 31, 2020. The Oscar winning Scottish star was known for many incredible performances on screen, but the one that catapulted him to fame worldwide was that of the suave British spy, James Bond. For many, he was and is the ultimate representation of the character from author Ian Fleming’s novels. But it wasn’t just the character that shaped Connery in his formative days as a star, but it worked the other way round too. For he came with the swagger like no other, something the future stars of the franchise have managed to replicate with limited success.
Sean Connery was a born star. That’s the aura he exuded as he slipped into a well-fit three-piece suit to save the world, hopping from one continent to another. The alpha among the alphas who was looked up by the who’s who. With a thick Scottish accent, a tall posture and well-built physique, all part of his ancestory from a working-class family in the Scotlands, he eased the imposing appearance with his wit on celluloid. Connery would go on to play Bond for 20 years across seven films beginning with the 1962’s Dr. No and ending with Never Say Never Again in 1983. The final movie’s title was a double entrende on his old statement that he would “never again” reprise the role of the 007 agent.
An up and coming actor during Dr. No, Connery drove a very modest British-made Sunbeam Alpine Series II convertible in the film that was sourced at the location to keep costs in check, but it helped set the character as loyal to the queen. It also set the ball rolling for high-speed chase scenes and winding roads that would go on to become synonymous with the franchise. But it had to be Goldfinger released in 1964 that forged the partnership between the series and British automaker Aston Martin. It also managed to give us an everlasting image of Connery and the Aston Martin DB5 setting the tone for what the franchise stood for.
As much as the ejector seat, machine guns and the smoke screen made it a visual treat at the theatres, there was something about Connery that made the whole gimmick believable. Sales of Aston Martin cars went up by 60 per cent after the release of Goldfinger and Eon Productions, the producers behind the James Bond franchise, never had a problem sourcing cars from manufacturers again. The DB5 would go on to feature in a number of movies in the franchise right from Thunderball (1965) to some of the newer films like Goldeneye (1995), Skyfall (2012) and the upcoming No Time To Die (2021).
Connery was synonymous with Bond to the extent that Ian Fleming would go on incorporate the actor’s Scottish heritage into the character in the 1964 novel, You Only Live Twice. We’d then see Sean Connery head to Japan in the 1967 movie of the same name and drive the country’s first supercar – the Toyota 2000GT. The roadster was Bond’s muse in the movie and the only two ever created were used for filming. While the 2000GT was built as a coupe, the roof was chopped off to accommodate Connery, since he was too tall to fit in the original.
But it wasn’t just British motoring that resonated with Bond and by extension, Connery’s persona. He looked equally effortless with the Ford Mustang Mach 1 in the 1971 flick Diamonds are forever. The chase sequence set in downtown Las Vegas gave us the thrills, especially the end on two wheels. As he returned to the franchise for one final call with Never Say Never Again, a visibly aged Connery as Bond got his one big chase on two wheels riding the Yamaha XJ 650 Turbo. He brought his signature style there too, wearing a tuxedo and a helmet.
It’s no surprise then that the American Film Institute would go on to select Sean Connery’s James Bond as the third-greatest hero in cinema history, right after Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mocking Bird) and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones. Interesting as it is, Connery played father to Indiana bringing his wit and charm to his role in the adventure fantasy franchise.
In the last two decades, the actor would star only in a handful of films, which saw him bring credibility to a variety of roles. His last major onscreen appearance was in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003. He would go on to do a few voice parts over the next few years before announcing his retirement from acting in 2007. Today, Connery leaves behind a legacy of him and a character that was an extension of his personality. He is survived by wife Micheline, sons Jason and Stephane, and brother Neil.
As actor Daniel Craig, who presently plays James Bond on camera, said in his statement, “Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster.”
Farewell then Sir Sean Connery and thank you for the memories. Wherever you are, we are certain you will be making a grand entry. Cue the music…