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Sean Connery - the story of a `brilliant but deeply flawed man`

09-Aug-2008 • Actor News

She quietly donned a pair of sunglasses and, while Connery slept on, slipped out and fled. Miss Cilento's allegations, which she repeated in her 2006 autobiography My Nine Lives, have left an indelible stain on the reputation of Connery, who was knighted by the Queen in 2000 - reports the Daily Mail

Nor, in truth, are her claims the only time Sir Sean has been subject to damaging accusations about his attitude towards violence and women.

Just months after the alleged attack on his wife - which Connery has always denied - he sparked controversy when he told Playboy magazine: 'I don't think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman - although I don't recommend doing it in the same way that you'd hit a man.

'An open-handed slap is justified, if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I'd do it.'

In a 1993 interview with Vanity Fair, he said: 'There are women who take it to the wire. That's what they are looking for, the ultimate confrontation. They want a smack.'

Connery backtracked, saying he was not advocating violence against women, but the damage was done.

Two years ago he pulled out of his guest-of-honour role at the Festival of Politics in Edinburgh,after learning he was going to be quizzed about his earlier comments during a planned Q&A session.

Scottish writer Meg Henderson, a friend of Connery who fell out with him after he sacked her as his ghost writer for a previous planned autobiography, told me: 'The issue of violence and Diane's claims that he beat her up have always been a no-go area for Sean. He has always wrongly felt he could just ignore her.

'The most important thing for him has been protecting his image and he doesn't feel he can risk dealing with what she has accused him of, for fear of damaging his legacy.'

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, his relationship with Cilento did not survive the episode. The marriage limped on for a further eight years - characterised in the main by a series of tempestuous break-ups and attempted reconciliations.

During one such reconciliation in Nassau in the Bahamas, Connery and his friend Michael Caine went out for a drink, leaving Diane to cook the lunch.

One drink turned to two, and when the actors eventually returned two hours later, the lunch came flying through the air at Connery as he breezily announced: 'Darling, we're home.'

In truth, the omens for the marriage had been inauspicious from the start. The couple met when Diane was married to Italian writer Andrew Volpe. Moreover, she was pregnant with Volpe's child.

At the time, Connery, a struggling actor, was living with photographer Julie Hamilton, the daughter of director Jill Craigie and the step-daughter of Labour politician Michael Foot.

One morning, Connery declared to his girlfriend: 'Diane Cilento has got incredible eyes.'

When Hamilton challenged him over the remark, he told her he didn't love her any more.

She left him a rude message scrawled in lipstick on the mirror and fled to her mother's house in tears.

Connery's subsequent wedding to Cilento in 1962 was a farcical affair, with the bride heavily pregnant with their son Jason.

Two taxi drivers in Gibraltar acted as witnesses and the reception was held in a shabby hotel, during which the female vocalist flirted with an unshaven Connery.

From the outset, Connery insisted his new wife, who was by far the more successful actor when they met, give up her career to take care of him, Jason and Gigi, the daughter from her first marriage.

When she refused to stop work, she claims Connery - suddenly seriously rich thanks to landing the role of Bond - refused to pay anything towards the housekeeping.

As the marriage began to crumble following his alleged attack on her, the movie world starting buzzing with gossip about Connery's eye for the ladies.

Crucially, he had already met the woman who would become wife number two.

In an attempt to escape the strain of his unhappy home life and a disastrous debut as a theatre director (the play, the dubiously titled I've Seen You Cut Lemons, closed after five days), Connery and a bunch of his buddies took off in March 1970 to Casablanca to take part in a golf tournament.

On the course he met a diminutive French-Moroccan artist called Micheline Roquebrune (she was barely 5ft and he towered above her). Like Connery she was already married with three young children.

But Micheline's husband had disappeared home, annoyed with his form on the fairway, and Connery saw his chance.

Despite the fact he spoke no French and she virtually no English, he spent the remainder of the week wooing her.

After the holiday, Connery returned home to Diane, but three months later he called Micheline to tell her he was in love with her. Not that she was the only woman to pique his interest as his marriage slid into oblivion.

As early as two years after his wedding to Cilento, Connery was said to have enjoyed a fling with actress Sue Lloyd, and was seen on dates with American film star Shelley Winters.

He was also said to have become close to former Miss France Claudine Auger, with whom he starred in Thunderball.

Sylvia Miles, the star of Midnight Cowboy, also admits to sharing his bed after Connery eventually moved out of the home in Putney, South-West London, he shared with Diane, Jason and Gigi.

He married Micheline in Gibraltar in a private ceremony in May 1975, after hoodwinking the Press into believing the wedding had already taken place elsewhere.

His choice of location was odd, given that it had also been the venue of his marriage to Cilento 13 years earlier.

Tax exile Connery and his second wife moved into the newly built and somewhat naffly named Casa Malibu, a bungalow in Puerto Banus near Marbella, and spent their time indulging in their shared love of golf when he was not filming.

He took over the role of father to her children Olivier, Micha and Stephane. Meanwhile, Micheline took control of her husband's business affairs and money.

She took to following him around the world on his various film sets to ensure he was not tempted to dally with his female co-stars.

During the filming of the mountaineering movie Five Days One Summer, Micheline put on a bizarre display for the cast and crew by wandering around the Swiss alps wearing nothing but a pale green bikini and an oriental veil.

The idea, of course, was that she alone should be allowed to distract her husband from his acting duties.

She developed something of a fearsome reputation when it came to protecting her marriage.

When Connery starred alongside Catherine Zeta- Jones in the 1998 film Entrapment, the possessive Micheline is said to have warned the actress to 'butt out and cool it'.

Miss Zeta-Jones had, it seems, made the mistake of gushing publicly about Connery's sexiness and kissing skills during the filming of their highly unlikely screen love scenes. Connery, who was then 68, had insisted the script be rewritten so there would be a romantic entanglement between him and his 28-year-old leading lady.

Micheline's gate-keeping efforts have not always proved so successful, however.

In 1993, singer Lynsey de Paul claimed she started an affair with Connery after they had met at a party four years earlier. She said that even though Micheline was sitting on the next sofa to them as they talked, it did not stop Connery chatting her up and asking for her phone number.

Connery then pursued the petite blonde by reciting Robert Burns verses and passages of his own poetry.

She submitted, and they started an affair that lasted several months. Finally, after they had made love during one of his visits to her home, the actor said he would contact Miss de Paul the following weekend. She never heard from him again.

Then, in 1996, Connery was seen sharing a lingering kiss outside the Beverly Hills home of make-up artist Nina Kraft, who was working with him on The Rock.

The Connerys put on a display of unity a few days later at the premiere of the movie. But the gossip back in Spain was that Connery was seeing a string of women behind his wife's back.

Sure enough, a year later, a beautiful Danish-born designer called Helle Byrn told a Sunday newspaper she and the star had conducted an 11-month affair after she asked him for an interview for a magazine she was working for on the Costa del Sol.

After the 44-year-old-blonde invited him back to her apartment, which was close to the home he shared with Micheline, he seduced her with the distinctly 007 line: 'You know, I have wanted to kiss you since the moment I saw you.'

From then on, says Miss Byrn, Connery would make a detour after golf for snatched love-making sessions at her home before heading off for tea with his wife.

He made a point of never being seen in public with his mistress.

Today, she does not look back fondly on her affair with the ageing lothario. 'It's a period of my life I would prefer to forget,' she says.

Miss Byrn, who runs a design school in Marbella, says she realised Connery was using her for sex when he came round to her flat as usual one evening.

Her daughter Benedicta, who was six, could not get to sleep and came into the living room with her crayons and began drawing pictures.

'It was the first time Sean had met Benedicta,' says Miss Byrn. 'But it was obvious the kid didn't interest him in the least.'

The couple had a row after Connery complained that the child should be in bed. It was the last time Miss Byrn saw him. In the meantime, she says she had heard rumours from golfers at Connery's Marbella golf club that he had been making crude comments about their affair. She discovered she was one of many women he was seeing.

Sources say it was this affair and the rumours about other women that led his wife to insist they sell up in Spain and move to the tax haven of the Bahamas, where the couple set up home in 1998 on the exclusive Lyford Cay estate.

As he approaches his 78th birthday this month, it appears Sir Sean's womanising days are over.

For her part, Lady Connery has said of him: 'When I met Sean, I knew I was taking on the whole package. Everyone wants him and I have to accept and understand that.'

That, it seems, involved turning a blind eye to the many women who have shared James Bond's bed.

But if Connery's pursuit of women has been prolific, it pales in comparison to his voracious pursuit of the accumulation of wealth, as we shall reveal in the next part of this compelling series.

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