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The A-Z of Sean Connery as he turns 80 this week

21-Aug-2010 • Actor News

As the world's best James Bond turns 80 this Wednesday, The Scotsman examines his life and work… occashionally in the shtar's very own words.

Whether he's playing a magnificently toupéed Russian submarine commander, an irascible Irish cop or an anachronistically-chivalrous North African Berber prince, you might as well add "from Fountainbridge" to the end of all of them. Yet Connery remains defiant. "If I didn't talk the way I talk," he has said, "I wouldn't know who the f*** I was."

During the Seventies and Eighties, Connery regarded 007 as a millstone rather than a milestone in his movie career. In the beginning, however, he admits he enjoyed himself. "The first two or three were fun," he says. "The cast made it fun. Jumping out of planes was entertaining, although it was tough on my hairpiece." He won the role despite the initial disapproval of author Ian Fleming, who would have preferred Cary Grant or Trevor Howard rather than "an overgrown stuntman".

Coffin Polisher
Just one of the jobs Connery had before he broke into acting. Aged nine, he had a milk round in Edinburgh. At 13, he left Glen Darroch school and became a steel bender, a cement mixer, a lifeguard, a life model and spent two years in the Navy. He got his first acting job in the he-man chorus of South Pacific. When he was offered the job, his first question was: "What's the wage?" The producer airily replied: "It really doesn't concern me." "Well," barked Connery, "it concerns me."

Diamonds Are Forever
Eventually Connery grew bitter about the profits Bond was generating for Cubby Broccoli, and he was only enticed into returning for Diamonds Are Forever by an unheard of paypacket, which he used to set up his charity the Scottish International Education Trust. "I admit I'm being paid well, but it's no more than I deserve," he remarked. "After all, I've been screwed more times than a hooker."

Edinburgh Film Festival
Since retiring from acting five years ago, Connery has been able to devote more time to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, of which he is a patron. Sadly, this year he announced he will be taking a back seat in future. He brought a regal glamour to parties and premieres but also revealed a playful side when he hosted the closing awards. Hugging winners bearishly, he shamelessly touted for work and was entranced by a clip of Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End of the World, where a penguin broke away from the rest of the flock and waddled off purposefully into the unknown. "Sometimes," confided Connery, "I feel like that penguin."

From Russia With Love
Argyll stood in for the Russian countryside and Connery did most of the stunts himself in his second Bond film until an inexperienced pilot got too close during the helicopter chase, and almost killed him.

"I met my wife (Micheline Roquebrune] through playing golf. She is French and couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak French, so there was little chance of us getting involved in any boring conversations – that's why we got married really quickly."

Balding from his late teens, Connery has spent most of his life offering hope to the follicly challenged: although not everyone can pull off the beard and barehead combo without looking like Ming the Merciless.

Indiana Jones
Along with The Name of the Rose (1986), and The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) turned Connery into the movies' most potent father figure – capable, supportive, but not altogether benign. "Indiana?" scoffs Henry Jones at the end of Last Crusade. "We named the dog Indiana".

Connery's only son, from his first marriage to Diane Cilento. Educated at Gordonstoun, based in Los Angeles and an actor in his own right, in an Oedipal twist Jason once played Ian Fleming in a TV movie.

Connery has never forgiven Donald Dewar for blocking his knighthood when it was first mooted, but even the Queen couldn't resist a dig when dubbing Sir Sean at a ceremony in Edinburgh. "Do you get up here often?" she inquired.

Leading ladies
Connery appears to have got on well with all his co-stars except Lorraine Bracco who appeared in the eco-dud Medicine Man. Bracco irritated the meticulous Connery by failing to prepare adequately before filming. "She would mix her lines up while I'm stuck 50ft up a tree in the jungle," he growled.

Twice Connery has flirted with the idea of an autobiography then thought better of it. Being A Scot, a compromise collaboration with his old pal Murray Grigor published last year seemed to confirm Connery as a man who did not enjoy introspection. According to Meg Henderson, the first author he approached to shape his memoirs, Connery is less concerned about setting the record straight, and more anxious about having his shortcomings exposed.

Never Say Never Again
Throughout his career Connery took a keen interest in the financial performance of each of his films. Perhaps that's why in 1983, he had one last fling with 007. For legal reasons, it was a remake of Thunderball, and renamed Never Say Never Again, a self-admonishing title suggested by his second wife.

While teaching Sean Connery martial arts, the instructor broke Connery's wrist. Connery didn't complain and the injury was not detected for years. The instructor was Steven Seagal.

The only major studio Connery hasn't taken to court over missing profits or a salary dispute. Over the years his courtroom wins and settlements would make Erin Brokovich swoon with admiration. In particular he bankrupted Allied Artists after suing the studio that produced The Man Who Would Be King for cosmetic bookkeeping.

When he first played the boffin in From Russia with Love, Desmond Llewelyn claims Connery would fiddle distractingly with the gadgets while Llewelyn was trying to remember his lines. Finally he snapped "Pay attention, 007!" It became his catchphrase for the rest of the series.

Reading Room
Determined to improve himself while he was touring in South Pacific, Connery visited a library every day. "The first thing I had to get was a dictionary because I didn't understand half of the words. But when I started going into James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, even the dictionary wasn't much help." He also bought a tape recorder to refine his accent.

He's got the keys to his home city and has financially supported the Scottish National Party for years (he has "Scotland Forever" tattooed on his arm). "I can't imagine that anyone who lives in Scotland can really not want to be independent," he stated in their 1992 manifesto, without acknowledging any incongruity to his independent life thousands of miles away, as a longtime resident of first Spain and now the Bahamas.

Although he was christened Thomas Connery, he maintains that he was called Sean long before he became an actor. "I had an Irish buddy when I was 12 named Seamus. So they nicknamed us Seamus and Sean and it stuck."

"The Oscar I was awarded for The Untouchables is a wonderful thing, but I can honestly say that I'd rather have won the US Open Golf Tournament."

"I did smoke pot a few times but nothing else. I would never inject. I'm too fond of the drink. At times I can go two weeks or more without it, but then I'm quite enthusiastic to get back to the taste again."

Over the years, Connery has sparked controversy with comments about violence and women. 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." Connery later backtracked, saying he was not advocating violence against women, but the damage was done.

Voted Sexiest Man Alive, Connery countered: "Well there aren't many sexy dead men, are there?"

You're The One That I Want
Connery can be rather picky about his male dance partners. While filming The Man Who Would Be King, he and Michael Caine ended up in a small town at the edge of the Sahara with nothing to do except go to the local disco. Recalls Caine: "It was men dancing with men because women weren't allowed out at night. So we're standing at the bar watching all these guys dancing, when Sean leans over and says to me, 'Do you mind if I dance with your driver? Mine's too ugly.'
More recently, Connery insisted John Travolta waltz with him "so I can find out what the fuss is about". Travolta meekly obliged, admitting: "And of course, I let him lead."

What does the future hold? According to this infamous 1970s sci-fi movie, Connery will don a long pigtail, a biker moustache and a red nappy.

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