Exactly 50 years ago today, Sean Connery was announced
to the world as James Bond 007 for the first silver
screen adventure "Dr. No"...
Bond At 50: Sean Connery Is James Bond
3rd November 2011
Exactly 50 years ago today, Sean
announced as the actor who would be playing Ian Fleming's secret
agent James Bond 007 in "Dr.
No", the first movie in the series by EON Productions.
The beginnings of James Bond's film career went virtually unnoticed
by the trade press, except for a few brief notices announcing
the forthcoming film as one of a slate of productions being readied
by Harry Saltzman and Albert
R. 'Cubby' Broccoli. But while the
rest of the world carried on blissfully unaware of what was coming,
writer Richard Maibaum to work on a treatment based on Thunderball.
But that messy court case surrounding the novel was to rear its
head and frightened Saltzman and Broccoli away, though
not before Maibaum had actually finished his first draft screenplay.
Instead, they turned their attentions to Dr
No which was now
being prepared by Maibaum and Wolf Mankowitz.
Above: Sean Connery meets James
Bond's creator Ian Fleming in 1962.
But there was one vital element still missing from the production
- Saltzman and Broccoli didn't have anyone yet to play Bond.
On 5 October 1961, Kinematograph Weekly announced that production
on Dr No would not now take place until the following year, allowing
the producers to concentrate on their search for a star.
A national newspaper ran a competition looking for the screen
Bond and had whittled down more than 1,000 contestants to a more
manageable six, all of whom were screen tested by EON at Twickenham
studios. Of the six, one man emerged as the clear leader - a
young model named Peter Anthony. But he was ultimately deemed
unsuitable, though as consolation, he was offered a small part
in the film, though he eventually failed to appear.
Others who were reportedly being considered
for the role at this time included Richard Johnson (who would
later play another
fictional British secret agent, Bulldog Drummond), Roger
Rex Harrison, Trevor Howard, Max Von Sydow and Patrick McGoohan.
The latter was reportedly offered the role but he turned it down,
appalled by the character's brutality and wanton behaviour.
Broccoli himself, meanwhile, was keen
on pursuing Cary Grant for the role. Fleming favoured either
David Niven, Moore or his cousin, Christopher Lee, with
his neighbour in Jamaica, Noel Coward, as Dr No, all of
whom were deemed unsuitable for one reason or another.
The first time that Sean Connery's name
went into the hat was at a dinner party attended by Saltzman
wife at the Polish club in London. Also present were producer
Benjamin Fisz, and editor Peter Hunt (then finishing off
work on a comedy, "On The Fiddle", for Fisz and
himself a key player in later Bond films). During dinner,
Saltzman mentioned the problems that he and Broccoli had
been having in finding the right man to play Bond when
Fisz mentioned to Hunt that Connery, who was appearing
in the still unfinished "On the Fiddle", might
fit the bill.
Hunt screened a couple of reels of the film featuring
Connery for Saltzman, while in the States, Broccoli had
already seen Connery's work in the successful Disney comedy-musical "Darby
O'Gill and the Little People" (1958). Connery, a former
naval rating, milkman and labourer, had been toiling away
in film and TV since 1957, never really achieving the sort
of roles that would best suit his obvious talents.
In October 1961, Connery was invited to EON's offices in Mayfair,
London, for the first of a series of interviews with Saltzman
and Broccoli. The producers were impressed by what they saw -
Broccoli liked the young Scot's body language and Saltzman later
revealed [on the BBC's Whicker's World in 1967] that they simply "liked
the way he moved..."
United Artists were initially reluctant to employ Connery, feeling
that Saltzman and Broccoli could do rather better if they tried
hard enough. But Saltzman and Broccoli stood their ground and
Connery was offered a multi-picture deal in late October 1961.
The Daily Cinema announced the casting of Connery
on 3rd November 1961 and Connery was immediately the attention
of much press
speculation and interest. His best print 'performance' was clearly
his interview with Susan Barnes for The Sunday Express published
on 31st December 1961 which culminated in Connery and Barnes
debating violence towards women and Barnes "beating a rapid
the rising star's apartment.