The Good Knight
25th August 2020
An appreciation of Sean Connery on his birthday by Greg Bechtloff
August 25th marks the birth of Thomas Sean Connery, the first actor to bring Ian Fleming’s James Bond to life on the big screen.
We all know that Sean Connery is much more than James Bond. His long and storied career has proved that many times over. Detailed accounts of his life and career can easily be found elsewhere.
The goal here and now is to acknowledge and salute the man and the mythos of Sean Connery. In these pandemic times when the present is so strange and undesirable, many of us look to glories of the past to get us through.
It also has to be said that maybe for a certain fraction of the culture at large, Connery may have slipped into the collective past. Sean Connery has not starred in a new film for almost a generation now. He may be gone from cinema but is definitely not forgotten.
It's still unclear when the new James Bond film 'No Time To Die' will be released for the world to enjoy and Bond fans to analyze. In the meantime we are forced to reexamine and perhaps find new meanings in what has gone before.
And that means Connery, Sean Connery. He is the only actor to play James Bond who had personal interaction with 007’s creator Ian Fleming. He is the first actor to take James Bond to the world and make him an international icon. In short, Connery is the original text that will always be looked to when a new Bond future is planned.
All iterations of James Bond past, present and future are measured against what Sean Connery created. Sure, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan had wild successes with the same character. They and the other Bond actors all had to work in the shadow of what Connery did though. Their added burden was to build on what Connery had forged.
Roger Moore succeeded in the role by playing up strengths that better suited his acting style. The audience accepted and eventually loved that. But it was only by distancing his Bond to what Sean Connery did with the role that Moore was able to succeed.
Still though, when it came time for Roger to turn in his licence to kill, the thinking turned back to what Sean Connery did and what Ian Fleming wrote.
This will happen again when Daniel Craig turns in his Walther. The producers, writers and publicists will collectively invoke the ur-texts of the Sean Connery films when James Bond Actor Number 007 takes up the mantle.
Speaking of Daniel Craig, the Sean Connery career arc is probably the closest trajectory that Craig envisions for himself. Whilst Craig’s ownership of the character was not as stormy as Connery’s was with Saltzman and Broccoli, its no secret that Daniel Craig probably craves a post Bond career like Connery’s. The accumulated gravitas and maybe even some acting awards that Connery earned have got to be on the Craig radar. Craig’s forays into off-Broadway Shakespeare and other stage work prove that he wants to be known for more than just being James Bond.
Post James Bond, Sean Connery built a through-line of roles of kings and knights, cowboys and sheriffs. Connery has played rogues and military men with consciences as well as outright villains. The Connery CV is peopled with such mythological figures as James Bond, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Agamemnon.
All of these roles have showcased the undefinable presence that is Sean Connery. That quality came out of a Celtic background yet has universal appeal.
Connery can transcend and elevate a role that other actors just inhabit. This is apparent whether he was playing a British secret agent or an Arab chieftain, a Japanophile LA cop or a Soviet submarine commander. Connery is that true movie star which makes the viewer suspend any disbelief and totally buy into the interpretation of the role. Take a look at the trippy film Zardoz to see that. Connery keeps his dignity costumed in a ponytail and some sort of thong outfit.
Thanks for those and all the other memories Sir Sean Connery.
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