FILE - In this file photo dated April 20, 1964, James Bond, alias, Sean Connery, finds himself in a sticky situation with actress Shirley Eaton at Pinewood Studios, near London. Miss Eaton was given a liberal coating of gold paint for a scene in the latest Bond thriller "Goldfinger," with unidentified woman at top. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Victor Boynton)

Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

He died peacefully in his sleep overnight in the Bahamas

LONDON — Sean Connery, the charismatic Scottish actor who rose to international superstardom as suave, fearless secret agent James Bond and then abandoned the role to carve out an equally successful, Oscar-winning career playing a variety of leading and character roles, has died. He was 90.

Bond producers EON Productions confirmed his death. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were “devastated” by the news.

“He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words — ‘The name’s Bond… James Bond,’” they said in a statement Saturday.

The producers said Connery’s “gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent” was largely responsible for the success of the series.

Connery’s son Jason said his father died peacefully in his sleep overnight in the Bahamas where he lived, having been “unwell for some time.”

“A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor,” Jason Connery told the BBC.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “heartbroken” at the news.

“Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons,” she said.

A commanding screen presence for some 40 years, Connery was in his early 30s and little known when he starred in the first Bond thriller, 1962’s “Dr. No,” based on the Ian Fleming novel.

Condemned as immoral by the Vatican and the Kremlin, but screened at the White House for Bond fan John F. Kennedy, “Dr. No” was a box office hit and helped Bond become a franchise that long outlasted its Cold War origins.

For decades, with actors from Connery to Daniel Craig in the leading role, filmgoers have loved the outrageous stunts, vicious villains and likable, roguish hero who enjoyed a life of carousing, fast cars, gadgety weapons, elegant clothes and vodka martinis (always shaken, not stirred).

For many, Connery was the definitive James Bonds, his character’s introduction among the most famous in movie history. He is seated at the blackjack table of an upscale casino, seen first from the side and the back. After he wins a couple of hands against a glamorous young woman, she asks for more money to gamble. “I admire your courage, Miss, uh …” we hear him tell her as the camera shows his hands removing a cigarette from a slender case. She introduces herself as “Trench, Sylvia Trench,” tells him she admires his luck and asks his name. His reply remains a catchphrase decades later. “Bond,” he says, his face finally revealed as he lights a cigarette. “James Bond.”

United Artists couldn’t wait to make more Bond movies, with ever more elaborate stunts and gadgets, along with more exotic locales and more prominent co-stars, among them Lotte Lenya and Jill St. John.

Connery continued as Bond in “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” “You Only Live Twice” and “Diamonds Are Forever,” often performing his own stunts.

“Diamonds Are Forever” came out in 1971 and by then Connery had grown weary of playing 007 and feared he wasn’t being taken seriously despite his dramatic performances in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” and Sidney Lumet’s “The Hill.”

“I’d been an actor since I was 25, but the image the press put out was that I just fell into this tuxedo and started mixing vodka martinis,” he once complained.

When he walked away at age 41, Hollywood insiders predicted Connery would soon be washed up. Who would hire a balding, middle-aged actor with a funny accent?

Connery fooled them all, playing a wide range of characters and proving equally adept at comedy, adventure or drama. And age only heightened the appeal of his dark stare and rugged brogue; he set a celebrity record of sorts when at age 59 he was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

He won the affection of fans of the “Indiana Jones” franchise when he played Indy’s father opposite Harrison Ford in the third picture, 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” He turned in a poignant portrayal of an aging Robin Hood opposite Audrey Hepburn in “Robin and Marian” in 1976 and, 15 years later, was King Richard to Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.”

He was the lovable English con man who joined Michael Caine in swindling tribal people everywhere in “The Man Who Would Be King” and the bold Russian submarine commander in “The Hunt for Red October.”

He delivered a charming performance as a reclusive writer who mentors a teenage prodigy in 2000’s “Finding Forrester.”

He won his Oscar for supporting actor in 1987 for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop who joins Elliot Ness’ crime-fighters in “The Untouchables.

By then he was at peace with James Bond, and when he arrived onstage at the Oscar ceremony he declared, “The name’s Connery. Sean Connery.”

He kept his promise not to play Bond again until 1983, when he was lured back by an offbeat script about a middle-aged 007. Based on the only Fleming story that hadn’t been nailed down by the film empire Broccoli and Saltzman created, Connery took the role and helped produce the film. The result was “Never Say Never Again,” a title suggested by his wife, Micheline Roquebrune.

Even as the 007 films made him a millionaire, Connery tried often to separate his own personality from that of Bond. “I’m obviously not Bond,” he once said. “And Bond is obviously not a human being. Fleming invented him after the war, when people were hungry for luxury, gourmet touches, exotic settings. Those were the things the English loved to read about following the privations of the war.”

The “real” Sean Connery had a troubled first marriage and a history of comments justifying domestic violence. In 1962, he married Diane Cilento, an actress best known for her role as Molly in “Tom Jones.” They had a son, Jason, who also became an actor, but the union proved tempestuous and ended in 1974.

Its impact lasted long after. Cilento would allege that he had physically abused her and Connery defended his behaviour in interviews. In 1965, he told Playboy magazine that he did not find “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 openhanded slap is justified — if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning.”

When Barbara Walter brought up those remarks in a 1987 interview, he said his opinion hadn’t changed because “sometimes women just won’t leave things alone.”

Connery was widely criticized, but still received numerous honours, including being chosen as commander (the same rank as Bond) of France’s Order of Arts and Literature and a Kennedy Center honoree in 1999. The following year Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed him a British knight.

In 2005 he was chosen for a lifetime achievement award by the American Film Institute. Thomas Sean Connery was born Aug. 25, 1930, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first of two sons of a long-distance truck driver and a domestic worker.

He left school at age 13 during World War II to help support his family.

“I was a milkman, labourer, steel bender, cement mixer— virtually anything,” he once said.

Weary of day labour, he joined the British navy and was medically discharged after three years. The ailment: stomach ulcers.

Back in Edinburgh, he lifted weights to build his body and compete in the Mr. Universe contest. He came in third, and briefly considered becoming a professional soccer player, but chose acting because he reasoned his career would last longer.

He got his first big break singing and dancing to “There is Nothing Like a Dame” in “South Pacific” on the London stage and in a road production before going on to act in repertory, television and B movies. He went to Hollywood for two early films, Disney’s “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and “Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure.”

When he decided to become an actor, he was told that Thomas Sean Connery wouldn’t fit on a theatre marquee so he dropped his first name.

Then came the audition that changed his life. American producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had bought the film rights to a string of post-World War II spy adventure novels by Fleming. Connery was not their first choice for “Dr. No.”

The producers had looked to Cary Grant, but decided they wanted an actor would commit to a series. The producers also realized they couldn’t afford a big-name star because United Artists had limited their film budget to $1 million a picture, so they started interviewing more obscure British performers.

Among them was the 6-foot-2 Connery. Without a screen test, Broccoli and Saltzman chose the actor, citing his “dark, cruel good looks,” a perfect match for the way Fleming described Bond. When Connery started earning big money, he established his base at a villa in Marbella on the Spanish coast.

He described it as “my sanitarium, where I recover from the madness of the film world.” It also helped him avoid the overwhelming income tax he would have paid had he remained a resident of Britain.

As his acting roles diminished when he reached his 70s, Connery spent much of his time at his tax-free home at Lynford Cay in the Bahamas. He played golf almost every morning, often with his wife. He announced in 2007 that he had retired when he turned down the chance to appear in another “Indiana Jones” movie.

“I thought long and hard about it, and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an `Indiana Jones’ film,” he said.

“But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

FILE - This Oct. 16, 1985 file photo shows actor Sean Connery on the set of "The Name of the Rose" in Rome, Italy. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - In this file photo dated Friday, Oct. 13, 2006, British actor Sean Connery arrives at Rome's Auditorium, to present his movie "The Bowler and the Bonnet", at the first ever edition of the Rome Film Festival. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement Saturday Oct. 31, 2020, from his family. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Just Posted

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Bihrl
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium, scientist says

Jeff Kneteman says Alberta Environment has known about the problem in bighorn sheep for years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

There aren’t any confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming, and the province only has 8,400 doses of it left

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Most Read