The greatest escape Sean Connery ever performed was not one of the elaborate stunts James Bond needed to slip one of his murderous antagonists. Rather, it was his ability to shake off the powerful persona of 007 and build a distinguished and varied career into his sixties.
Arguably no other actor has been so strongly linked with a recurring character; and while the role of the dashing British spy brought Connery international fame and fortune, it also—for a time, at least—crippled his transition into playing other parts. Only later did Connery stretch his range and introduce a generation of movie fans (brought up, alas, on Roger Moore’s 007) to the singular pleasure that is watching Sean Connery up there on the Big Screen.
Thomas Sean Connery was born August 25, 1930, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ironically, this symbol of British sophistication grew out of the most humble origins; his father was a factory worker and his mother was a cleaning woman. Connery dropped out of school at 13 and dabbled in bodybuilding and modeling. He also served in the British Navy before he settled on acting. Connery performed with a traveling repertory company and knocked around the British TV and film industry during the 1950’s. He made a few undistinguished movies like No Road Back (1956) and Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959) while waiting for his big break. Finally, the producers of James Bond said “yes” to his movie star aspirations, casting him as 007 in Dr. No (1962).
In a sense Sean Connery created Bond. Connery’s Bond was suave yet strong, bemused yet brutish, ironic and iconic. For millions of moviegoers unfamiliar with the Ian Fleming books on which the character was based, Connery was Bond, period. Several sequels followed, including From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), all of which added to Connery’s fame. Albert Broccoli, the producer of the Bond series, had no interest in letting Connery extend his range. It was left to others, like Sidney Lumet who directed him in The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Alfred Hitchcock who put him in Marnie (1964), to tap into Connery’s reservoir of experience.
After Diamonds Are Forever, Connery took a 12-year hiatus from playing 007. Bond fans were disappointed, but Connery made star impressions with major movies like Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King (1975). He reprised Bond in Never Say Never Again (1983) but kept testing his range in Highlander (1986) and The Name of the Rose (1986). The huge critical and commercial success of The Untouchables (1987) made clear once and for all that Sean Connery was no one-trick pony, a declaration he followed up with wonderful turns in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and The Rock (1996). Connery then starred in and produced 1999’s Entrapment, in which he played opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones. And 2002 saw Connery at his unctuous, self-serious best in Finding Forrester, playing a reclusive author who mentors a gifted African-American teen writer.
2003 saw Connery’s last movie role with the lacklustre The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and then 2006 saw Connery announce his retirement from acting for good but he has done a couple of occasional voice-overs – one for an animation called Sir Billi and one for a video game based on Bond movie From Russia With Love.