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Tartan titan: Happy 80th birthday, Sean Connery

August 25, 2010

Muscle beach: Sean Connery showing he’s still got it at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999

He’s consistently considered the best Bond, he’s clearly one of Britain’s greatest films stars and he’d be the only possible candidate to become (the latest) King of Scotland should his home country ever become independent… yes, today, my friends, the redoubtable, indefatigable, undeniable Sean Connery is 80 years young.

And, really, when you think about it, it’s no surprise this Scottish institution has reached that very milestone – he’s been an international insitution for longer than many of us have been alive. It was way back in 1962 when Connery debuted as 007 in Dr No, the opening adventure of the Eon film series, and, of course, he went on to make another five of them, From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967) and Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Bond put him on the map for sure, although he had something of a career before that role came along, taking lead duties (and singing) in Disney musical Darby O’Gill And The Little People (1961) and a supporting role (not singing) opposite Lana Turner in melodrama Another Time, Another Place (1958). Indeed, while making the latter film Turner’s gangster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato became jealous of Connery spending so much time with his much better half, so pointed a gun at him – his response was to grab the gun, twist Stompanto’s wrist and force him to flee. It wasn’t the first time the surly Scot’s anger and more violent side would surface. He would later publicly state that, in the right circumstances, he believed it acceptable to hit women and, since their marriage, his first wife has accused him of physical abuse. More Irn Bruiser than squeaky clean, you might say.

“Unlike many tattoos, his [Connery’s] were not frivolous – his tattoos reflect two of his lifelong commitments: his family and Scotland … One tattoo is a tribute to his parents and reads ‘Mum and Dad’, and the other is self explanatory, ‘Scotland Forever’.” ~ The Official Website Of Sir Sean Connery

Conners then has had a controversial time of it over the years and, by all accounts, didn’t particularly enjoy his time in Bondage. Becoming annoyed by the focus on gadgets and spectacle over more realistic espionage, he tired of making the spy films (mid-’60s ‘Bondmania’ and the intense media attention it brought him far from helped either). By the early ’70s, he had to be lured back with a paycheck of $1million (at that time, an enormous front-end deal for a film star) and contributions to his newly set-up Scottish education fund, in order to make his final appearance. He did however play 007 one more time in the ‘unofficial’ film, 1983’s Never Say Never Again. Like all the others, it too was a mega-hit.

Post-Bond, that wasn’t the only unusual choice he took in his career either. There was a cowboy opposite Bridget Bardo in Shalako (1968), an apocalyptic leader in Zardoz (1974), a space sheriff in Outland (1981), an Egyptian-cum-Spanish eternal warrior in Highlander (1986) and an Amazon-based doctor with a long ponytail in Medicine Man (1992).

Yet alongside the misses, there’s also been hits of real quality – he was directed by Hitchcock in Marnie (1964), directed by John Huston and starred opposite Michael Caine in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), won a BAFTA Award for his role as a monk detective in The Name Of The Rose (1986), played a Russian submarine captain in The Hunt For Red October (1990), romanced Audrey Hepburn in Robin And Marian (1976) and Michelle Pfeiffer in The Russia House (1990) and won every award under the sun (including an Oscar) for a bombastic, hard-hitting turn in Brian De Palma’s classy and stylish The Untouchables (1987). All that and, of course, he was sought out by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to play Indy’s dad (thanks to the logic that only James Bond could play that role) in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989).

Nowadays Connery is retired from acting – citing Hollywood is run by ‘idiots’ – and seems to spend much of his time backing Scottish nationalist projects and calling for the country’s independence from the UK. And, despite this political stance, like the man who replaced him as 007, he was knighted by the Queen herself in July 2000.

All in all then, not bad for a former milkman, lorry driver and coffin polisher from Edinburgh. Indeed, what with his career resurgence in the ’80s, he was even voted ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ at the age of 59 – and who would argue with that? What man would argue with all the world’s women, after all?

So, on this most distinguished of days in his life, let’s raise a glass of scotch to the man, the legend, the Scotsman forever, Sir Sean Connery. The man who would be king? Nah, more like the man who’s always been king.


The ten greatest Connery moments

(CLICK on the links!)

10.  Highlander (1986) ~ ‘Greetings’

9.  A Bridge Too Far (1977) ~ ‘Do you think they know something we don’t?’

8.  Robin and Marian (1976) ~ The showdown

7.  Time Bandits (1981) ~ ‘It’s evil!’

6.  Goldfinger (1964) ~ ‘Man talk’

5.  Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade (1989) ~ ‘I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne’

4.  The Man Who Would Be King (1975) ~ ‘Can you forgive me?’

3.  The Untouchables (1987) ~ ‘What are you prepared to do?’

2.  From Russia With Love (1963) ~ ‘Old man’

1.  Dr No (1962) ~ ‘Bond, James Bond’

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