Sean Connery, the Movies' First James Bond, Dead at 90
Sean Connery, the Oscar-winning actor iconic for his portrayal of super spy James Bond in seven films, died Saturday at 90.
The movie star's death was confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of his native Scotland, who tweeted, "I was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons. Sean was born into a working class Edinburgh family and through talent & sheer hard work, became an international film icon and one of the world's most accomplished actors. Sean will be remembered best as James Bond — the classic 007 — but his roles were many & varied... The world will miss him. My thoughts and condolences are with Micheline, their children and all the family. RIP Sir Sean Connery."
Connery's son Jason told the BBC that his dad had died in his sleep in the Bahamas, but that many of those closest to him were able to be by his side. He also confirmed his father had been in poor health, noting, "We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently, even though my dad has 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."
His publicist, Nancy Seltzer, confirmed there would be a small service, and that a larger memorial would be planned post-pandemic.
Bond series producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli tweeted, "We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. 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' — he revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”
Many celebrities chimed in on Connery's passing, including Hugh Jackman, who tweeted, "I grew up idolizing #SeanConnery. A legend on screen, and off. Rest In Peace."
Born into poverty as Thomas Sean Connery on August 25, 1930, Connery worked from age 9, becoming a milkman at 13. His hardscrabble life informed his adulthood, leading to a self-admitted temper (he infamously told Barbara Walters he was in favor of slapping women during arguments), but also left him with a sense of gratitude for small pleasures and a generosity toward those in need. He famously gave his million-dollar salary from one of his films to the Scottish International Education Trust, established to help the children of his countrymen get a proper education.
Connery — #24 — in 1950
Post-WWII, at just 16, Connery joined the Royal Navy, but was discharged over an ulcer three years later. He worked polishing furniture — including coffins — and posed nude as an artist's model, a vocation that came naturally to the amateur bodybuilder. His physique led him to enter the Mr. Universe contest, where in 1953 he caught wind of a touring company of "South Pacific" that was looking for handsome members of the chorus.
After a year with the show, and an intensive study of theater, he began making small, sometimes uncredited movie and TV appearances, building to his breakthrough as Mountain McClintock on a "BBC Sunday-Night Theatre" production of "Requiem for a Heavyweight," a part he inherited at the last minute from Jack Palance.
Connery appeared in a series of undistinguished films, landed high-profile work with Disney in "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959), tackled the title role in a TV version of "Macbeth" (1961), and appeared as a no-name in the star-studded "The Longest Day" (1962).
The serious-minded actor became an overnight sex symbol and cinema icon with his performance as James Bond in "Dr. No" (1962). He played the caddish, laddish Agent 007 five more times in the official series, in "From Russia with Love" (1963), "Goldfinger" (1964), "Thunderball" (1965), "You Only Live Twice" (1967), and "Diamonds Are Forever" (1971), and — after a long absence — one more time, in the unofficial entry "Never Say Never Again" (1983). He candidly admitted doing the latter for the money.
Between and after Bond films, Connery demonstrated that his skill as a film actor was not confined to looking good in a tux, logging sometimes classic performances in such films as Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1964), "The Hill" (1965), "The Molly Maguires" (1970), "The Anderson Tapes" (1971), the original film adaptation of "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974), "The Man Who Would Be King" (1975), "The Great Train Robbery" (1978), "Outland" (1981), "Time Bandits" (1981), "Highlander" (1986), "The Name of the Rose" (1986), "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989), "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "The Russia House" (1990), "The Rock" (1996), and "Finding Forrester" (2000).
Connery snagged the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for "The Untouchables" (1987) which, like so many of his films, was a monster hit at the box office. It was his only Oscar nomination.
After a bad experience filming "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" (2003) — he grumbled in 2005 about "idiots now making films in Hollywood" — Connery announced that he probably would not act again. Aside from appearing in the docudrama "Freedom: A History of the U.S." (2003) and some voice acting, including for "Sir Billi" (2012), his final performance of any kind, his prediction came true.
Among his many honors, Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000.
Connery celebrating his 89th in 2019 with son Jason and Jason's partner, Fiona Ufton
Roger Moore, who replaced Connery in the Bond series, died at 89 in 2017. His family tweeted of Connery's passing, "How infinitely sad to hear the news Sir Sean Connery has passed away. He and Roger were friends for many decades and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP."
Earlier this year, "Goldfinger" actresses Honor Blackman and Margaret Nolan both died.
Connery was married to the late, Oscar-nominated Australian actress Diane Cilento from 1962-1973, and is survived by his wife Micheline, to whom he had been married since 1975. He is also survived by his son Jason, his stepson Stephane, and his brother.
One of the most fitting tributes to the late actor came from current James Bond Daniel Craig, who said in a statement, "It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema. Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster. He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”