Scottish movie legend Sean Connery, who shot to international stardom as the suave and perhaps the most definitive (and original) James Bond in the history of the iconic spy series on screen, has died at the age of 90, his family said on Saturday.
The Edinburgh-born Connery, who went on to grace the silver screen for four decades, died “peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by family”, spokesperson Nancy Seltzer said.
Connery will be remembered first as British agent 007, the character created by novelist Ian Fleming and immortalised by Connery in films starting with Dr. No in 1962.
His oft-cited dialogue, “Bond, James Bond,” defined his portrayal of the British spy, widely considered the best among other actors who went on to play the role.
“He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in megawatts; he helped create the modern blockbuster … Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course,” wrote actor Daniel Craig, who presently plays James Bond, referring to Connery’s love for golf.
While he fit into the role of the sophisticated British agent with ease, Connery’s early life wasn’t luxurious.
Born Thomas Sean Connery on August 25, 1930, he was the son of a factory worker and a domestic cleaner. He polished coffins, delivered milk and briefly joined the Royal Navy before his bodybuilding hobby helped launch an acting career that made him one of the world’s biggest stars.
He worked as a model at the Edinburgh College of Art, briefly even played for British football club Manchester United, but driven by the acting bug, took to the stage. He was noticed while participating in the 1953 Mr Universe competition. One of his first appearances was as an extra in the 1954 film, Lilacs in the Spring, before he got his first lead role in Blood Money (1954). Then James Bond struck, and Connery was selected to play the lead in Dr No in 1962. He appeared in six other Bond films: From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Never Say Never Again (1983).
But Connery was unhappy being defined by the role and once said he “hated that damned James Bond”.
Connery played a series of noteworthy roles besides Bond and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop in The Untouchables (1987).
His other notable films include The Hunt for Red October, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Rock.
Connery was an ardent supporter of Scotland’s independence and had the words “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm while serving in the Royal Navy. When he was knighted by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth in 2000 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, he wore full Scottish dress including the green-and-black plaid kilt of his mother’s MacLeod clan. “Sean was a global legend but, first and foremost, he was a patriotic and proud Scot,” Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon said.
His influence also helped shape the character in the books as well as the films. He never attempted to disguise his Scottish accent, leading Fleming to give Bond Scottish heritage in the books that were released after Connery’s debut.
Connery was married twice; first to Australian actress Diane Cilento, and then to Moroccan-French painter Micheline Roqubrune.
(With inputs from Reuters)