October 31, 2020


Sad news was announced this morning that Sean Connery has passed away. Connery's journey as a working-class hero from Edinburgh began with an interest in the classics, acting, and bodybuilding. Stage musicals and small roles in film and TV by the mid-50s led to bigger projects and steps toward stardom. He appeared with David McCallum, Herbert Lom, Jill Ireland, William Hartnell, and Patrick McGoohan in Cy Endfield's Hell Drivers in 1957 and Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People in 1959. With wider exposure Connery eventually landed his career-making role as James Bond in Dr. No. Connery brought a sly wit, roguish charm, and animal magnetism to Fleming's "blunt instrument," cementing that winning cocktail of well-dressed adventure, sex, and humor. His was the face that literally launched a thousand (maybe 20,000) secret agents, when the Bond series sparked the 60s Spy Boom. He portrayed 007 in six films by the early 70s (plus a 7th film in 1983), but from the mid-60s he was keen as an actor to pursue other roles. Speaking of Burt Lancaster in 1987 to the New York Times, he said, "He was more ready to play less romantic parts, and was more experimental in his choice of roles. And that's the way I've tried to be. I've tried to be guided by what was different, what was refreshing, stimulating to me." Reading back through his credits is a strong reminder of the gravitas and star-power he borough to so many major films during the last forty years of the 20th Century. His movie projects included classics such as Marnie (1964), Zardoz (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Robin and Marion (1976), The Great Train Robbery (1978), Outland (1981), Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt For Red October (1990), Russia House (1990), Rising Sun (1993), The Avengers (1998), and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). He teamed with director Sydney Lumet on a number of films over the years, including The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). In 1981 Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, Brazil) created one of my own personal favorite films, Time Bandits. In his script Gilliam wrote, "The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature." As Connery told the Chicago Tribute in 1989, he appreciated the gesture and stepped in as a fan to make sure the movie got made. As a James Bond and Monty Python fan myself, I'll never forget how thrilling it was for me as a kid to see Connery's reveal as Agamemnon in Time Bandits. The actor's son, Jason Connery, said today that his dad hadn't been well for a while and that he died in his sleep last night in his home in Nassau, the Bahamas. 

Tributes have slowly come in through the morning. Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission Impossible) reminisced about Connery's nuanced performance in the iconic sequence in Goldfinger when the baddie had him stepped to a laser table: "This famous scene would’ve been nothing without Connery. Under the cool you see desperation, genuine fear, strategy, arrogance when his ploy works, ending with indignation when he sees he’s getting shot anyway. RIP Sean Connery." Current James Bond actor, Daniel Craig, said, "It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema." From Princess Bride star, Cary Elwis: "RIP Sean Connery... the only Bond. From Scotland with Love and a broken heart." Hugh Jackman: "I grew up idolizing Sean Connery. A legend on screen, and off." Monty Python and Q to Brosnan's Bond, John Cleese, wrote: "Saddened by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. A wonderful man who I had the pleasure of working with in Time Bandits. We crossed paths many times over the years. Such immense talent and a vibrant human. And the only one of us to find The Holy Grail." Ian Fleming Publications passed along this message from 007 producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli: "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.” It' been a sad October, as actress Margaret Nolan (Goldfinger, A Hard Days Night) also passed away. James Bond actor George Lazenby recently had these kind words on Connery's 90th birthday in August, which feel especially poignant today while we meditate on Connery's passing and, through his roles, the actor's lasting influence on the world as a cultural role model: "Happy 90th birthday to the all time greatest Bond - Sean Connery. Sean, for me, was always the man. I walked in his footsteps - I had to look and dress like Sean Connery - I went to his barber's and tailors. I had no fear when I went up for the role - he was the guy who inspired me to never hesitate. Another thing we have in common is that we're both family men, so best wishes to Lady Connery, your kids and grand kids and stay safe." I think George pinpointed the essential impact Connery's energy had on audiences. What Connery brought to Bond were those defining qualities we came to admire and associate with the character, and for many men, wished to emulate: confidence and panache. As we celebrate his gifts, we also send our deep condolences to Sean Connery's friends and family. Below: Bond promo, with Hitchcock, with 007 author Ian Fleming, Goldfinger, with Noel Coward, and Time Bandits

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