The first James Bond: Sean Connery celebrates his 85th birthday

Deutsche Welle
6 Min Read

He was James Bond and the “sexiest man alive,” and was knighted by the Queen. Sean Connery was a heartthrob – but also celebrated for the depth of character he brought to roles. Happy 85th birthday, Sir Sean.
To be named the “sexiest man alive” at the age of 59 is quite an achievement. When “People Magazine” proclaimed Sean Connery a sex symbol in 1989, his career was already tapering down. As James Bond, the Scotsman had become a living legend – but by playing more formidable roles as well, he’d also gained the respect of serious film critics and won an Oscar, while presenting himself in public as an engaged citizen.

The perfect (sometimes nude) gentleman

Only few male actors can maintain their heartthrob status at 60 – but Connery has always looked good for his age and certainly deserves the attention. As the years pass, his charisma seems to grow: with his silver hair, healthy tan, and muscular stature, he’s well equipped to charm the ladies.

Sean Connery’s stardom, however, did not fall into his lap. That was not to be expected right from the start. Born into humble means in Edinburgh on August 25,1930 he made ends meet with odd jobs after leaving school at an early age.

Back then, he was athletic and got involved in bodybuilding. Connery even won a Scottish bodybuilding championship and got a job as a nude model at an art academy.

Taking off with James Bond

Both the theater and film world took notice of the athletic beau. Starting in the mid-1950s, he took roles as a supporting actor, but with rather limited success. It wasn’t until two Hollywood producers were looking for an actor for a new spy movie after others had rejected the offer, that the young Connery took a chance, auditioned for the role – and was cast in what would become the part of his life.

The first Bond film, “Dr. No,” became a box office hit in 1962. Connery proved to be the ideal choice for the role of the British secret service agent.

Numerous sequels followed, turning Connery into an international star. But to him, even that just wasn’t good enough – and he also claimed to be underpaid. After the fifth Bond film, there was a break. The actor began to seek out other genres, and ended up playing some very demanding roles.

A first (and better paid) comeback as Bond followed in 1971 with “Diamonds Are Forever” – but he donated his record salary of over $1 million to a Scottish educational charity he co-founded. And 12 years later, he could be persuaded once again to play Bond in “Never Say Never Again,” which became a huge success – and was his final farewell to the role. Today, he’s still often lauded as the best Bond of all time.

Oscar for ‘The Untouchables’

In the meantime, Connery was establishing himself as a serious actor – with varying degrees of commercial success. He gave some remarkable performances in “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), “The Name of the Rose” (1986) and “The Untouchables” (1987), for which he received his only Oscar.

In between, often in supporting roles, he helped make big Hollywood blockbusters even more successful. Movies like “Highlander” (1985), “Indiana Jones” (1989) or “Robin Hood” (1991) hugely benefited from his middle-aged charm.

In the 1990s, Sean Connery performed in a few less notable films, but by then he had already developed other interests. When he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2000, the Scottish patriot was clad in a kilt during the ceremony. He was honored by his hometown Edinburgh with the Freedom of City award a decade ago, which he considered to be more important than knighthood.

The actor had always been a vocal support of independence for his native Scotland, and he established a foundation to benefit talented young Scots.

The pleasures of retirement

Sean Connery has been married to Moroccan-French artist Micheline Roquebrune for the past 40 years and has a son from his first marriage. The couple owns several homes in Scotland, as well as in Spain and in the Bahamas. By now, Connery has stopped making public appearances. He is said to spend most of his time in the Bahamas, where he pursues another hobby: golf.

The actor has long withdrawn from show business. Despite rumors that he might play in yet another “Indiana Jones” sequel, his performance in “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (2003) is likely to remain his last one. Not a bad title for a last movie – as Sean Connery has proven for decades to be a true gentleman both on and off screen.

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