How Sean Connery Landed The Role That Started Everything.
By David Cohea, ReMIND Magazine
Sean Connery got his big break in 1961, although it didn’t look like it at the time.
Born Thomas Sean Connery to a factory worker and cleaning woman in Edinburgh, Scotland, he was a strapping lad at 6’2″. He served in the Royal Navy, but a hereditary duodenal ulcer led to a medical discharge at age 19. After that, Thomas — or Sean, as his friends called him — worked odd jobs as a driver, lifeguard, even an artist’s model. He took up bodybuilding, eventually becoming a contestant in the 1950 Mr. Universe contest. An avid footballer, he was scouted by Manchester United but decided to go into acting instead.
In 1953 Connery got a bit part in a London production of South Pacific, and at a cast party he met up with fellow actor Michael Caine. The two became friends, and Connery soon followed Caine’s lead into more serious dramatic roles. Starting at the Oxford Playhouse, he was soon getting bit parts in British TV shows and movies. His first major role was opposite Lana Turner in the British melodrama Another Time, Another Place (1958). During production, Turner’s gangster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato became suspicious that Connery was having an affair with Turner. One day Stompanato stormed on to the set with a gun to confront the two; Connery disarmed him and knocked him flat on his back.
About this time, Eon Productions was getting ready to cast for Dr. No, the first of the James Bond movies. Ian Fleming’s spy novels had been immensely popular through the ’50s and seemed just the thing for an action/adventure series.
Fleming worked closely with producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman to select the right man for the role. They had originally wanted to cast Cary Grant as Bond, but Grant would only commit to one film while the producers wanted someone who would be part of a series. A number of actors were considered, including David Niven, Patrick McGoohan and Roger Moore, but Connery won the final vote. He was still rough, however, and director Terence Young got to work educating the actor “in the ways of being dapper, witty and, above all, cool.”
It wasn’t until Fleming saw the premiere of Dr. No in October 1962 that he realized they had found the perfect man to play Bond.
Little did anyone know how far Sean Connery would go. After playing Bond in six more movies (many consider him the best Bond in the franchise’s now 60-year history), he would go on to plum roles in The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Highlander (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Rock (1996) and more.
As it turned out, 1961 was a very good year for Sean Connery, who passed at age 90 on Oct. 31, 2020, after a long career as one of Hollywood’s sexiest men.