Scottish actor Sean Connery, who first became a household name originating the film version of James Bond, has died. He was 90 years old. Connery died in his sleep surrounded by his family at his home in the Bahamas, per the Associated Press. His eldest son Jason Connery said his father had been “unwell for some time.”
“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,'” Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said in a statement to the AP. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also released a statement that the country was mourning the loss of its “best loved sons.”
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1930, Connery was an ardent supporter of Scottish independence over the course of his life and even had “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm when he was a teenager in the Royal Navy. As a young man, he worked several jobs, including as a lifeguard, a coffin polisher, a truck driver, and an artists’ model for the Edinburgh College of Art. He fell into acting after he began to supplement his income by helping with backstage tasks at the King’s Theatre in 1951, and wound up picking up understudy and supporting roles. He went on to earn 30 acting credits on TV and in film before appearing as James Bond in Dr. No, based on the novel by Ian Fleming.
Connery’s performance as the action star and sex icon launched him to stardom and cemented a career that lasted more than four decades. In all, he appeared in seven James Bond films as the suave super spy, building the foundation of a franchise that is still going strong in 2020. His first Bond film was Dr. No, based on the novel by Ian Fleming. It was screened by President John F. Kennedy before becoming a massive blockbuster hit. Among Connery’s other Bond titles are From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, You Only Love Twice, and Diamonds Are Forever. He handed the role over to Roger Moore to allow him to pursue other acting opportunities.
While some critics thought giving up Bond would mark the end of the Hollywood road for the then-middle aged Connery, he went on to enjoy an illustrious career with iconic roles in the Indiana Jones franchise, The Hunt for Red October, and Finding Forrester, earning more than 90 acting credits in his lifetime and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1988 for his role in Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables. Never forgetting his roots, Connery accepted the award by saying, “The name’s Connery, Sean Connery.”
The actor was made a commander (the same rank as Bond) of France’s Order of Arts and Literature and was a Kennedy Center honoree in 1999. A year later, Queen Elizabeth II knighted him for his contributions to film and theater. He officially retired from acting in 2007, having reached his 70s. He reportedly spent most mornings golfing near his Lynford Clay home in the Bahamas.
Though Connery is beloved for his stoic film presence and strong Scottish accent, he leaves behind a complicated legacy. The actor was accused of domestic abuse by his first wife Diane Cilento, whom he married in 1962. Three years after their union, Connery told Playboy magazine that he didn’t see “anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman — although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man. An openhanded slap is justified — if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning.” When questioned by Barbara Walters about the statement in 1987, he said his opinion had not changed because “sometimes women just won’t leave things alone,” according to the Associated Press. Connery and Cilento divorced in 1973.
Connery is survived by his second wife Micheline Roquebrune, brother Neil and sons Jason and Stefan. A private ceremony is being held to remember the actor, with a memorial service being planned for once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
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