There's a simple formula that has enabled Mr. Connery to appear in dozens of films as many different nationalities without once attempting to act.
Just The Facts
- Sir Thomas Sean Connery is an Academy Award-winning Scottish actor whose career spans over 50 years across every conceivable genre and style of filmaking, making him one of the best known actors ever.
- He is best known for his portrayal of secret agent James Bond, and is widely regarded as the best actor to ever take up the role.
- In addition to his role as Bond, Sir Sean has also starred in many popular movies including Marnie, The Hill, Murder on the Orient Express, The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Highlander, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Hunt for Red October.
- Won People's Sexiest Man Alive award at 59-years of age. Impressed? He also won Sexiest Man of the Century. We'll let that sink in for a moment.
Prior to becoming an actor, Thomas Connery was a milk-man, a member of the Royal Navy, a truck driver, a day laborer, an artist's model (a few years ago, a woman in Edinburgh discovered a nude oil painting of Connery in her attic), a coffin polisher and a body builder. It was only after taking third place in the Mister Universe pageant that producers at EON studios considered him for the lead role in their upcoming super spy film, Dr. No.
The first novel to feature James Bond was Casino Royale. However, while bankrupting a terrorist organization named "S.M.E.R.S.H." through a game of baccarat makes for an interesting read, it probably wouldn't have translated that well onto screen. Instead, producers Harry Saltzman & Albert R. Broccoli decided to adapt Dr. No to the big screen. In the novel, Dr. Julius No (formerly of the Chinese Trongs) is a mad scientist who was insulted when neither the Soviets nor the Americans were interested in seeking his services. In a rather childish act of revenge, he plots to sabotage a rocket launch out of Cape Canaveral. For the film, No was re-written to be an agent of the evil organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. instead, who would become the prominent villains for the first third of the series.
Bond creator Ian Fleming strongly disagreed with the decision to cast Connery. To him, the muscular 6'3" Scot looked more like an "overgrown stuntman." He much preferred Roger Moore because he, you know, was actually English. He also wanted his cousin, Christopher Lee, to play Dr. No. Lee was unfortunately busy fighting Van Helsing at the time (and he probably had some other movies lined up as well) and Canadian actor Joseph Wiseman was cast instead.
Despite having a relatively low budget, the film was a monstrous success, and back-to-back sequels were lined up. From Russia with Love had the KGB attempting to blackmail him over his affair with one of their agents, while a SPECTRE strongman (played by Captain Quint) plotted his assassination. Goldfinger saw the titular character, a former Nazi party member (played by an actual former Nazi party member), attempt to destroy Fort Knox with an atomic bomb, crippling the US economy and increasing the value of his own bullion 10-fold. In Thunderball, the technique of underwater filming was perfected, as Bond scuba-dived to recover two-stolen nuclear missiles from the #2 man at SPECTRE. For his grand finale, Bond proved You Only Live Twice by faking his death to infiltrate SPECTRE's headquarters, and confronting the mastermind behind it all, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Connery would eventually return to play Bond, first replacing the much younger George Lazenby in the painfully bad Diamonds Are Forever, and again ten years later in non-canon Never Say Never Again, which was basically a remake of Thunderball.
His most critically acclaimed post-Bond role was The Name of the Rose. But it's more of an art-house film, so instead we'll be moving on to something on the exact opposite end of the art film spectrum: Highlander.
Highlander is required viewing for 80s junkies. It is the story of the eternal conflict between a race of Immortals, who have been doing battle with (and decapitating) each other since the dawn of time. Connery acts as a mentor to the eponymous Scottish Highlander, Connor Macleod (played by French actor Christopher Lambert). Connery is an Egyptian Immortal named Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramires... Wait, what? The world's most famous Scot is playing an Egyptian... playing a Spaniard? If you say so.
The next year, he was starring in The Untouchables. Before Kevin Costner developed a "slight" ego (I.E. directing & casting himself in epic after epic), he was Elliot Ness, a T-Man (an agent of the Treasury Department) who was tasked and put together a team to break-up the massive police corruption in Prohibition-era Chicago, a city mostly controlled by Alphonse "Scarface" Capone, portrayed here by a pre-"I don't give a shit" Robert DeNiro. Connery plays Ness' partner, an Irish beat-cop. Anyone else starting to notice a pattern here? Connery won his first and only Oscar for his part.
Connery continued his new "mentor" trend by appearing in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as the father of (you guessed it) Indiana Jones. Unlike another Part III recently written George Lucas, Last Crusade gave devoted Indy fans the kind of ending they hoped for, and the legacy of their icon went down in history as untainted.
Yup... nothing bad ever came of Indiana Jones.
Connery continued his habit of winning critical acclaim, this time with The Hunt for Red October, as the Lithuanian Commander of a Soviet submarine (again, what's with playing different ethnicities?) It was around this time though that he got the offer to return for a sequel to Highlander. The end result of that decision is too insanely idiotic to waste time on.
Let's just skip ahead a few years, when Connery's greatness was reintroduced to a new generation. While Kevin Costner's portrayal of Robin Hood in The Prince of Thieves was met with mixed reviews (mostly critical), it was Professor Snape's over-the-top performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham that saved the film for most people. It was also memorable for its ending, which featured a surprise cameo by Connery as King Richard the Lionheart. This was a way of coming full-circle, as Connery had played the famous outlaw himself back in the 70s in a little known film called Robin & Marian.
Connery continued to lay low for a while, before jumping right back into superstardom with The Rock. Just in case you weren't entirely convinced how awesome Connery was, The Rock was an action film directed by Michael Bay. And it starred Nicolas Cage. Take some time to collect your thoughts. Sean Connery was able to pull off an action role despite the fact that he was: pushing 70; receiving instructions from a former music video director; and while carrying the biggest over-actor in the history of motion pictures. Bra-goddamn-vo.
Unfortunately, not all good things are to last. The Avengers was a superhero movie of no relation to the Marvel Comics team. It was actually based on an old British tv-series. Despite a strong supporting cast that included Uma Thurman and Ralphe "Voldemort" Fiennes, the film absolutely sucked. Entrapment was a decent film, but he had absolute no chemistry with his co-star, professional-old-guy-seducer Catherine Zeta-Jones. Connery's career was winding down, and he needed to go out on a high note.
That high note was Finding Forrester. Essentially an ethnic version of Good Will Hunting, Connery gave what was probably his best performance since The Name of the Rose. Unfortunately, within a year, all most people remembered about the film was a throwaway joke uttered by Connery, "You the man now, dog!", which in-turn inspired an alleged comedy site.
Even looking like this, more women would still rather fuck him than you.
In 2000, in keeping with J.K. Rowling's rule that only British actors be cast, director Chris Colbumus offered Connery the role of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In his own words, Connery didn't "get it" (the story) and turned them down. Good foresight, seeing as how the first two movies sucked worse than the Star Wars prequels, and number three wasn't too far off either. Instead, it was the late Richard Harris who had his 50-year career forever soiled. OK, so the movies weren't that great, but it would've been a pretty big pay-day. No point in kicking yourself, but it's not like such a big role come along every day. Right? Well...
At about that same time, Peter Jackson offered Connery the role of Gandalf for his upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy. Connery's contract would've granted him 15 percent of the total gross of each films. As with Harry Potter, Connery said he didn't "get" the story, and turned Jackson down. Aside from missing out on a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, that 15 percent of the total gross would've eventually raked in $400 million. Now, Mr. Connery, you can start kicking yourself.
Determined not to miss out again, Connery was willing to take whatever was offered him, regardless of whether or not he "got it." What he got (not really) was a three-picture deal in the lead role of legendary literary character Alan Quartermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The movie did indeed blow, but it was by no means his worst work. What finally did it in for Connery was director Stephen Norrington. Connery found Norrington's incompetence so frustrating that immediately after the film premiered, Connery vowed to never again do another movie. This is the asshole that ended James Bond's career:
Did I mention that he's getting ready to direct a remake of The Crow? Get him.
Connery has been a lifelong member of the Scottish National Party, and has been a very vocal supporter for his entire career. It's exactly what it sounds like: a political party in British Parliament that lobbies to gain independence for Scotland. Perhaps this has something to do with why Connery turned down the role of Edward Longshanks in Braveheart. Needless to say, this has made him some enemies. For decades, whenever his name was brought up as those worthy of Knighthood in the OBE (Order of the British Empire), the Labour Party would pull out all the stops to see that it didn't happen. It wasn't until 2000, when Queen Elizabeth herself personally said he was deserving of the honor. In 2003, Connery went into a self-imposed exile, saying that he would never return to his homeland until they had become their own country.
Let's face it: Saturday Night Live hasn't been funny since the mid-90s. The deaths of Chris Farley and Phil Hartman assured that it never would be again. But the one redeeming quality it had (aside from Tina Fey and those sexy librarian glasses) has been Celebrity Jeopardy. It was originally conceived as just an excuse for Norm MacDonald to do his Burt Reynolds impression. But after his unexpected firing, Will Ferrell (as Alex Trebek) was left without a comedic foil. To rectify this situation, newcomer Darrell Hammond became Sean Connery regularly. It soon became apparent that "Connery", unlike the other contestants (who were all portrayed as complete morons) was well aware of the situation, but chose to sow chaos purely for the sake of tormenting Trebek. For example, you wouldn't expect him to be a guest on the Rock & Roll Edition. Unless, of course, he was to release his own album...
Unlike Reynolds, who thought MacDonald was hilarious, Connery was not so amused.