Legendary Actor, Sean Connery With James Bond As Stage Name Passes On At 90

LAGOS OCTOBER 31ST (NEWSRANGERS)-Actor Sean Connery, the big screen’s first and most revered James Bond, has died, his family said Saturday. He was 90 years old.

Connery died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the Bahamas, having been “unwell for some time,” his son told the BBC.

“A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor,” said Jason Connery.

Best known for his seven turns as Bond, beginning with 1962’s “Dr. No,” the Scottish-born Connery freed himself from the debonair typecast to play myriad other roles besides agent 007. His decades-long career filled with accolades, including an Oscar, two BAFTA awards and People magazine’s “Sexiest Man of the Century” in 1999.

Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were “devastated” by the news,  and that it was Connery’s “gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent” was largely responsible for the success of the series.

“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,’” they said in a statement Saturday.

Daniel Craig, the current Bond, said Connery “defined an era and a style” and that the “wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts.”

Thomas Sean Connery was born of Irish ancestry in the slums of Edinburgh, Scotland, on Aug. 25, 1930. The son of a cleaning woman and a factory worker, Connery left school at 14 to work as an unskilled laborer. He was drafted into the Royal Navy at age 17, but he was discharged three years later due to a serious case of ulcers. He returned to Edinburgh and worked odd jobs, including as a lifeguard. He took up bodybuilding and placed third in the 1950 Mr. Universe competition.

A few years later, he moved to London and started acting, landing his first role in the chorus of a London production of “South Pacific.”

In 1956, he landed the role of a battered prizefighter in the BBC production of “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” earning him positive reviews and the attention of the wider industry. His first film was “No Road Back,” a B-movie crime yarn in 1956. He played opposite Lana Turner in “Another Time, Another Place,” and landed a several roles that stressed his looks, such as “Tarzan’s Great Adventure” in 1959.

His turn as Count Vronsky to Claire Bloom’s Anna Karenina on the BBC helped raise him to the top of a newspaper poll of readers asked to suggest the ideal James Bond.

He landed the role without a screen test, after an interview with producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, according to Variety. It was a controversial choice at the time, as Connery was an unknown outside Britain.

His effortless delivery of the character’s signature, seminal line: “Bond, James Bond,” propelled him to international stardom.

His stature grew alongside the popularity of the series, and he reprised the role in “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball,” over the next four years. He also donned the tuxedo for “You Only Live Twice” in 1967, and “Diamonds are Forever” in 1971, and returned to the role in “Never Say Never Again,” in 1983.

His star power cemented, Connery began to earn rich rewards for his roles. Though he was paid only $30,000 for “Dr. No,” by 1964, he received $400,000 for his role as a wealthy widower in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie,” and was soon getting $750,000 a film. By the 1980s, his price tag was regularly over $5 million a role.

Connery told the U.K. Daily Record in August 2010, as he turned 80, that “From Russia With Love” was his favorite Bond movie. “The story was intriguing, and the locations were intriguing,” he said. “It was an international movie in every sense of the word.”

He broke away from Bond for myriad other films, from a soldier-turned adventurer in John Huston’s “The Man Who Would Be King,” in 1975 to a defecting Russian submarine captain in the 1990 Tom Clancy thriller, “The Hunt for Red October.” Other hits included “Murder on the Orient Express,” in 1974, “Highlander” in 1986 and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” in 1989.

Connery earned a best supporting actor Oscar as a tough Irish cop in Depression-era Chicago in Brian De Palma’s 1987 “The Untouchables.” Though he had once complained about his association with James Bond, by this time, he was at peace with the role, turning to the mic when he arrived onstage to collect his award, and saying: “The name’s Connery. Sean Connery.”

He last screen appearance was in 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

Connery was devoted to his native Scotland, and got a tattoo after joining the Navy that said “Scotland Forever.” He used his stature to press for the re-establishment of a Scottish parliament. When the body reconvened in 1999, 296 years after its last meeting, Connery was invited to address the first session, where he was greeted with a thunderous ovation. His autobiography, “Being a Scot,” was published in 2008.

“Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons.,” Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted Saturday.

“Sean was a lifelong advocate of an independent Scotland and those of us who share that belief owe him a great debt of gratitude.”

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000, an honor he called “one of the proudest days of my life,” and asked that the investiture be performed at Holyrood Palace Edinburgh.

Other awards over his career, included the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999 and the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award in 2006, when he announced his retirement.

After retiring to the Bahamas, he spent much of his time golfing.

Craig, whose latest Bond film “No Time To Die” has been delayed into next year because of the coronavirus pandemic said Connery will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.

“Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course,” Craig said.

Connery was married to actress Diane Cilento from 1962-73. The couple divorced in 1973 and Cilento died in 2011.

Connery is survived by his second wife, painter Micheline Roquebrune, whom he married in 1975; his son by Cilento, actor Jason Connery; his brother, Neil and a grandson.

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