What a shitty year for James Bond fans eh? Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Michael Lonsdale and now Sean Connery. For the last few days, I’ve struggled with trying to write something in way to pay respects to the great Sean Connery. I’ve sat here, just staring at a blank white screen and a blinking cursor for about an hour or so, no idea what to say now that Connery has sadly passed away. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about, just that, I already pretty much said it all back in August for his birthday. The man was an acting legend and one I’ve toughly enjoyed watching over the years. In my eyes, he deserves a memorandum write-up from me, just as I have done with others I admire and we’ve lost. But as I said, I’ve already pretty much covered his career for his birthday.
I suppose I could just be lazy and repost my article, give it a little update. But no, Sean Connery deserves better than that.
Every other article you’ve read about Connery, now that he’s gone, would probably prominently be about James Bond, it’s the character he was best known for and a character that has stood the test of time. He was the first to play James Bond don’t you know? Well technically, he was the third, but let’s not split hairs. But, he was so much more than one character, Sean Connery had a very lengthy career where he played numerous characters. That’s when it hit me, I could write a Sean Connery article that doesn’t mention Bond (except for this intro) So, no James Bond from this point on, but a look at other characters Mr Connery has played over the years instead. In no particular order… except for the first and then saving the best for last, here’s some of my favourite Sean Connery performances that aren’t that famous British spy.
I had to pick this one to start, I just had to. Just look at that for a striking image of a man! John Boorman’s Zardoz from 1974 is a sci-fi film that is very…. ‘interesting’. The film is set in 2293 and is about how the human race are split into two groups. Immortal ‘Eternals’ and the mortal ‘Brutals’. Connery plays Zed, a Brutal Exterminator, these Brutal Exterminators are ordered by a huge stone head called Zardoz to hunt, terrorise and kill other Brutals.
Look, the film makes no sense and was ravaged by critics at the time. It had a convoluted plot and connects to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that I really can’t be bothered to get into here. It’s a really stupid film, but one that has gone on to gain cult status among film fans. Plus, it had given us one hell of a great image of Sean Connery to remember him by too.
“Brain emissions refract low wavelength laser light, passing through the crystal in the brain. They’re a code sent to you for interpretation and storage. Yes or no?”
Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez
Or just Ramírez to his friends. Oh how I love the 1986 flick, Highlander. You got Christopher Lambert, an American born actor, raised in France, playing a Scottish 16th century warrior. Then you have the very Scottish Sean Connery, playing an Egyptian from Spain. That’s some brilliant casting. Highlander tells the story if a secret war among immortals, who are destined to battle each other to the death until only one remains. But just how do you kill an immortal? Well, you cut their head of of course. Seriously, Highlander makes no sense… but it’s glorious.
Though I grew up watching certain famous spy movies as a kid which starred Sean Connery, this was the film that really made me a fan of his work. Just hearing that unmistakable Scottish brogue as the voice of a character who is an Egyptian from Spain (?) always made me chuckle. I love that, even though Connery was a truly amazing actor, he just never bothered to chance his voice. But his voice was almost like his trademark, hearing Sean Connery not sounding like Sean Connery just wouldn’t work. Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez is a perfect example of this.
“You have the manners of a goat and you smell like a dung-heap. And you’ve no knowledge whatsoever of your potential.”
– Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez
Henry Jones, Sr.
It was my older bother who took me to the cinema back in 1989 to watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. By then, I was a huge Indy fan as well as being an admirer of Sean Connery too. So to have the two meet and for me to watch them on the big screen was a pure joy. When the end credits rolled and as Henry Jones and his son rode off into the sunset, I had a huge smile on my face. The perfect end to a great trilogy (as it was then).
Despite there only being a twelve year gap between Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones and Sean Connery as his father, the duo and chemistry between the two worked. They bounced of each other perfectly and created a very memorable double act that felt like a genuine father and son. Henry Jones, Sr was more than capable of keeping up with his adventurous son, in more ways than one… just ask Elsa.
“It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them!”
– Henry Jones, Sr.
Michael Caine and Sean Connery were very close friends, it really is a shame these two titans of the big screen never did more films together. In fact, they only ever did one, 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King, based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1888 novella of the same name. In it Connery plays Daniel Dravot, a British Army soldier who, along with Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) got to Kāfiristān (modern-day Afghanistan) to forcibly take over as rulers.
The Man Who Would Be King is one of those great classics with both Michael Caine and Sean Connery on tip-top form. It is when Connery’s Daniel Dravot is mistaken for a God when things really get underway here. Both Sirs, Caine and Connery put in amazing performances, you can really tell how close they were as friends as their real life chemistry is right there on the screen. In fact both Michael Caine and Sean Connery went on record as saying that working on The Man Who Would Be King was the best experience of their careers.
“Now listen to me you benighted muckers. We’re going to teach you soldiering. The world’s noblest profession. When we’re done with you, you’ll be able to slaughter your enemies like civilized men.”
– Daniel Dravot
Sean Connery was so damn amazing that he really could play anything, even a dragon! DragonHeart from 1996 saw Connery provide the voice for the last dragon in the world, Draco who teams up with a dragon hunter to take down a tyrannical leader. The twist is that some years before Draco saved this naughty leader when he was a child by giving him half of his heart.
Just as with any of his previous roles, Connery never changed his voice. So we have a very Scottish dragon in this fantasy action-adventure film, but it works. That was the beauty and majesty of Sean Connery’s voice, it just worked. From conveying anger, resentment to more lighter jokey lines, Connery really helped to bring this dragon to life. I mean, you don’t hire Sean Connery for voice work if you don’t want that iconic voice do you?
“You should never listen to minstrels’ fancies. A dragon would never hurt a soul, unless they tried to hurt him first.”
Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits is one of those film you either ‘get’ or don’t. A surreal, very Gilliam-esque, time jumping fantasy adventure film. It is when the film’s main character Keven, finds himself in Mycenaean Greece when he crosses paths with King Agamemnon, played by Connery. This really is just an extended cameo and Connery is first hidden behind a helmet to reveal the surprise.
In fact, Terry Gilliam wrote in the script that King Agamemnon takes of his helmet ‘revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature’. Gilliam wanting someone as iconic as Connery, but knowing that having the man himself play the role would be almost impossible due to budget constraints. But the script for the film made its way into Connery’s hands and he loved it, the next thing Gilliam knew, Connery’s agent was on the phone saying how much he wanted to play the part. It really is a joyous performance and you can tell Sean Connery was having a lot of fun with it. A role he was in for the pleasure of acting over the money he was being paid.
“Well… You’re certainly a chatty little fellow, aren’t you?”
– King Agamemnon
John Patrick Mason
He actually looks good with long hair eh? At this point, Connery was in his mid-sixties when he starred in the all action romp, The Rock from 1996. Playing John Mason, ex-SAS, all round bad-ass and the only man to have ever escaped Alcatraz Island. A bunch of of rogue U.S. Force Recon Marines take control of Alcatraz, holding tourists as prisoners and threatening San Francisco with missiles armed with toxic VX gas. Mason is forced to team up with the FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist to stop them.
I love this film, it’s just a great slice of action nonsense. It really is Sean Connery’s performance as the ageing John Mason that lifts this above just being another bog-standard action film. His chemistry with Nicolas Cage as FBI agent, Stanley Goodspeed really works. Connery almost becomes mentor-like to the inexperienced and nervous Cage, both on and off screen.
“I’ve been in jail longer than Nelson Mandela, so maybe you want me to run for President?”
– John Patrick Mason
Captain Marko Ramius
The Hunt for Red October from 1990 is one of Connery’s most talked about roles… mainly for the fact he still used his thick Scottish accent to play a Russian submarine Captain. Set in 1984, Marko Ramius takes command of nuclear missile armed submarine, Red October. Making the sub seemingly ‘disappear’, the U.S. believe that Ramius is planning a renegade nuclear strike on U.S. soil. However, he actually wants to defect.
I’ve not seen this is a long time, yet I always remember it as being a pretty damn good thriller. Based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name and the first film appearance of the character, Jack Ryan. But it is Sean Connery’s Captain Marko Ramius that makes this film what it is, a tense and taught thriller about a submarine.
“Once more, we play our dangerous game, a game of chess against our old adversary, The American Navy. For forty years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well. But today the game is different. We have the advantage.”
– Captain Marko Ramius
This really is the big one. You see that main image for this article at the top, the one with Sean Connery lifting his first ever Oscar? Well, this is why he won it. That picture was taken at the 1988 Academy Awards, at that point Connery was a screen legend, already acting in movies for almost thirty-five years, yet that was his first and only Oscar win. It was this role as tough Irish cop (with a Scottish accent) Jim Malone in 1987’s The Untouchables that landed Connery that Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
A fantastic cast, a wonderful story, with some beautiful directing from Brian De Palma makes this one hell of a great flick. Yet, for me, it was Connery playing the straight-talking, no bullshit taking Jim Malone that really makes this worth watching again and again.
“You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”
– Jim Malone
So that’s it, just a few choice picks from Sean Connery’s illustrious acting career of some of my favourite characters. From silly sci-fi to gritty thrillers, Sean Connery was a true screen legend. The world is a slightly less enjoyable place without him.
“I have always hated that damn James Bond. I’d like to kill him.”
– Sean Connery