Tag Archives: Sean Connery

Sean Connery At Ninety

Ninety years ago today on the 25th August, 1930, Thomas Sean Connery was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. The world didn’t know it then, but it had just been introduced to one of the finest actors to ever grace the screen.

Growing up in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Thomas (as he was known then) was the son of cleaning woman, Euphemia McBain McLean and truck driver, Joseph Connery. While named Thomas, his friends began to use his middle name of Sean and it just stuck from that point on. At the age of sixteen, Sean signed up to join the Royal Navy in 1946. He trained at the naval gunnery school in Portsmouth in the anti-aircraft crew. He was discharged from service aged nineteen due to a duodenal ulcer condition that affected most of the males in his family at that point. After which, Sean held down several jobs including being a milkman, lorry driver, lifeguard at a swimming baths, a coffin polisher he even did a bit of modelling. He turned to bodybuilding and entered the Mr. Universe contest (some sources say 1950, others say 1954) where he placed third.

SEAN CONNERY BODY BUILDING

A keen football fan and player, Sean Connery was offered a chance to play for Manchester United by then manager, Matt Busby. He turned the offer down realising that he was, perhaps, a bit to old to become a professional footballer. So as Sean didn’t see it as a sensible long term career move. Instead, he thought about becoming an actor.

“I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of thirty, and I was already twenty-three. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.”

– Sean Connery

Sean found himself a job working behind the scenes at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh around 1951 and he landed his first acting roll in a production of the musical South Pacific. It was a very minor role, but as the production continued, Sean got promoted through various rolls to become one of the leads. In 1954, Sean met and became close friends with Michael Caine at a party for the South Pacific production. From then on, he began to rub shoulders with the likes of Hollywood actress Shelley Winters and also landed a few minor roles in films. 1957’s No Road Back is the first major film Sean Connery had a role in, it was a small part playing a gangster with a speech impediment, but it was enough to get him noticed. By the late fifties, he started to appear in TV and films more and more, including a lead role in the Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People from 1959.

SEAN CONNERY DR NO

Of course, the sixties were where Sean Connery would really get noticed as in 1962, he became James Bond in Dr. No and would go on to become the often most voted favourite James Bond actor. His casting as James Bond catapulted Sean into Hollywood stardom. Originally though, James Bond creator, Ian Fleming really didn’t like Sean Connery for the role.

“He’s not what I envisioned of James Bond looks. I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man.”

– Ian Fleming

Yet, after Dr. No became such a big hit and after seeing Sean Connery’s performance,  Ian Fleming was so impressed that he even included some of Sean’s heritage into the James Bond character. In his 1964 novel You Only Live Twice, Ian decided to make James Bond’s father Scottish so the character fit more into Sean’s obvious Scottish roots. Despite the character making him so famous and starring in the first five James Bond films from 1962 – 1971, Sean began to tire of the character and worried he would become typecast.

“If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, “Look, there’s James Bond.” That was particularly upsetting to him.”

– Michael Caine

While still playing James Bond, Sean landed several other big movie rolls, including working with the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock in 1964’s Marnie. In 1975, he starred alongside his longtime friend, Michael Caine in The Man Who Would Be King. A film both actors say was the most fun and one of the best film-making experiences that they ever had. After James Bond and through the seventies, Sean’s career grew and grew, landing rolls in Robin and Marian, Murder on the Orient Express and A Bridge Too Far to name a few. By the eighties, he career showed no signs of slowing down either.

SEAN CONNERY TIME BANDITS

The Terry Gilliam classic, Time Bandits saw Sean Connery play Agamemnon, in what was essentially a joke role, but one that stands out in an already brilliant film. Then in 1983, Sean did something he swore he would never do… he returned as James Bond, the role he grew tired with. Playing James Bond in the not actually official Never Say Never Again, which is really a remake of the previous James Bond film, Thunderball (it’s a slightly confusing story). The title of the film is actually a reference to Sean saying that he would never play the James Bond character again. Also, people incorrectly state that Never Say Never Again was the last time he played the famous character. It was the last time he played him on screen yes, but in 2005, a video game version of From Russia with Love was made by Electronic Arts called, Bond 007: From Russia with Love and Sean Connery recorded all new dialogue as James Bond and allowed the use of his likeness too. So if the trivia question ever comes up asking when the last time Sean Connery played James Bond, the answer isn’t Never Say Never Again as most people think.

The eighties also saw Sean Connery star in two of my favourite films. First up, there is the head chopping, awesome Queen sountracked, time jumping masterpiece that is Highlander. Here, Sean played Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, a Spanish (he’s not Spanish, he’s Egyptian) immortal, sword wielding mentor and friend to Christopher Lambert’s, Connor MacLeod, a French man (born in America) playing someone form Scotland. Yeah, the casting of this flick really does make the head hurt. Anyway, I love Highlander, so much so that I did a retrospective of the movie franchise a while back.

SEAN CONNERY UNTOUCHABLES

That other film I love so much was Brian De Palma’s brilliant take on the famed The Untouchables. Telling the story of Eliot Ness and his team of ‘untouchable’ police officers trying to bring Al Capone to justice during the prohibition era of America. Here, Sean Connery played straight talking, no nonsense beat cop,  Jimmy Malone, the Irish cop with a thick Scottish accent. Oh how I love this film and Sean Connery in it, a role he won an Oscar for, very much deserved too. This could be my all time favourite Sean Connery performance. He was pushing fifty-seven years-old too, an age where most Hollywood actors were taking it easy and winding down. But not for Sean, he was playing hard edged rolls and even got involved in the action. Well, he was an incredibly fit and active man, even in his twilight years. The Untouchables is a great mobster flick  told from the perspective of those trying to keep the mobsters under control. A movie full of great, memorable scenes and dialogue.

“You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way! And that’s how you get Capone.”

– Jimmy Malone

After his Oscar win for The Untouchables, Sean found himself very much in demand and he ended the eighties with easily one of the greatest pairings of action heroes ever.

SEAN CONNERY INDY

George Lucas has gone on record as saying that the Indiana Jones character was very much inspired by James Bond. He and Steven Spielberg wanted Indy to be the James Bond of the 1930s. So who better to play the father of the man inspired by James Bond other than James Bond himself? Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, released in 1989 teamed up Harrison Ford and Sean Connery for, what was then, the final in the Indiana Jones trilogy. The camaraderie between the two actors is amazing and Sean, despite being just shy of sixty, got involved with the action again.

In 1990’s The Hunt For Red October (a film Sean was quickly drafted in to do with only two weeks notice), he played a Russian submarine commander, Marko Ramius… with a Scottish accent.

Okay, so right here, I want to address the elephant in the room. Sean Connery was a fantastic actor, he could play anything. But yes, his accent let him down as no matter what role he played, he had that accent. Egyptian immortal, Scottish accent. Irish cop, Scottish accent. Russian submarine commander, Scottish accent. But you know what? I just don’t care. Sean’s voice, his accent was so iconic that it didn’t matter that it never changed. That dragging of the ‘S’ and the ‘sshhh’ sound was his trademark. That thick Scottish brogue was poetry to my ears. I really did not care that Sean’s accent hardly changed, if ever, from character to character. I didn’t care because Sean Connery was just so damn engrossing to watch. He could read the phone-book out loud and it would be entertaining.

SEAN CONNERY DRACO

You want to know how great Sean’s voice was? He could play a dragon and still be convincing, that’s how great. In 1996, Sean voiced Draco the dragon in the fantasy flick, Dragonheart. Featuring a still impressive looking CGI dragon, Sean made the character utterly charming and lovable… for a dragon. Also from 1996 was the bombastic The Rock were Sean played John Patrick Mason, ex-SAS captain and the only man to have ever escaped the famed Alcatraz island prison. Teaming up with Nicolas Cage’s FBI Special Agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, the two have to break into Alcatraz when it’s taken over by a group of marines turned rouge. Again, this is an action film with Sean Connery when he should’ve been taking it easy, he was sixty-five at the time. 

In the latter nineties, Sean did start to take it easier. He appeared in fewer films, despite the fact he was still massively popular. He played the main villain in the film adaption of the classic TV show, The Avengers. Bowler hat John Steed The Avengers, not Captain America The Avengers. Though I do think that having a seventy year-old Sean Connery play all-American superhero, Captain America with a Scottish accent would’ve been amazing. 

SEAN CONNERY LEAGUE GENTLEMEN

Yup, I have to mention it… The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from 2005. A film so bad that it made Sean Connery retire from acting (true story). Apparently Sean had such a bad time on set, he and director Stephen Norrington just couldn’t get on and often argued over where the film was heading or what it was about. As he said himself…

“It was a nightmare. The experience had a great influence on me, it made me think about showbiz. I get fed up dealing with idiots.”

– Sean Connery 

And so, that was it. After a movie career that began in 1954 as an extra, Sean Connery officially announced his retirement from acting in 2007. He turned down the opportunity to return as Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He turned down the chance to play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the role as The Architect in The Matrix sequels, a part written with Sean Connery in mind. Sean was done with acting for good… kind of. His actual last film was the low budget, animated Scottish production, Sir Billi from 2013. I’ve not seen it, but it’s supposed to be pretty terrible…

Just to be clear, Sean Connery refused to come out of retirement for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, even only for a small cameo… but he came out of retirement for this?

Aside from the previously mentioned Oscar win for The Untouchables in 1998, Sean Connery has had various awards and honours bestowed on him. Three Golden Globes in 1972, 1998 and 1992. The latter being the Cecil B. DeMille Award given for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment. Two BAFTAs in 1988, one being the BAFTA Fellowship, the highest honour given for outstanding achievement in the art forms of the moving image.

He also won the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 2006. as well as many other accolades over the years. Oh yeah, he was also knighted on the 5th of July, 2000, making him Sir Sean Connery.

Happy ninetieth birthday Sean. Thanks for the movies over the years… even the bad ones. 

Would you believe it, I just covered Sean Connery’s career spanning seven decades and I didn’t even mention or reference Zardoz once…

SEAN CONNERY ZARDOZ

“I like women. I don’t understand them, but I like them.”

– Sean Connery

There can be only one! Part I

Yeah I know, oxymoron right?

Did you know Highlander is 30 years old this year? Granted, not until August. So a few months away yet, but I was watching Highlander on TV recently and it got me thinking…
What the hell happened to Highlander?

Connor

I was thinking about film franchises that have gone really, really bad. Quite a few came to mind, but one franchise stood out more than any other and that was Highlander.

So here, I’d like to take a brief look at the film series. I know the franchise had other outlets like the various TV series, games and even books/comics. But I only want to concentrate on main films of the franchise here and try to work out how it all went so wrong so quickly.

If you’re have never seen any of the films in the franchise, then be forewarned as this will contain huge spoilers.

Best get stuck in as there is a lot to cover. So lets go back to the film that started it all.

H1

Highlander: This film was not a huge box office success. However, it became a cult classic when released for the home market and is still considered one of the best films of the 80s.

The plot revolves around a young Scottish warrior named Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) from the 16th century who is wounded on the battlefield by someone known as The Kurgan (Clancy Brown). The wound is a mortal one and Connor declared dead.
Yet the very next day he is up and walking with no ill effects from his battle. He is outcast and ostracised by his village as being in league with the devil and forced to make a new life for himself. This is when he meets Heather who eventually becomes the love of his life.

The two make a life for themselves and are living happily until Connor receives a visit from a stranger called Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (Sean Connery), a Spanish (he’s not Spanish, he’s Egyptian) traveller.
Ramírez reveals to Connor that he is an immortal and will never grow old or even die unless his head is removed from his body.
Ramírez is also an immortal and there are many others around the world too. The Kurgan who tried to kill Conner previously is also an immortal. Ramírez goes on to explain that all the immortals have a destiny, that is to fight each other until only one remains (there can be only one).

As the immortals become fewer and fewer over the years, they will feel an unavoidable pull you one place to fight to the death leaving only one final immortal (there can be only one). This is called ‘The Gathering’ and that final immortal can claim ‘The Prize’.
Ramírez tells Connor he can not let The Kurgan claim ‘The Prize’ as he will use it for evil. So Ramírez begins to train Connor in sword combat and prepare for the fight ahead.

Eventually the immortals are killed off over the centuries until only a handful remain. They last few immortals including Connor and The Kurgan are eventually drawn to New York in 1985. The place and time of ‘The Gathering’.

As the last of the immortals are killed, leaving only Connor and The Kurgan left. They fight each other to the death where Connor eventually bests The Kurgan and claims ‘The Prize’ as Connor becomes the only immortal left alive…there can be only one.

Yes I know I have brought up that line a few times already and even titled the article as such too, but there is a very good reason for doing so which I will cover later…

As I said previously, Highlander was not a box office smash, but it has and still does have a strong cult following. It has become one of those quintessential 80s movies.
However, it was also a film that was pretty much self contained and really left no wriggle room for sequels, as…there can be only one!

Yet as the film did do so well after becoming such a cult classic and favourite. A sequel was commissioned and released in 1991.
Oh dear…

H2

Highlander II: The Quickening: Often regarded as one of the worst film sequels ever made. The original film was far from perfect and had several problems. What this sequel seems to have done is taken everything that was great about the first film and throw it out. Then just taken the remains of the crap and make an entire film from it all.

If you thought the plot of the first film was stupid (it kind of was), you ain’t seen nothing yet…

Set in the future of 2024…yeah, you’ve lost interest already haven’t you?
Connor is now an old man after claiming ‘The Prize’ from the previous film has allowed him to age. He has used his amazing powers from ‘The Prize’ to help develop a shield around the earth to replace the damaged ozone layer. Hey, I did warn you about the plot and it’s only going to get much, much, oh so much worse from here…

Anyway, where as the original film left a lot of ambiguity to who/what the immortals were. Here everything is cough “explained”.
Apparently the immortals are aliens from a planet called Zeist. Yes I did just type that, they are aliens from a planet called Zeist. However they are not immortal on Zeist, I’ll cover this next.

Planet Zeist is a horrendous place rife with poverty and war.
While on Zeist centuries ago, Connor MacLeod was part of a rebellion lead by Ramírez who plan to try and overthrow the big bad of this film General Katana (Michael Ironside) and his oppressive regime. However, Katana’s men attack and capture both Ramírez and Connor MacLeod and kill the rest of the rebels. Ramírez and Connor are put on trial by Zeist’s priests, who sentence them to be exiled and reborn on Earth as immortals in pursuit of ‘The Prize’ (the first film).

So the events of the first film happened, leading into the events of this film with Connor now an old man almost ready to die from old age…until for some reason General Katana back on Zeist (who hasn’t aged a day over the centuries) decides to send two more Zeist aliens to Earth to kill Connor. The two ‘assassins’ fail in their mission and get decapitated and this, for some reason, makes Connor young and immortal once more.

Hey, I did warn you about the plot remember?

Here is a conversation taken straight from the film itself to “explain”.

Louise Marcus:Okay, now let me just see if I can get this straight. You come from another planet, and you’re mortal there, but you’re immortal here until you kill all the guys from there who have come here… and then you’re mortal here… unless you go back there, or some more guys from there came here, in which case you become immortal here… again.

Conner MacLeod:Something like that.

Remember, that is the film trying to explain all of this.

Anyway, as General Katana’s minions failed, he decides to come to Earth himself to kill Connor.
Ramírez who was most definitely killed in the first film is back because…the script says so. Connor and Ramírez team up to kill Katana, and that’s about it really.

Highlander II: The Quickening is so full of problems (of which I’ll cover later) its just plain embarrassing. It really is one of the worst most lazily written films ever. There is a reason why this is considered one of the worst sequels ever, because it really, really is.

The film bombed and has gone on to become one of the most hated films ever made. So much so there have been several different cuts released over the years, one that even attempts to remove the whole aliens/Zeist thing completely, so if you have seen Highlander II and don’t remember any aliens, this is most probably why.
Yet it really does not matter which version you watch, its a bad film.

Even though this film killed the Highlander franchise before it began…another sequel was made.

H3

Highlander III: The Sorcerer: Now this film is nowhere nearly as bad as the last one…though its still not very good.
This film flat out ignores Highlander II and pretends it never existed and many fans claim that this one is the true and proper sequel to the original film.

Onto the plot (ignoring the events of Highlander II).
The film tells to story of Connor who after the death of his wife Heather from the first film, travels to Japan to request training from the Immortal Japanese sorcerer Nakano. Another Immortal named Kane also wants to ‘learn’ from Nakano and finds the sorcerer in a cave, then decapitates him. The force of ‘The Quickening’ from Nakano causes the cave to collapse trapping Kane inside…and this is why he could not take part in ‘The Gathering’ from the first film.

Then in 1994, in Japan, two archaeologists start excavating the cave in an attempt to discover whether the legend of the sorcerer Nakano was based on fact. The excavations free Kane, who immediately sets out in pursuit of Connor.
This all leads to a final showdown between Connor and Kane which Connor eventually wins.

Highlander III: The Sorcerer is not a great film, but its a damn sight better then that other sequel.

I’ll end Part I here, but there is more Highlander silliness coming in Part II of this “There can be only one” look at the Highlander franchise as the sequels get worse, maybe even worse than Highlander II?

Kurgan

The Kurgan:I’m in disguise!

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