The original James Bond, Sean Connery, turns 85 today. The Scottish actor, who debuted as the suave spy in 1962’s “Dr. No,” retired from the screen after 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”
In 2005, he gave his reasons for retiring: “I’m fed up with the idiots … the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies.” In 2010, he told The Scotsman, “I don’t think I’ll ever act again” adding, “I have so many wonderful memories but these days are over.”
In a 2008 GQ interview, he praised current James Bond Daniel Craig, saying he was flattered by comments that Craig was a return to the heyday of the Connery era: “The last film was terrific and Daniel did an absolutely marvelous job,” he said.
Connery was born on August 25, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland. He first worked in theater, then as a film extra, making his speaking debut as a gangster with a speech impediment in the 1957 film “No Road Back.” His other early roles include a performance as a singing (!) Irishman in “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” (1959) and as part of a love triangle with Lana Turner and Barry Sullivan in 1958’s “Another Time, Another Place,” where he reportedly tangled with her then-boyfriend, the volatile bodyguard to gangster Mickey Cohen, Johnny Stompanato.
Connery shot to superstardom with “Dr. No,” becoming an international style icon and sex symbol. James Bond creator Ian Fleming was initially opposed to Connery’s casting, but was won over after seeing him in action in “Dr. No.”
After five films as Bond, Connery tired of the franchise; he was replaced by the less macho, lighter-weight Roger Moore. He returned as James Bond just once more, in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again.”
His many other films include Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” (1964), “The Man Who Would Be King,’ “The Wind and the Lion,” (both 1975), “A Bridge Too Far” (1977),” “Time Bandits” (1981), and “Highlander” (1986). He won a BAFTA for 1986’s “The Name of the Rose.” The following year, he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as an honest cop in “The Untouchables.”
In 1989, he was cleverly cast as Harrison Ford’s father in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade;” and had another hit with 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October,” as a defecting Russian submarine commander; followed by “The Rock” (1996) in which he played an aging super-spy who must rescue prisoners held hostage at Alcatraz.
He declined to appear in the 2008 Indiana Jones sequel and also famously turned down the role of Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” movies because he “didn’t understand the script.”
Connery published his autobiography, “Being a Scot,” in 2008.