Together, Now: Sean Connery Is an Icon!
HERE WANT TO DISPUTE THAT?
Story By Diane K. Shah
Connery is wearing a light-blue caftan,
which he keeps fussing with, and sitting
at the end of a long pastel-print couch,
here at his house in the Bahamas.
There is a second home in Marbella,
Spain, and a condo in West Los Angeles,
but it is to this one, in the exclusive,
gated community of Lyford Cay in Nassau,
that Connery has repaired early this
You see, specifically, the house is
located on Lyford’s eighth green.
is here to recuperate from throat surgery
and to play golf, not necessarily in that
The surgery, to remove benign
polyps from his vocal cords, was
hysterically reported in the British press
as cancer of the worst kind, which Connery
did not bother to refute. "In three
weeks I'll go back to do the Academy
Awards," he says sardonically,
"which will signify that I'm not
At 58, the man looks as if he could plow
the north forty, throw back a couple of
beers, then, checking the sun, say,
"Well. Time to go dam up the
is onscreen that he has aged, choosing as
he has to play older than he is. In Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade, he is
father to 46-year-old Harrison Ford, and
in the forthcoming Family Business,
to 51-year-old Dustin Hoffman. In The
Untouchables, playing the Chicago cop
Jimmy Malone and running after a Capone
bootlegger at the Canadian border,
Connery, looking heavy, huffing and
puffing, finally catches the guy, panting,
"Enough of this running shit!"
here in the living room, high-ceilinged
and airy, with peach-colored walls adorned
with canvases painted by his wife, the
furniture overstuffed and pastel, the old
screen image is much intact. Standing in
the doorway, he fills it totally, as if he
were a portrait fitted into a wooden
frame. He is six feet two, 215 pounds, but
his large face, with its clean, chiseled
features, makes him seem bigger somehow.
He moves with the lightness of a dancer.
clears his throat. "Before I had the
surgery, a specialist suggested I try
thirty days of silence to cure the
problem," he relates. "Well,
that was a pill. I had this pen, which I
wore around my neck, and every time I
wanted to say something, I wrote it down
on the back of old scripts. I wrote
hundreds of pages, and I should have kept
them, because it was so crazy. It was lots
of non sequiturs, because you never knew
the question. Like there would be, 'How
the fuck do I know!' "
housekeeper enters bearing freshly
squeezed grapefruit juice. Through a large
picture window, Micheline, Connery's
second wife, whom he married fourteen
years ago, can be glimpsed in a bikini,
sunning herself on a chaise longue.
says Cannery, "I printed up cards
saying 'I'M SORRY I CANNOT SPEAK. I HAVE A
PROBLEM WITH MY THROAT. THANK YOU.' And
ten out of ten would look at the card and
say, 'Why! What's the matter!"'
rolls his eyes. "And when I would
write out what I wanted to say, half the
people would take the pen and write their
answers back. You realize very quickly
that the world is full of idiots."
a business that feeds on youth and beauty,
Connery has turned the tables. His film
log - forty-eight movies in thirty-three
years - ranges from huge box-office hits
to pictures only a film historian would
know. As James Bond, he took what could
have been a cold, humorless character and
made him a heart-stealing rogue, with his
charm, his wit and that devilish arched
eyebrow. But like something of a Cary
Grant with a Beretta, he was given little
credit for the skill the role demanded or
for turning what might have been a
one-night stand into a twenty-year love
affair. Just as Grant never received an
acting award, so Connery never received
one for playing Bond. "I suppose
people feel you made enough money,"
Connery says. "That's your
award." It's only now that he is
beginning to be appreciated as one of the
most gifted actors of his time.
are seven genuine movie stars in the world
today," says Steven Spielberg, who
directed him in Indiana
Jones and the Last Crusade, "and
Sean is one of them. I won't name the
others, because some of my best friends
wouldn't be among them."
a time when most actors go round unshaven
and T-shirted, tilting at garden-variety
woes, cutting movies down to people-size,
Connery aggrandizes his characters,
ennobling them with the kind of toughness
and romanticism you rarely find on-screen
you were casting High
Noon today," says Family
Business producer Larry Gordon,
"who could leave Grace Kelly behind
and walk down the street like Gary Cooper
did! I think only Sean Connery
Gene Hackman is beloved for portraying the
ordinary man, Connery is worshiped for
being the man other men want to be.
References to Cooper and Grant, Spencer
Tracy and Clark Gable, are not by
accident. In many ways, the Scottish-born
Connery seems a throwback to the American
man of the past, the tough individualist
who lives by his own set of ethics and his
wits, who knows exactly who he is and how
far he can go. A man who will fight for
what he believes in, a dreamer who is
never deluded by what is not possible.
the kind of guy you want by your
side," says Gordon, "even though
you know he'll probably steal your
is an actor playing the Gary Cooper roles
as real life.
his celebrity peaked during the Sixties,
when, as 007, he shared the world
spotlight with only the Beatles ("and
there were four of them to kick it
around," he once pointed out), he is
now more in demand than ever. In the past
three years, he has made six movies and
was scheduled to start filming Tom
and Guildenstern Are Dead in May, but
backed out at the last minute. "In
fact, we had a parting of the ways,
Stoppard and I," Connery says.
"It was a $4-million picture, and I
was going to work for $70,000.
But with my throat uncertain, I
suspended everything. And Tom became
rather unpleasant, maybe thinking it was
over the money. Which it wasn't." (In
mid-May, however, he did begin filming a
lead role in the adaptation of Tom
Hunt for Red October, playing Marko
Ramius, captain of Russia's most advanced
billing, top dollar, or not, Connery makes
his presence felt. In The
Untouchables, he stole the film from
Kevin Costner and
Robert De Niro and won an Academy Award
for best supporting actor. In Indiana
Jones, he just kind of took over the
their first meeting with Connery,
Spielberg and producer George Lucas talked
only in theory about the role of Professor
Henry Jones, refusing to hand over a
script. Connery went away feeling
"there was a reluctance on the part
of George for me to play the part."
was true." George wasn't thinking in
terms of such a powerful presence,"
Spielberg says. "His idea was for a
doting, scholarly person, an older British
character actor. But I had always seen
Sean Connery. Without a strong,
illuminating presence, I was afraid
Harrison would eradicate the father from
the movie. I wanted to challenge him. And
who could be the equal of Indiana Jones
but James Bond?"
the original script, Henry did not appear
until page seventy. Then, there he was on
page fifty. Before long, Connery had four
additional scenes written for him. Of
course, in the finished product, his
endearing, witty portrayal of Harrison
Ford's estranged father provides more
pyrotechnics than motorcycle chases,
exploding planes, thousands of dead Nazis
and even Indy himself.
Business, scheduled for release in the
fall, tells the story of three generations
of a family from New York's Hell's Kitchen
and the squabbles that erupt when they
decide to pull a million-dollar crime. It
was the first time Hoffman and Connery had
ever worked together, and the fear was
that sparks might fly when the very
strong-willed but experimentally oriented
Hoffman met up with the very strong-willed
but discipline-oriented Connery. But
according to the film's director, Sidney
Lumet, who has worked with Connery on four
other movies, “Sean met Dustin
improvisation for improvisation.”
is a respect that lingers. Says Hoffman,
relating the events of Academy Award night
1989, "I'm there holding the Oscar
and there's this amazing standing ovation.
And I'm looking out into this sea of
people and the only person I saw was Sean
Connery. I'm not kidding. He's in the
fifth row, looking like a leprechaun on
steroids, with those pointed ears and that
sweet smile of his, and I could read his
lips: 'I told you.' "
that Connery was one to tolerate any
foolishness on the Family Business
set. According to Matthew Broderick, who
plays Connery's grandson in the movie,
"He just kind of let you know he
didn't want some smart-ass kid in his face
all the time." Nevertheless,
Broderick often performed over-blown
impressions of Connery as Bond behind the
actor's back. When an assistant told
Connery what was going on, he said,
“Well, why doesn't Matthew do it for
that Broderick was afraid to, Connery
replied, "Good. He should be
brings up another side of Connery.
Although he's one of the most beloved of
figures in Hollywood these days, he's also
one of the most unhesitatingly outspoken.
For instance, in an age of canned quotes
and back-scratching publicity pablum, how
many other actors would say of a costar-in
this case, in The
Presidio, a 1988 bomb-"I suppose
[Mark] Harmon could have been stronger.
You know, like Costner, or that
chap Don Johnson."
say of the seemingly innumerable lawsuits
he's initiated against Hollywood studios,
"I think Paramount's the only company
I haven't sued. They all steal."
say, when talking about how he and Michael
Caine went after Allied Artists for money
due them from The
Man Who Would Be King, "As usual,
I had found them stealing, and it cost me
$90,000 to sue them, only to prove what
was already true. I bankrupted them, I'm
thrilled to say."
few years ago, in what may have been his
best performance to date, he went mano a
mano with Barbara Walters, when she,
rather ill-advisedly, tried to accuse him
of being a male chauvinist on national TV.
a twenty-year-old Playboy
quote in which Connery had said,
"It's not the worst thing to slap a
woman now and then," Walters,
thinking she was doing women's lib a favor
or something, righteously declared,
"You are a male chauvinist, aren't
unflappable, answered, "Am I? And
what is a 'male chauvinist'?" Sending
it back into her court. Only Walters,
unable to volley a bit, to have some fun
with it, ended up sounding tongue-tied and
banal. Later, as the interview wound down,
Connery, not letting her off the hook, got
in the final shot.
this for me," said Barbara sweetly.
"Sean Connery is...”
he, grinning, replied, "Almost a male
couldn't believe the reaction the next
day, as he drove down Pico Boulevard to
Paramount, the way men would raise their
on!, and the woman at the stoplight
who gave him the finger.
talking about a slap on the face and that
you could do much, much worse damage to a
woman, or a man, by totally demoralizing
them, by taking away their whole
identity," he says now. "This
case in New York, Steinberg and Nussbaum,
is a typical example - I'm not talking
about that. I'm saying if one of the
couple is intent on having a physical
confrontation, it's impossible for it to
be avoided. It's emotional, it's passion.
And passion lacks thinking. Therefore, it
will explode. And that's all I'm saying,
without getting into a three-act
pause. "But if we had discussed it
for four hours or fourteen, Barbara
wouldn't have gotten the answer she
doorbell rings. In walks a repairman, come
to fix the satellite dish.
was church?" inquires Connery
says the man. “I prayed for all the
you?" says Connery. "I'm
surprised you're not still there."
to what some might imagine, that the
no-nonsense Connery is of the acting
school that stresses "Show up on
time, and don't bump into the furniture,
" he is a true student of the craft.
I'm inclined to wing it, says his good
friend Michael Caine, "I've always
had the feeling that Sean's known his
lines for weeks. He comes to the set so
well rehearsed, it's as if he'd spent
hours in his bedroom going through all his
use of body movement, which he has indeed
spent hours perfecting, is one thing that
helps distinguish him as an actor. "I
won't even take a role until I work out
the body techniques," he says.
Although naturally athletic, Connery, at
the urging of his first wife, actress
Diane Cilento (best known as the lusty
Molly in Tom
Jones), took an intensive course in
movement from a ballet dancer named Yat
Malgrem years ago in London. He still
refers to his dog-eared copy of Malgrem's
textbook, sharing it with his only child,
26-year-old Jason, who is an actor. And
with anybody else.
if this were a set," says Connery
getting up from the couch and walking
toward the center of the room, "and
suppose you had a glass curtain, you
should be able to follow something of the
drama by the walk and the body language
without having to understand what the
people are saying."
turns. "If, for instance, you wanted
to see a character who was all head and no
body, it would be Cassius in Julius
Caesar, the lean-and-hungry look they
talk about. He's just all manipulating,
whereas Mark Antony is very much a weight
person, charismatic. This usually starts
with the body, because that's our first
impression and it's what makes people
respond or not respond."
was certainly what the producers of Dr.
No responded to when Connery burst
into their London office in 1961,
determined to be Bond. At the time, Harry
Saltzman and Albert Broccoli were
considering more polished contenders -
Patrick McGoohan and Roger Moore, among
others - when in came Connery with that
walk of his, a kind of fluid swagger once
described as "the threatening grace
of a panther on the prowl. " Poorly
dressed and with his thick Scottish burr,
he delivered his theory of Bond, pounded
the desk to make his points, then
swaggered out, leaving the two men
used strong and commanding
movements," says Connery, “not with
weight, but to show how Bond is always in
control of a scene.”
every level of film-making, Connery is
there, offering his thoughts. The scene in
Untouchables in which he and Kevin
Costner (as Eliot Ness) take a blood oath
was originally set in the street. “But I
thought it should be done in a church,”
Connery says. "When you're making
that kind of declaration about the Chicago
way-you know, 'Capone puts one of yours in
the hospital, you put one of his in the
morgue,' all this kind of dialogue-if you
put it in a church, it suddenly becomes
scene-shot in a church-became one of the
film's most memorable.
also believes that if tensions exist
between characters in front of the camera,
they should exist off-camera as well.
"He was always so respectful toward
me," Costner recalls.
"But at the same time, he was
always taking shots at us, keeping a
little tension going."
kept them very much on a wire by snide
little remarks, digs at America, what have
you," Connery concedes.
remember one night when he really got
me," Costner says. "I was
talking about my favorite movie in the
and I was doing it to the nth detail,
doing all the parts, all the voices, and
finally I say, 'Then this bitch gets in
front of Paul Newman, and she won't move.
This bitch ends up getting him killed.'
And Sean just looks at me and says, 'That
bitch was my first wife.' "
twenty years ago, Connery established an
organization called the Scottish
International Educational Trust to help
poor but gifted Scottish boys. Today he
remains pretty much the sole support for
the fund, donating, for instance, his
entire $1.2-million salary from Diamonds
Are Forever and the settlement he
received when two unauthorized biographies
were published in 1983 and Connery,
a charity straight from the heart, for the
man who would one day play the debonair
007 came out of a most unlikely
background. Industrial Fountainbridge is
Edinburgh's wrong side of the tracks, and
the hardworking people who live there
rarely find a way out. Connery's prospects
were dimmer than most. The older of two
sons of a rubber-factory worker, he was
driving a milk wagon at 13, making
deliveries before school. When the schools
closed due to World War II, Connery went
to work full-time, helping to support his
parents and younger brother. "There
was no question I wanted to get out,"
he says. "The problem was what
equipment one had to get out. The Navy
seemed almost like an inspiration."
16, he signed up for twelve years, but
after; three, developed ulcers and was
discharged: "I went back to driving a
horse." He also trained as a tailor,
an upholsterer, a carpenter, a barber, a
by a friend to enter the Mr. Universe
bodybuilding contest, Connery took off for
London in 1950. He didn't win any prizes,
but someone suggested that a good-looking
guy like him might get a job in the
theater. Cannery wound up in the chorus of
Pacific, where someone else brought up
the idea of acting. "I said,
‘Acting? What do I know about acting?'
" Connery recalls. "I told him,
'I can sing "Nothin' Like a
Dame," I can do handsprings on the
stage.' Frankly, I was happy just to get
my £14 a week and drive around."
eventually Connery bought a tape recorder,
one of those big boxes they had back then,
and every day, as South Pacific was
touring, he'd work on his voice, trying to
get rid of that thick Scottish accent. In
the afternoons, he would visit the local
library. He read Dostoyevsky, Turgenev,
all of Shakespeare, all of Shaw and Thomas
Wolfe. He read Proust and Oscar Wilde. He
bought a dictionary and read that, too.
Then he pored over Hemingway and Stephen
Crane. He also went to repertory theater
and met the actors. "I always felt
they were so clever, so erudite, so
world-wise," Connery says. He grins.
"Of course, I've learned
this time, Connery has barely moved from
the couch. Except for fussing with his
caftan, shifting the material this way and
that, he rarely gestures. Nor does his
voice ever seem to carry dramatic
overtones. He makes eye contact only
intermittently, staring across the room
instead. He occasionally flashes that
nasty little Connery smile, but it always
comes a beat too late, as if he has
stopped to replay what he just said and
found it suddenly amusing.
who has come into the house to answer it;
sticks her head into the room, saying,
"Excuse me, but Bob Hope would like
to speak with you."
hesitates. "Take a number. I'll call
moment later, Micheline returns.
"Sorry, Sean. Did you call Bob Hope!
He says he's returning your call."
darkens. “He's a liar then. He's here to
do a special and he's going to try to
wangle me onto his show." He stares
coldly at his wife, who retreats. “That's
how he does it,” Sean
seems amazing, looking back, is that more
than twenty years elapsed between
Cannery's first Bond picture and his last.
Each time he "came back"-in Diamonds
Are Forever (1971) and Never
Say Never Again (1983)-his popularity
soared. But for all that Bond brought him,
Connery was never at peace with the role.
had many problems with the series, apart
from the greed of the producers," he
says. "I was in conflict with them
from the beginning. Even they had to
divorce and couldn't stay married, because
they would be sitting opposite each other
at the table thinking, That asshole's got
my other thirty million."
Connery, the series became a
strait-jacket. The films often did not
start shooting when they were supposed to,
and it was impossible to get a finish
date, so Connery never knew when he might
be free to make a non-Bond movie. And he
desperately wanted to.
you were his friend during those
days," says Caine, "you didn't
raise the subject of Bond, ever."
Connery, "The problem was that Bond
was so popular, the public only wanted to
see me doing that....All I can do now is
what's interesting and rewarding for me.
To try to erase the image of Bond is
Are Forever, he gave splendid
performances in such films as The
Great Train Robbery, Lumet's The
Offence (his work in this movie about
a burned-out cop, considered by some to be
his finest, was seen by about three
people) and perhaps his favorite movie, The
Man Who Would Be King, directed by
John Huston and costarring his good mate
Michael Caine. Fond memories of that
experience still linger.
were in this little town at the edge of
the Sahara, and there was nothing to do at
night except go to this disco," Caine
says. "But it was men dancing with
men because women weren't allowed out at
night. So we're standing at the bar
watching all these guys dancing, when Sean
leans over and says to me, 'Do you mind if
I dance with your driver? Mine's too
despite the solid work, Connery's career
languished. In 1982, after three straight
box-office duds (Time
Is Right), he began reading of Roger
Moore's contract problems (he was
supposedly demanding $5 million to play
Bond in Octopussy),
as well as reports that a producer named
Jack Schwartzman had secured the film
rights to an Ian Fleming story and was
interested in casting Connery. If Roger
could get that much money, figured
Connery, surely he was worth more.
at 52, and for a reported $5 million
(Moore got $4 million), Connery became 007
for the seventh time. In the dueling Bonds
of the summer of 1983, Octopussy
earned $34 million in domestic
Say Never Again $28 million.
the experience was enough for Connery to
finally say never again. "Schwartzman
was totally incompetent," he says,
"a real ass. In the middle of
everything, he moved to the Bahamas with
an unlisted number. It was like working in
a toilet." Connery was so upset, he
didn't work again for nearly three years.
"I should have killed him,"
still an eyeful in a bikini at 53, watches
her husband leave the room. "Sean is
always shocked by people," she says.
"He has such high ideals; he's a
totally genuine man. I have tried to teach
him cynicism. 'Don't be shocked,' I say.
'The world is like that.' "
Roquebrune met Connery at a golf
tournament in Morocco in 1970. Born in
Nice and raised in North Africa, Micheline,
also a skilled golfer, had arrived with
her then-husband for a four-day
international competition. But after two
days, her husband, who was playing badly,
rare moviegoer, Micheline had seen only
one Bond film and, unlike almost anyone
else in the Western world, was not
prepared to be impressed. She and Connery
met on the medals stand, both having won
their tournaments. "In the morning we
played golf," she recalls. "Then
we were introduced. In the afternoon, we
did something else....I think I was madly
in love with him from the first
they spent a day or two together, Connery,
still married to Diane Cilento, said
nothing of being unhappy, and Micheline
returned home convinced she had seen the
last of him. "Then, three months
later, he called. He said it was urgent
that he see me. He said he could not
forget me, that he was in love with me. We
spent one week together, and then we both
started working on divorces."
is noon now, and Connery wants to hit the
links. His handicap, he says, ranges from
7 to, on the tougher L.A. courses such as
the Bel-Air Country Club, 11.
there is one last question before he goes,
one last question for the man, the
hero-hell, the icon-who both onscreen and
off, through his dash, wit, sophistication
and grace, merely set the standard for a
generation of American men. And by his
response, you would think it's one he's
you have, well, any flaws?" For a
frighteningly long moment, Connery is
silent. "I have a flaw?" he
says, sounding baffled. "Hmm, a
silence. Then, "You mean, what is my
worst flaw? Well, I could be more
I could be more organized," Sean