INTERVIEW: SEAN CONNERY
candid conversation with james bond’s acerbic
Bahamas have long been a favorite retreat for
vacationing cosmopolites in search of a sunny
sanctuary from the tumult of 20th Century city
life. Those hapless hundreds who made the mistake
of going to the islands last March, April or May,
however, might well have wished they'd stayed at
home, for the tiny archipelago was in a state of
siege--occupied by an invading army of newspaper
reporters, magazine writers and photographers from
nearly every major publication in America,
England, Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan; TV
camera crews from ABC,
silk-suited press agents and swim-suited starlets;
bit players, extras, make-up men,
cinematographers, script girls, set designers,
electricians and assorted hangers-on. The white
beaches were festooned with cables and bristling
with sound booms; the surf was aswarm with masked
men in orange scuba suits armed with spear guns.
Moored offshore were a small fleet of futuristic
two-man submarines and a huge, sleek,
95-mile-an-hour hydrofoil camouflaged in the shell
of a luxury yacht. And the Olympic-size swimming
pool of a nearby home was stocked with a school of
eye of this storm, surrounded most of the time by
an adoring mob of 200 or more gaping tourists just
beyond camera range, and visibly annoyed by all
the adulation, was the man responsible for it all:
Sean Connery, a sinewy, saturnine,
34-year-old Scotsman better known to the world's
moviegoers as James Bond, Ian Fleming's
indestructible superspy. Connery was there to film
"Thunderball," a spectacular $5,500,000
production (set for world premiere next month)
that promises to be the biggest of the celebrated
Bond flicks. The first three-- "Dr. No,"
"From Russia with Love" and
"Goldfinger"--have already been seen by
100,000,000 people; earned more than $75,000,000;
spawned a spate of copycat spy movies and TV
series; promoted a plethora of Bond-bred 007
products ranging from toothpaste, T-shirts,
trench coats and golf clubs to nightgowns, attachč
cases, bedspreads, toiletries and even a toy
transistor radio that turns into a rifle at the
touch of a button. And together with the Fleming
books--of which some 60,000,000 copies have been
sold in 11 languages--they've inspired a rash of
scholarly treatises purporting to assess the
sexual and sociological implications of "the
They have also brought world-wide fame and
considerable fortune to their leading man. Both,
however, were slow in coming.
many ways the antithesis of his urbane, Eton-bred
screen self, Connery is an earthy sort who prefers
beer to brut blanc de blanc, poker to chemin de
fer. Son of an Edinburgh millworker, he left
school at 13 to earn his keep, mostly from hand to
mouth, as a drayhorse driver, coffin polisher,
lifeguard, seaman, artist's model, welterweight
boxer, printer's apprentice and finally as chorus
boy in a road-company production of "South
Pacific"--at $35 a week. His provincial head
turned by "all that easy money," Connery
thought better of an offer to exert himself as a
professional soccer player and forthwith decided
to carve out a career in show business. After
months of earnest drama study, he began to find
himself in demand for bit parts, then featured
roles and finally leads in Shakespearean repertory
theater (as Macbeth
and Hotspur, among others) and in London telly
plays (including the starring role in
"Requiem for a Heavyweight").
Making the movie grade at 26, he was signed by
20th Century-Fox--only to languish inconspicuously
in a series of forgettable films that culminated
with a walk-on in
"The Longest Day."
in 1961, he got a call from a pair of American
movie producers, Albert Broccoli and Harry
Saltzman, to drop by their London office for a job
interview. He went. Though he was still a relative
unknown, the two men were sold on the spot by his
"cocksure animal magnetism" and decided
then and there to gamble $1,000,000 on his power
to project that quality from the screen as the
star of a property called
It turned out to be a wise investment.
Within three weeks after the picture opened,
Connery was receiving several thousand fan letters
a week, and James Bond, the character he played
with such sardonic self-assurance, was well on his
way to becoming an international folk hero. Then
Russia with Love," an even bigger hit, and
finally the blockbuster
"Goldfinger," which escalated the
Bond boom into the box-office bonanza of the
decade--and its protagonist not only into a
first-magnitude superstar but also, in the opinion
of many female fans, the reigning masculine sex
symbol of the movies.
only one flaw in the plot of this storybook saga
of success: The
subject doesn't like his role. Connery has
acquitted himself creditably enough in two
non-Bond pictures since the 007 series started (
"Marnie" and "Woman of
Straw"), and the critics have been lavish in
their praise for his performance in
"The Hill," his latest film
(reviewed in this issue); but his public
identification as Bond is so complete that the
name of the character he plays is better known
than his, and his face--not the one described by
Fleming--is the one PLAYBOY used as a model for
the illustrations that accompanied our exclusive
prepublication serializations of the last three
Bond books. Contracted to make two more 007
"Thunderball" ( "On Her
Majesty's Secret Service" and probably
"You Only Live Twice"--both of
them prepublished in PLAYBOY),
Connery is ambivalent about his on-screen alter
ego; though he told one reporter recently that
"Bond's been good to me, so I shouldn't knock
him," he confessed that he's "fed up to
here with the whole Bond bit."
hope of finding out more about the man behind the
image, we approached his press representatives in
London with our request for an exclusive
interview. Our chances of getting to see him were
none too good, they said, for Connery has become
increasingly reluctant, in the clamorous months
since "Goldfinger," to talk to the press
about Bond--or about anything else, for that
matter. After a two-week wait, we repeated our
request in a note addressed to his home, a former
convent in a west London suburb where he lives
with his wife, actress Diane Cilento, and their
two children. He called us the next day and
invited us to share a pint at a local pub. We did,
and found him at first almost as reticent as
reputed. But he began to unbend after a few more
brews, and before long was talking to us more
freely, frankly and fully than he ever has before
for publication. A few weeks later we joined him
between scenes during the filming of
"Thunderball" in the Bahamas,
where we sat on set and completed our
conversations--which had dwelled at length on the
very subject we'd been warned he wouldn't discuss:
How do you account for the phenomenal success of
the Bond books and films?
Well, timing had a lot to do with it. Bond
came on the scene after the War, at a time when
people were fed up with rationing and drab times
and utility clothes and a predominately gray color
in life. Along comes this character who cuts right
through all that like a very hot knife through
butter, with his clothing and his cars and his
wine and his women. Bond, you see, is a kind of
present-day survival kit. Men would like to
imitate him--or at least his success--and women
are excited by him.
Would you like to imitate him yourself?
His redeeming features, I suppose. His
self-containment, his powers of decision, his
ability to carry on through till the end and to
survive. There's so much social welfare today that
people have forgotten what it is to make their own
decisions rather than to leave them to others. So
Bond is a welcome change.
Have you acquired any of these traits since you
began playing him?
I like to think I acquired them before
Bond. But I am
much more experienced as a film actor; that's for
sure. And I do play golf now, which I never did
before. I started after Dr.
No, not so much because Bond and Fleming were
golfers, but because I couldn't play football as
much as I used to, and golf is a game you can play
until you're 90.
Do you share any of Bond's other sporting tastes?
Well, I gamble--not chemin
de fer, however; poker mostly, which I played
hard when I was touring in South
Pacific. And, like Bond, I'm fond of swimming,
but on the surface. All this stuff underwater with
bottles of oxygen strapped to one's back in Thunderball
doesn't thrill me to bits. I have a fear of sharks
and barracudas, and I have no hesitation at all in
admitting it. It's not that I'm allergic to
them--it's just plain fear.
Do you have any expertise, as Bond has, with guns
Well, I've driven competition cars and I've had
experience with guns, because I was an armorer in
the navy. But I know nothing about espionage and
sniperscopes and that sort of thing. What had to
be seized on, in playing a special agent like
Bond, were certain immediates such as dress,
physical ability, humor, coolness in dangerous
situations . . .
And masterfulness with women?
Well, yes. I've had a certain amount of experience
in that field, I suppose. But I've never been a
womanizer, as Fleming called Bond. Of course, one
never loses the appetite or appreciation for a
pretty girl, even though one does not indulge it.
I still like the company of women--but then, I
like the company of men, too. They offer a
different sort of fun, of course. But I do not
have a retrospective appetite for the women in my
There are critics of Fleming who claim that Bond's
appeal is based solely on sex, sadism and
snobbery; yet his defenders, most notably Kingsley
Amis, find Bond a repository of such admirable
qualities as toughness, loyalty and perseverance.
How do you see him?
He is really a mixture of all that the defenders
and the attackers say he is. When I spoke about
Bond with Fleming, he said that when the character
was conceived, Bond was a very simple,
straightforward, blunt instrument of the police
force, a functionary who would carry out his job
rather doggedly. But he also had a lot of
idiosyncrasies that were considered snobbish--such
as a taste for special wines, et cetera. But if
you take Bond in the situations that he is
constantly involved with, you see that it is a
very hard, high, unusual league that he plays in.
Therefore he is quite right in having all his
senses satisfied--be it sex, wine, food or
clothes--because the job, and he with it, may
terminate at any minute. But the virtues that Amis
mentions--loyalty, honesty--are there, too. Bond
doesn't chase married women, for instance. Judged
on that level, he comes out rather well.
Do you think he's sadistic?
Bond is dealing with rather sadistic adversaries
who dream up pretty wild schemes to destroy, maim
or mutilate him. He must retaliate in kind;
otherwise it's who's kidding who.
How do you feel about roughing up a woman, as Bond
sometimes has to do?
I don't think there is anything particularly wrong
about hitting a woman--although I don't recommend
doing it in the same way that you'd hit a man. An
openhanded slap is justified--if all other
alternatives fail and there has been plenty of
warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or
bloody-minded continually, then I'd do it. I think
a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the
woman. I really do--by virtue of the way a man is
built, if nothing else. But I wouldn't call myself
sadistic. I think one of the appeals that Bond has
for women, however, is that he is decisive, cruel
even. By their nature women aren't
decisive--"Shall I wear this? Shall I wear
that?"--and along comes a man who is
absolutely sure of everything and he's a godsend.
And, of course, Bond is never in love
with a girl and that helps. He always does what he
wants, and women like that. It explains why so
many women are crazy about men who don't give a
rap for them.
Do you think it's OK to tell a woman you love her
in order to get her into bed?
You can say something, but that doesn't
necessarily mean it is so. I think before words
came along there was always physical contact and
physical satisfaction. There may be things said
afterward just as there are things said before.
But the action came first--then the word.
Do women find you more attractive since you
started playing Bond?
I suppose they do, because they're bound to mix up
the man with the image. I get a lot of pretty
strange letters from women saying all sorts of
things. I just hand them over to my secretary for
a formal acknowledgment. If I actually started to
behave to any woman the way Bond does, she'd run
like a jack rabbit--or send for the police.
This brings up a point raised by many of Fleming's
conceding that Bond's adventures are entertaining,
they denounce him as a caricature of sex appeal,
and his erotic exploits as impossibly farfetched.
Do you feel that's valid?
No, I don't. The main concern for an actor or a
writer is not believability but the removal of
time, as I see it. Because I really think the only
occasions you really are enjoying yourself, being
happy, swinging, as they say, are when you don't
know what time it is--when you're totally absorbed
in a play, a film or a party and you don't know
what time it is or how long it has been going on;
then you'll usually find there is contentment and
happiness. When an artist can suspend time like
that for an audience, he has succeeded. It doesn't
really matter, I think, whether it is
"believable" or not. The believability
comes afterward; or it doesn't. If you want to
question it afterward, that's up to you. But the
writer's and the actor's job is to remove
time--while you're still in the book or the
theater. That's exactly what Fleming achieved for
millions of readers; and that's what I've tried to
achieve in the Bond films.
Despite your success in the role, as you probably
know, several critics thought that you were
miscast as Bond. What are your feelings?
Before I got the part, I might have agreed with
them. If you had asked any casting director who
would be the sort of man to cast as Bond, an
Etonbred Englishman, the last person into the box
would have been me, a working-class Scotsman. And
I didn't particularly have the face for it; at 16
I looked 30, although I was never really aware of
age until I was in my 20s. When I was acting with
Lana Turner I realized suddenly I was 28--and I'm
even more aware of time and age now than I was
then. But today my face is accepted as Bond, and
that's how it should be.
What was your first reaction when you were offered
Well, after I got over my surprise and really
began to consider it, I didn't want to do it,
because I could see that properly made, it would
have to be the first of a series and I wasn't sure
I wanted to get involved in that and the contract
that would go with it. Contracts choke you, and I
wanted to be free.
Why did you accept the role, then--for the money?
Not entirely. I could see that, properly made,
this would be a start--a marvelous opening. But I
must admit in all honesty that I didn't think it
would take off as it did, although it had the
ingredients of success:
sex, action, and so forth. The only thing
lacking, I thought, was humor, and luckily the
director, Terence Young, agreed with me that it
would be right to give it another flavor, another
dimension, by injecting humor, but at the same
time to play it absolutely straight and
Did you do any research on Bond before you made Dr.
Not really. I had read Live
and Let Die a few years before, and I'd met
Fleming a couple of times and we had discussed
Bond; but that's all.
What were your impressions of Fleming?
He had great energy and curiosity and he was a
marvelous man to talk to and have a drink with
because of the many wide interests he had. What
made him a success and caused all the controversy
was that his writing was such good journalism.
He always contrived extraordinary situations and
arranged extravagant meetings for his characters,
and he always knew his facts. He was always madly
accurate, and this derived from his curiosity.
When he was discussing anything, like how a truck
worked or a machine or a permutation at bridge,
there was a brain at work and an enormous amount
of research involved; it wasn't just a lot of
drivel he was talking. That's what I admired most
about him--his energy and his curiosity.
In any case, Dr.
No turned out to be a hit, and you found
yourself under contract for a series--exactly what
you said you wanted to avoid.
Yes--but it allows me to make other films, and I
have only two more Bonds to do.
Majesty's Secret Service and possibly You
Only Live Twice. They would like to start On
Her Majesty's Secret Service in Switzerland in
January, but I'm not sure I'll be free in time and
I don't want to rush it, although they say the
snow will be at its best then. I'm not going to
rush anything anymore.
We'll be looking forward to both films--especially
since we were fortunate enough to serialize both
books exclusively prior to their hardcover
publication. Do you think the success of the
series will continue to snowball?
Well, it's a healthy market and it has been
maintained because each succeeding film has got
bigger and the gimmicks trickier. But we have to
be careful where we go next, because I think with Thunderball
we've reached the limit as far as size and
gimmicks are concerned. In Thunderball
we have Bond underwater for about 40 percent of
the time, and there is a love scene underwater,
and attacks by aquaparas from the sky, and two-man
submarines under the sea, and Bond is menaced by
sharks. Instead of the Aston Martin we have a
hydrofoil disguised as a cabin cruiser, and Bond
escapes with a self-propelling jet set attached to
his back. So all the gimmicks now have been done.
And they are expected. What is needed now is a
change of course--more attention to character and
As you know, there is a rival Bond film in the
Royale, to be made by another company--in
which someone else is expected to play Bond. What
are your feelings about that?
Actually, I'd find it interesting to see what
someone else does with it. Lots of people could
play him. No reason at all why they shouldn't.
Still, you are the one identified as Bond in
the public mind. Aren't you concerned about being
Let me straighten you out on this. The problem in
interviews of this sort is to get across the fact,
without breaking your arse, that one is not Bond,
that one was functioning reasonably well before
Bond, and that one is going to function reasonably
well after Bond. There are a lot of things I did
before Bond--like playing the classics on
stage--that don't seem to get publicized. So you
see, this Bond image is a problem in a way and a
bit of a bore, but one has just got to live with
Have you been happy with the non-Bond films you've
certain reservations, yes. But I wasn't all that
thrilled with Woman
of Straw, although the problems were my own.
I'd been working nonstop for goodness knows how
long and trying to suggest rewrites for it while
making another film, which is always deadly. It
was an experience; but I won't make that mistake
How about The
Hill? Are you pleased with your performance in
That's the first time, truly, since the Bond films
that I've had any time to prepare, to get all the
ins and outs of what I was going to do worked out
with the director and producer in advance, to find
out if we were all on the same track. Then we went
off like Gang Busters and shot the film under
time, and it was exciting all the way down the
line. Even before being shown, The
Hill has succeeded for me, because I was
concerned and fully involved in the making of it.
The next stage is how it is exploited and
received, and that I have absolutely no control
over; by the time The
Hill is out, I shall be involved in Thunderball.
You get detached; a film is like a young bird that
has flown from its nest; once out, it's up to the
bird to fly around or to fall on its arse. When Woman
of Straw was shot down, I wasn't entirely
surprised. But whatever happens to The
Hill, it will not detract from what I think
Do you think your box-office drawing power as Bond
had anything to do with your getting the lead in The
It had everything to do with it, of course. As a
matter of fact, it might not have been made at all
except for Bond. It's a marvelous movie with lots
of good actors in it, but it's the sort of film
that might have been considered a noncommercial
art-house property without my name on it. This
gave the producers financial freedom, a rein to
make it. Thanks to Bond, I find myself now in a
bracket with just a few other actors and actresses
who, if they put their names to a contract, it
means the finances will come in.
Speaking of finances, in two years you've become
one of the highest-paid stars in the world. As a
workingman's son, are you relishing all this
Certainly. I want all I can get. I think I'm
entitled to it. I have no false modesty about it.
I don't believe in this stuff about starving in a
garret or being satisfied with artistic
appreciation alone. But that doesn't mean that I
will do anything just for money. I gave up a part
in El Cid
to act for 25 pounds a week and no living expenses
in a Pirandello play at Oxford. But as far as this
series is concerned, after the next two, the only
condition for making any more would be one million
dollars plus a percentage of the gross.
What were you paid for Dr.
Six thousand pounds [$16,800].
We're told you're now getting half a million
dollars per picture.
I never ask anybody what they earn and I don't
tell anybody what I earn.
But that figure of half a million wouldn't be too
far off the mark?
No, not really.
Despite this lofty income, you're said to be
rather tight with your money. True or false?
I'm not stingy, but I'm careful with it. I don't
throw my money around, because money gives you
power and freedom to operate as you want. I have
respect for its value, because I know how hard it
is to earn and to keep. I come from a background
where there was little money and we had to be
content with what there was. One doesn't forget a
past like that.
How do you spend your new-found wealth?
Well, I bought a secondhand Jaguar, and I bought
the house I now live in, with about an acre of
land; but I don't invest in land, and I don't have
a lot of servants--just a secretary and a nanny
for the children. Old habits die hard. Even today,
when I have a big meal in a restaurant, I'm still
conscious that the money I'm spending is equal to
my dad's wages for a week. I just can't get over
that, even though I sign the bill and don't
actually pay in cash. But I still prefer the feel
of real money to a checkbook. And I'm still the
sort of fellow who hates to see a light left on in
a room when no one is there.
Do you have an extensive wardrobe?
I think I've got seven or eight suits now; I took
them all from the films--plus a couple I bought
awhile ago in a moment of weakness. Something came
over me and I went out one day and spent 300
pounds [$840] on two suits.
Did you ever imagine, when you were hoofing in the
chorus line of South
Pacific in London, that you'd someday be able
to buy a $400 suit?
Never--but I was never in any sort of despondence
or living like a malnutritional artist in a
basement. I knew I'd make it sooner or later, one
way or another. I think every actor has the seed
of knowing he will be successful.
At one time you considered becoming a professional
football player instead of an actor. What decided
you against it?
Mainly because I was already in South
Pacific when I got this offer to sign up as a
pro footballer. I really wanted to accept, because
I'd always loved the game. But I stopped to assess
it, and I asked myself, well, what's the length of
a footballer's career? When a top-class player is
30 he's over the hill. So I decided to become an
actor instead, because I wanted something that
would last, and because it was fun. I'd no
experience whatever and hadn't even been on a
stage before, but it turned out to be one of my
more intelligent moves.
Yet the big break with Bond didn't come for nine
years, until you were 31. Were you beginning to
wonder whether you'd made the wrong choice?
No, I never doubted that the break would come
eventually. I was quite late in deciding to become
an actor, you see--around 22--and most people by
that time have already had a few years at their
job, or contemplating it. So I didn't expect it
soon. Everything I've done has had to be
accomplished in my own cycle, my own time, on my
own behalf, and with my own sweat.
How did you become so self-reliant?
My background was harsh. One's parents left one
free to make one's own way. When I was nine my
mother caught me smoking and she said, "Don't
let your father find out, because if he does he'll
beat you so hard he'll break your bottom."
From the time I started working at 13, I
always paid my share of the rent, and the attitude
at home was the prevalent one in Scotland--you
make your own bed and so you have to lie on it. I
didn't ask for advice and I didn't get it. I had
to make it on my own or not at all.
Would you have preferred it otherwise?
Absolutely not. This sort of motivation is the
great thing that's lacking in present-day society.
Everything is so smooth-running, so attainable,
that one is deprived of initiative, lured into a
false sense of security. In the days before the
War, with high unemployment, many people simply
put in an appearance every morning at the factory
although they knew there was no chance of work.
Sheeplike, they felt they just had to go. Today
everything's handed to them on a platter:
They know they can get work and enough
food, and socialized medicine has taken the worry
out of being ill. If there is a malnutrition of
any kind in this country--and I think there
is--it's self-inflicted. The only competition
you'll find today is the conflict between those
few who try to correct a wrong, and the majority
who hope it will just cure itself in the end.
We take it you number yourself among the former
I like to think so.
According to your critics, this spirit of
competition, in your case, sometimes takes the
form of verbal and physical conflict. They say you
have a penchant for abusive arguments and even
fistfights with those who take exception to your
Not really. I'm not a violent man, and I don't go
in for fighting.
How about your reputation for rudeness and
I know they say that, but what am I supposed to do
about it? To some people I am
rude and aggressive, but I think they provoke
about 50 percent of it by their attitude to me. I
like getting along with people, but I don't
believe in bending over backward to be nice, just
to show they're wrong about me, or in hiring a
press agent to write heart-searching stories about
how different I am from the boor they believe me
to be. I cannot go round with a welcome mat
hanging round my neck.
Some publicity men claim that during the making of
a film you tend to be short-tempered and
Look, during my working day I'll give my full
pound of flesh--to the film. The interviews,
publicity, exploitation and what have you, have to
come second, because otherwise what really counts
suffers. But one gets lumbered. In the middle of a
big sequence of Goldfinger,
the publicity man brought on a French magazine
lady and left me with her. First of all, she asked
what the film was called. I told her. Then what
part was I playing. I told her. Then she asked who
was starring opposite me. I said a very famous
German actor, Gert Frobe. "Well, I've never
heard of her,"
she said, and with that I just blew up and walked
off the set; so I suppose I'm considered very rude
by that person. Well, I consider her
disrespectful and incompetent, and both are
definite sins. If someone treats me rudely or
dishonestly, you see, I repay them an eye for an
eye. But given the chance, I try to treat
everyone, man or woman, as I would like to be
And how is that?
Honestly, openly and simply. But without being too
Machiavellian about it, you have to acknowledge
that there is no future in turning the other cheek
if somebody does the dirty on you and sends you
down the river after you've been straight with
them. You can't be straight with them next time;
you have to do something about it.
Straighten them out.
If possible, by argument--even at the expense
of being thought rude and belligerent.
You complained once that too much attention was
given to personal popularity-- that life wasn't
just one long popularity contest. Was that a
rationalization for being generally disliked?
Ever since the introduction of psychoanalysis
there have been to many terms to excuse behavior
and phrases that can be flipped off to explain
everything. People who are aware of the dangers of
this, who see through the phrases, as they see
through the pomposity and hypocrisy around them,
are obviously not going to win any popularity
polls. All those--whether they be actors, writers,
painters or social reformers--who don't conform to
the normal, accepted pattern of society always
come in for a bit of a beating.
What's your reaction when you hear comments such
as "Connery may be fine as Bond, but he's not
really much of an actor apart from that"?
I haven't met anyone who actually said that to me,
because it would certainly not be a very bright
thing to do, and if they did say it to me,
I'd--you know--straighten them out. But they do
tend to sort of judge me only on Bond.
Moviegoers--well, perhaps not in Britain, because
people here can follow everything that one does,
because the film studios, TV and theater are all
in one town, and the press is national.
Is the fan mail you get from America primarily
Yes, but I got some nice letters also about Marnie,
the Hitchcock film, where I played an American. I
think one of the reasons they accept me over there
is that most of the younger British actor today,
like Finney and O'Toole and me, are more organic,
down-to-earth actors than previous generations. In
America and Canada and places like that, where
they are still breaking through, they appreciate
and accept organic acting more readily and
enthusiastically. In America there is much more
feel for realism than in Europe, where there is
still a conception of an actor as being somehow
divorced from real life, and in Britain, where
acting is still often associated more with being
statuesque and striking poses and declaiming with
lyrical voices. I'm more interested in things that
appeal to me and what I think I have a contact
with. But I can still appreciate classical
acting--like Olivier's Othello.
Do you feel you have any limitations as an actor?
I have never thought that way.
Haven't you any personal or professional doubts at
all about yourself?
None to speak of. I harbor a normal allotment of
transient worries, of course. If they're
professional, I discuss them with the director; if
they're personal, I may take them home to Diane,
but more often, I just keep them bottled up inside
me and don't tell anyone about them. Or I may
listen to advice from friends, but after sifting
it, I usually do what I thought was right in the
Are you afraid of anything?
Besides sharks and barracudas, you mean?
Being in an absolutely vulnerable position and not
being able to do anything about it. Like you read
in the War-crime trials in Germany about troops of
Jews filing into the gas chambers and being
utterly helpless to do anything about it. Then you
are really vulnerable. Even with the gladiators in
Rome there was a chance you could pull it off, but
in Germany there was just a horrific total
vulnerability. I don't know how I would react to
Do you feel vulnerable professionally?
Not really. If things weren't coming my way, I'd
Who can say? Wherever my feet led me.
Have you always been this way?
It's a national characteristic of the Scots;
they're all over the world--in shipbuilding,
engineering, shipping, acting, journalism. Coming
out of my own rather grim and gray environment,
everything had a sense of newness and discovery
about it. Yet my brother is still a plasterer in
Edinburgh, and all the people I went to school
with are still doing the same jobs.
Do you still have this wanderlust?
Very much so. With their far-flung locations, the
Bond films help to satiate it. But to give you an
idea how great the hunger is, I was in bed with
the flu on a Friday morning in London about three
years ago and I got a telephone call and I was
chatting away for about 20 minutes before I
realized it was Toronto on the line. My first
thought was, "My God, I hope he hasn't
reversed the charges!"
Then he said, "We're doing Macbeth
on Monday. Would you like to play it? I said,
Monday?" and he said, "Yes, get a plane
and come over. It's a special cultural thing on TV
and there's not a lot of money in it"--which
seems always the actors' bait. I was to get $500
or so for it. So I said, "Give me an
apartment and enough money to live on while I'm
there so I don't have to steal food," and he
said all right and would I get the plane that
afternoon. And there I was, in bed at 11:30 in the
morning with flu and I jumped up and said to
myself, "Christ--what do I do first?"
The first thing was to read the play. So I
sat down and read it and suddenly realized what
I'd bitten off. It was monumental. I reread it
over and over all the way to Canada and somehow I
was ready to go on Monday morning.
Are you usually that fast?
Not really, no. I'm impatient by nature and I'm
always trying to find the right way much too
soon--cutting into it and trying to get the
details right and missing the main points of the
Do you find it less demanding to act for the
In many ways, yes; I've had probably greater
success at it with less effort. It's much easier,
of course, for an actor to play the same
part--Bond--four times than to create a new part
When you're not working--either in a film or a
play--how do you spend your time?
Well, I read a great deal. Between jobs I've read
the whole of Shakespeare and Ibsen and Pirandello
and even Proust, which seemed to go on forever; 12
volumes are just too much. At the moment I'm
And I've been going to the theater quite a lot
lately. But I like to do physical things, too:
I still play football; I play a great deal
of golf, and I like to do things with my hands
like lifting bar bells and carrying my own clubs
on the golf course, which I always do.
Didn't you say once that golf could only be a
Scots invention, for hitting a small ball over an
open field would drive an ordinary man mad?
I did, because it's very true, and very
characteristic of the Scots. It's a loner's game.
I think it was the late Sir Winston Churchill who
said it's a rather exciting game but they made
such bloody awful tools to do it with.
Do you find the game relaxing or taxing?
I find it terribly frustrating, but I'm really
getting to the best stage of my golf game now:
I'm really getting near. Five or six times
I've broken 80 and at last I know what I'm doing
and I get a tremendous sense of achievement and
enjoyment out of it. I think it is one of the most
important games in the world. I don't think I'd go
quite round the bend without it, as someone
predicted I would--but I want to play it every day
I can. As a matter of fact, I'd like to have a go
at the pro circuit. It's a bit late to try it now,
but I'd like to just for the hell of it. Of
course, I haven't the time for it.
If your time were entirely your own, how else
would you spend it?
Writing a bit, I think--short stories and poetry.
Have you ever done any before?
Quite a lot, actually. Most of the stuff I've done
was written when I was on tour with South
Pacific when I first decided to be an
actor--just ideas and images and how one felt and
what impressed one. They were usually written late
at night, and in the light of day they seemed a
bit alarming. I destroyed quite a lot of it. Very
few people have read what's left; but it's
considered pretty fair stuff.
Do you have any other extracurricular talents?
Well, I'm fairly handy around the house. When I
was having my present home altered before moving
in two winters ago, the workmen tried to flannel
me by saying that they couldn't do this or that
job because of the weather. They didn't know that
I've worked in building--with plasterers and
carpenters and electricians--and I know that line
of work pretty well. So I drew up a list of the
things I knew could be done each day, and I
supervised them like a foreman to see that they
got it done.
Are you a jack of any other trades?
Well, I can harness horses and herd them. And I
can cook. I like cooking for a lot of people or
just two--Diane and myself. But not just for six
Do you have any specialty?
Yes--goulash á la Connery. Would you like the
Well, for three or four people with some left
over, I take a pound of the best beef and do it in
olive oil and garlic for half an hour in a pot
with a lid on it, so that all the juice is drained
away from it, and while that's going on I finely
chop onions and carrots and have fresh tomatoes
and tinned tomatoes all ready. Then I fry the
carrots and the onions in butter, and once the
steak has been cooking for about half an hour in
the pot, I take it out and dice it up into
squares--one- or two-inch squares--and then roll
it in flour, salt, pepper and seasoning, and line
the bottom of the bowl or stone dish. Then I cover
all the meat with the onions and the carrots and
the tomato--fresh and tinned--and the oil that's
left over in the juice that's been taken from the
meat I pour over the top. I then add a tube of
Italian tomato purče, and top it all off with
either good stock or boiled water, and bake it in
the oven for three hours and medium heat. It's
Where did you learn all this?
In boy service in the navy, when I was 16; we used
to have to do our own cooking. I also cooked for
myself when I kept my own flat in London. I used
to make a big dish of soup that would last me five
or six days, so when I came in at night I could
always take some and heat it up. It wasn't very
good, but it was cheap and plentiful.
Do you have to watch your weight?
I don't really keep any check on it. I know what I
am now, because we were doing a scene in a health
farm for Thunderball
and there were weights and scales around. I'm 14
stone, 5 pounds [201 pounds]. It seems to stay
Do you drink?
Beer at lunch if I'm filming, because wine makes
you doze off in the afternoon. But I like good
wine and champagne--doesn't everyone? But I am not
a connoisseur like Bond.
How do you keep in shape?
Football, golf and swimming, if possible. My
metabolic system seems to burn up what I don't
need, so I don't have any sort of problem.
Do you practice judo or karate?
No, but if I'm shown a move or a routine I can
usually follow it.
Harold Sakata, who played
Goldfinger's manservant Oddjob, seemed to
be a tremendously powerful man. Was he as strong
as he looked?
Tremendously so. He knows karate and judo and
wrestling and weight lifting. With it all, though,
he is a very sweet man, very gentle.
Did you use a double in your fight with him?
No. There are
doubles, but I usually do my own stunts--and
all the fight sequences, except for that fall on
one's back on the rails in Russia.
Bob Shaw [who played the blond Spectre assassin]
and I did most of that scene ourselves.
an equally strenuous picture to make? In a recent Look
article, you were quoted as saying that you
suffered everything from "the trots to
leprosy" during the filming.
They've got that wrong. It wasn't on Thunderball
in the Bahamas, but during The
Hill in Spain, where Spanish tummy and the
heat combined to lay me out.
At this point in your career, as you pause between
and On Her
Majesty's Secret Service, do you feel that the
Bond boom, apart from making you rich and famous,
has changed you as a man or as an actor in any
No, I'm what I always have been:
a Scot, a bit introspective; I don't tell
lies and I prefer straight dealing. I don't lose
my temper often, except at incompetence--my own or
others'. Or when I play golf badly. But I never
lose my temper at work; if I have a row there I
have a head like ice. I have learned to rely on
myself--and to keep my own counsel--since I
started earning at 13. Like all Celts, I have my
moods, and I'm not particularly generous with
them. I rather like to keep them to myself; but if
people want to infringe on a mood they are welcome
to any part of it. I suppose you could say I am
more introvert than extrovert. The extrovert side
is in my work.
As a nonextrovert, does it make you uncomfortable
to be the object of so much world-wide press
coverage and public adulation?
To be quite honest, yes. I find that fame tends to
turn one from an actor and a human being into a
piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well,
I don't intend to undergo that metamorphosis. This
is why I fight so tenaciously to protect my
privacy, to keep interviews like this one to an
absolute minimum, to fend off prying photographers
who want to follow me around and publicize my
every step and breath. The absolute sanctum
sanctorum is my home, which is and will continue
to be only for me, my wife, my family and my
friends. I do not and shall not have business
meetings there or acquaintances or journalists.
When I work, I work my full stint, but I must
insist that my private life remain my own. I don't
think that's too much to ask.
One last question:
Since you seem to consider stardom, at
best, a mixed blessing, how long do you think
you'll want to remain in movies--and in the public
I have no idea how I'll feel or what I'll be like
or what I'll be doing even five years from now.
I'm eternally concerned with the present. I've
been working my arse into the ground for 21 years
and I'm just coming up for air now. I find there
are two sorts of people in the world:
those who live under a shell and just wait
for their pensions, and those who move around and
keep their eyes open. I have always moved around
and kept my eyes open--and been prepared to raise
my middle finger at the world. I always will.