Sean Connery: 9 Surprising Facts About the Man and His James Bond Movies

Updated on December 9, 2018
Timothy Anderson profile image

Tim Anderson is a freelance writer/researcher with articles published in The Saturday Evening Post, Playboy magazine, TV Guide, and others.

Sean Connery was offered the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and turned it down, saying he didn't understand the part.  Experts say he could have made nearly one-half billion dollars had he signed to play the wizard.
Sean Connery was offered the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and turned it down, saying he didn't understand the part. Experts say he could have made nearly one-half billion dollars had he signed to play the wizard.

1. Starring Tommy Connery!

He was born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930 in a tough neighborhood in west Edinburgh, Scotland, but as he grew up he preferred using his middle name, "Sean."

By the time he began a film career in the 1950s, the name Sean had already stuck and was used professionally.

However, when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2000, he was now officially known as "Sir Thomas Sean Connery."

Between 1962 and 1983 he starred in seven James Bond movies, and the name Sean Connery will forever be linked with the world's greatest spy, and one of the most successful movie franchises ever.

When you adjust for inflation, the movies Sean Connery has been in total an amazing $5.5 billion in ticket sales!

Sean Connery's Favorite 007 Movie

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Sean Connery Was Born to Be Bond

This photo is from the first scene Sean Connery shot for Dr. No.  The film had just started, but we immediately knew this man was Bond... James Bond...
This photo is from the first scene Sean Connery shot for Dr. No. The film had just started, but we immediately knew this man was Bond... James Bond...

2. Sean the Sailor

Like the fictional James Bond, Sean Connery served in the British Royal Navy. He joined when he was still a teen, and like sailors often do, he had two tattoos inked into his arm, one which says "Mum and Dad," and the other, "Scotland Forever." These were covered with makeup during movie shoots.

And he might well have continued a career at sea, but a duodenal ulcer required a medical discharge. He would receive a disability pension for awhile after leaving the Navy, and this would help support him as he began to find work in the theater.

The Men Who Wanted To Be Bond.

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3. Sean Connery - Professional Baby-Sitter

Before his naval service, Connery had worked as a teenage milkman in Edinburgh. Now that he was discharged and the World War II over, jobs in the civilian sector could be hard to come by, and after a second short stint delivering milk, the one-time sailor found himself working as a lifeguard, lorry driver, male model, common laborer, and even polishing coffins.

He also begin seeking and getting bit parts in several movies and on the London stage, and to help pay the bills while he struggled to find greater roles, he occasionally worked as a baby-sitter for a local journalist and his wife.

Sean Connery had a 1950s affair with actress Shelley Winters.
Sean Connery had a 1950s affair with actress Shelley Winters.

4. Shelley Winters -- The First "Bond Girl"

Actress Shelley Winters could make a decent argument that she was the first "Bond girl."

When he was a struggling actor, Sean Connery met young and rising actress Shelley Winters through a mutual friend: British journalist Peter Noble for whom Connery had been occasionally baby-sitting.

They were introduced at Noble's house and eventually ended up at the flat Sean shared with his brother Neal, and the romance would continue for a number of years on both sides of the Atlantic. Shelley would later describe Sean as "one of the tallest and most charming and masculine Scotsmen" she'd ever seen.

"I like women. I don't understand them, but I like them."

— Sean Connery

Winters had affairs with many of Hollywood's leading men, including actors Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and even a fling with John F. Kennedy. But Sean, she would later reveal, wasn't just wonderful in bed, but in every way she could imagine. One of their trysts occurred during a train ride from London to Liverpool where she said they pulled down the blinds and made love during the entire journey.

They eventually went their separate ways, each marrying another person, but the many evenings she spent at his flat drinking beer with Sean and his brother were memories she would always cherish.

Shelley Winters Reveals Passionate Affair With Sean Connery

The All-Time Favorite Bond Girls

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One of Sean Connery's early films was Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
One of Sean Connery's early films was Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

5. Disney and Darby O'Gill Come Knocking!

Connery began his career in 1954, occasionally appearing in uncredited and largely forgettable roles in B-movies, or with small parts in TV shows. He even made a brief appearance on The Jack Benny Show in 1957.

But even with the little work he'd done, Sean had managed to capture the eye of Disney producers who signed him to star opposite Janet Munro in Darby O'Gill and the Little People. The film was a hit with movie-goers, and the resulting attention helped him land the coveted role of British spy James Bond in the first of the 007 films, 1962's Dr. No.

Film critic Leonard Martin has said that the movie Darby O'Gill is "one of Disney's best films," and also added it was "one of the best fantasies ever put on film."

Sean Connery -- Disney superstar -- was on his way!

Connery's First Scene as 007 in Dr. No

Eunice Gayson - The First Official Bond Girl

On June 8, 2018, Eunice Gayson, the first official Bond girl passed away at age 90.

She appeared in 1962's Dr. No with Sean Connery in the very first scene they shot for the movie which launched the long-running movie series.

After some witty repartee, of course she ends up in Bond's bedroom.

You can view this famous movie scene in the movie clip above.

6. Sean Connery 007 -- The Man Who Would Be Bond!

Sean Connery's selection came as the result of the influence of two woman who convinced their husbands that Connery had the necessary sex appeal.

He was first considered for the part after producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli saw Connery in Darby O'Gill and was impressed with his physical acting, particularly the fight scene with the town bully at the end of the movie. He asked his wife Dana to view the movie and share her thoughts, and she gushed about the actor's sex appeal.

When Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond novels was approached, he said Connery wasn't who he had in mind for the role. His argument was the handsome Scot was too raw and "unrefined" for the role, an "overgrown stunt man." The actor he had in mind was Cary Grant. But then Fleming's girlfriend spoke up and assured the novelist that Sean had plenty of sexual charisma and was perfect for the part. During the time Connery was being considered for the part, so were Richard Burton, David Niven, Rex Harrison, Cary Grant and several other British actors. Broccoli finally settled on Connery, and Fleming, still not convinced, grudgingly agreed to support Broccoli's decision.

"He [Bond] 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."

— Sean Connery

Connery was then signed for the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, for which he was paid $125,000. The director, Terence Young, took the still somewhat "raw" actor from Edinburgh and quietly tutored him how to walk, talk, eat and act like the James Bond he envisioned for his movie.

And it worked. Dr. No was a huge box-office success, racking up $16 million in ticket sales, and it became the #1 box office movie hit of the year. After attending the premiere, Fleming admitted Sean Connery was perfect for the role. The one-time Scottish milkman would go on to play James Bond in a total of seven Bond movies and become one of the greatest male cinematic sex symbols of all time. Every Sean Connery James Bond movie made the producers substantial returns on their money.

Other James Bond actors would eventually play the part of super-spy 007, but Sean Connery did it best!

Many film critics consider the first three 007 movies to be the best in the entire series. Dr. No introduced Connery as Bond, and he immediately became a film icon. Dr. No was followed by From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger. All three were smash hits and the James Bond movie series was now firmly established. It's interesting to watch how so-called political and social correctness have changed over the years, particularly in the way Bond treats women. And the special features going behind the scenes and the commentary are always a treat to watch. If you're a fan of Sean Connery and love James Bond movies, I suggest you consider adding this Sean Connery 007 Collection: Volume 1 to your DVD collection.

Do You Have a Favorite?

Which Sean Connery 007 Film Is Your Favorite?

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Sha Ka Ree and the Klingon!

Sean Connery came very close to playing a Klingon in one of the Star Trek movies.
Sean Connery came very close to playing a Klingon in one of the Star Trek movies.

7. Sean Connery the Klingon?

Over his 50-year career, Sean Connery was offered many roles in movies which for various reasons he turned down.

Had New Line Cinema had its way, they would have signed Connery to play Gandalf for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, Connery said he didn't understand the script, and that "idiots" were now making Hollywood films. Had he signed the contract they offered, which included up to 15 percent of worldwide box office receipts, he would have come the world's highest paid actor ever, netting a cool $400 million.

One of the first roles he turned down was playing Thomas Crown in the 1968 movie which co-starred Faye Dunaway. The part eventually was played by Steve McQueen, and Sean would later say it was one of the few movie roles he regretted not accepting.

Some other "coulda been" Sean Connery movies include Dressed to Kill, the two Matrix movies, Jurassic Park, Braveheart, Pretty Woman and Funny Girl. He also turned down Richard Chamberlain's role in the TV mini-series Shogun because he didn't want to go back to acting on TV.

Perhaps the most intriguing role he said no to was the part of Sybok, a Klingon mystic -- and Spock's half-brother -- in the 1989 Star Trek movie, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In the film you'll hear Klingons discussing going to a paradise-like place called "Sha Ka Ree," a sort of Klingon Shangri-La. Star Trek trivia books claim this mythical place is a wink at Sean Connery's name.


8. Sean Connery: Karate Expert… or Not?

Sean Connery has studied Kyokushin karate, earning the rank of Shodan (1st dan).

In the early 1980s, while filming Never Say Never Again, he was taking karate lessons when he did something that apparently annoyed the instructor. The confrontation ended with Connery breaking his wrist, although he wouldn't know it had been broken until enduring the throbbing pain for several years.

The karate instructor? A soon-to-be film star himself named Steven Seagal.

Scotland's Oscar-Winning Actor!

Sean Connery is the only Scotsman to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Sean Connery is the only Scotsman to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.

9. Scotland's Only Oscar-Winning Actor

In the long history of the Academy Awards, Sean Connery is one of only four Scots to receive Academy Award nominations for an acting role, and the only one to win.

He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a crime-busting federal agent "Jim Malone" in 1987's The Untouchables.

The three Scottish actors who were nominated by didn't win were Deborah Kerr, Mary Ure, and Tom Conti. Kerr, however, won an honorary Academy Award, recognizing her long and storied career in 1994.

The venerable actor is now retired from the screen due to advanced age, having left a long list of beloved Sean Connery movies, assuring him big screen immortality. You can be sure that at some time in the future when the death of Sir Sean Connery is announced, not just Scotland will go into mourning, but undoubtedly many of his millions of worldwide fans will too.

Questions & Answers

© 2016 Tim Anderson

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    • Timothy Anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Tim Anderson 

      5 months ago from Utah

      Thanks Patty! Glad you enjoyed this!

    • profile image

      Patty Russell 

      5 months ago

      Love love love him and I learned a few new things reading this. Thanks Tim Anderson, keep them coming.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      22 months ago from Auburn, WA

      Just re-watched From Russia With Love for the ...time. Still my favorite of his Bond films. Bianchi and Shaw were two of the best co-stars in the entire Bond series. Istanbul setting. I know most will probably say Goldfinger. I'll be the contrarian.

      Sharing.

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