Unlike most film fans, I didn’t come to that renowned Scotsman, Sean Connery in his star-making turn as Ian Fleming’s James Bond, 007. No, instead I first came across his gruff, heavily accented tone in the eccentric, but oh so enjoyable film, Time Bandits. There he played Agamemnon and seemed completely at ease with the odd sense of humor that pervaded the kooky cult film.
Following that, I saw him in Robin and Marian. This perhaps explains my enduring love for the legendary character and those who inhabited Sherwood Forest. I remember the film sweeping me up even though it played more as a romantic drama than a ribald, rip-roaring adventure.
And I’m afraid he wasn’t my first introduction to James Bond either, that honor fell to Roger Moore. But when I did see his first foray into the world of the secret agent in 1962’s Dr. No, he garnered himself a fan for life, whether he knew it or not. I certainly didn’t know it at the time.
Over the years, I explored his filmography, I delighted when new films were released. And I could see him on the big screen, no matter what it did at the box office. Although I will always lament that The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was his among his last films.
By the early 80s I was a passionate 007 fan, and had seen his entries countless times. I knew dialogue, shots, music cues, and didn’t think anyone could embody cool as much as he did. Roger Moore’s Bond didn’t compare, Connery exuded an old world charm and a dangerous edge that came through in his performance.
And even as I rewatched the James Bond films for the umpteenth time, I was introduced to the sci-fi film, Highlander. And in college, I saw Highlander II in the theater and I simply embraced it because of Connery. Other films generated that same tender of affection. In 1987 I cheered for him in The Untouchables, for which he took home a Best Supporting Oscar. I committed his ‘knife to a gunfight’ speech. And I worked to deliver it with that Connery burr (something he apparently hated, not his burr, but imitations of him).
He took on an outer space version of High Noon with Outland, boggled the mind in the Boorman film, Zardoz. And then in 1990, he took on the role of Marko Ramius in the big screen adaptation of Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October. He didn’t even attempt a Russian accent for the role. It’s one of my favorite comfort food movies (and lots of dialogue to work on my impression).
But for many people it was his turn as the father of Indiana Jones, Henry Jones Sr. His work in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade made him memorable for a whole new generation of fans. And who else but James Bond could be the father of Indiana Jones? It seemed appropriate, seeing as Spielberg had long wanted to direct a Bond film, until Lucas promised him something better than that! This one resonated with me to the extreme. I saw this with my first girlfriend, and I remember clenching her hand in reflex when someone shoots him. He reconnects with his son (Harrison Ford) in a way that got me misty eyed. He makes that relationship believable even though he wasn’t that much younger than Ford (twelve years).
Whether bringing a dragon named Draco to life, helping Nicholas Cage break into Alcatraz. Or pulling off a heist with Catherine Zeta-Jones, I followed Connery everywhere. I followed him into the jungles as he hunted for a cure for cancer in Medicine Man. He played a baddie in the big screen mess that was The Avengers (the Brit television show, not the Marvel Universe). He was one of the people who inspired me to start writing with Finding Forrester. And he made me question casting when Julia Ormond picked Richard Gere over him in First Knight.
Just Cause, Rising Sun and The Russia House, all found their way into my collections at various times. It’s not because they were exceptional films. But because Connery brought the material to a new level simply with his presence. (And to be fair, The Russia House, based on the John Le Carre book, had a fantastic soundtrack).
He always seemed to be there, and you could have your pick of what Connery you wanted to hang out with. You could kick it old school with The Anderson Tapes. Or a Bond film, or see him as a settled and mature actor in films like The Name of the Rose, based on the book by Umberto Eco.
No matter what you selected, you could count on his charm, his sly wit and that edge that permeated everything. Even if the movie wasn’t stellar, Connery could hold your attention, he commanded it with ease, in fact.
He’s been walking alongside me for the greater portion of my life, as have so many cultural icons, and moments. People and things that have helped define who I am. He was dedicated to his craft, he looked damned good in a kilt. And Scottish burr or not, you couldn’t help but want to believe in every character that he brought to the screen.
Good night 007, I’ll miss you Mr. Connery, and I’ll lament the fact that I never got to tell you in person how you’ve influenced my life. How you filled it with laughter, tears, a not horrible impression, and a style I wish I could make my own.
Thank you Sir Sean Connery. Now take your rest.
- Starring: Sean Connery