SIR Sean Connery was hailed “one of the true greats of cinema” today after the iconic James Bond star died in his sleep aged 90.
Connery’s incredible acting career spanned five decades and saw him win an Oscar in 1988 for his role in The Untouchables.
Sir Sean Connery, the ultimate James Bond, died in his sleep today aged 90Credit: Kobal Collection – Rex Features
But he will be forever remembered as the original 007 after rising from the slums of Edinburgh to conquer Hollywood.
The former Royal Navy sailor and bodybuilder was chosen for his “animal virility” and played the suave superspy seven times.
He first enthralled cinema audiences after bursting onto the scene as 007 in Dr No in 1962.
And he was even voted The Sexiest Man Alive aged 59.
The James Bond legend’s last picture shows him with his son and his son’s partner on his 89th birthday
Sean Connery joined the Navy when he was just 16Credit: Rex Features
Current 007 actor Daniel Craig, 52, who has played Bond five times, said: “It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema.
“He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in megawatts; he helped create the modern blockbuster.”
Speaking of the passionate golfer — the only player at his LA country club who used to carry his own bag — Daniel added: “Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”
Following Sean’s death, “Resht in Peash” began trending on Twitter in recognition of his unmistakable accent, mimicked around the world.
The original 007 with first wife Diane CilentoCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty
It remained a constant despite roles as varied as a Russian submarine commander in The Hunt for Red October, Robin Hood, a Greek king in Time Bandits and an immortal Egyptian in Highlander.
Connery got his big Bond break after impressing the wife of film producer Albert R “Cubby” Broccoli — with his kissing technique.
Dana Broccoli saw him in 1959 Disney film Darby O’Gill and the Little People and persuaded her husband to audition him.
Cubby’s first reaction to Connery was that “he looked like a bricklayer”, but he was knocked out by his “animal virility”.
The actor being knighted by the Queen in 2000 at Holyrood PalaceCredit: STV
Tall, dark, handsome — and moody — he was a perfect fit for the role of Bond.
But despite landing the part of 007, he held out no great hopes for Dr No. Sean was said to have told a fellow actor: “Oh, it’ll just be another job. Then I’ll be waiting for the phone to ring as usual.”
But his life was never the same again — as he became the top box office star in both Britain and the US after the success of From Russia With Love in 1963, Goldfinger in 1964 and Thunderball in 1965.
He became bigger than the character, prompting Bond creator Ian Fleming to give his hero a Scottish background in novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Sir Sean at his Oscar win in 1988 for his role in The UntouchablesCredit: AP:Associated Press
When Connery announced that You Only Live Twice would be his final film as Bond in 1967, the world was shocked — with even the Queen Mother asking him if it was really true.
But in 1972, Connery was lured back in Diamonds are Forever for £965,000 plus a 12.5 per cent share of profits — then the highest film pay cheque in history.
He had been declared bankrupt, after being ripped off by his accountant. The mega-fee was one a young Connery could not have believed.
He was born Thomas Sean Connery on August 25, 1930, to a poor Irish family in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. The two toilets in the hall were shared with three other families and his father Joe earned £2 a week in a rubber factory.
Sir Sean and Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeCredit: Getty Images – Getty
As a youngster, he went on shoplifting missions using his baby brother Neil’s pram as the cover for his stolen sweets and comics.
When his mother Effie found his stash, she belted him around the ear and marched him back to the shop to apologise.
Connery never forgot his humble beginnings, telling an interviewer when he was 63 that a bath was still “something special”.
He gave the millions he earned from one film to the Scottish International Education Trust, an organisation he founded to help poor Scots get an education.
The great Scot pictured recently with his second wife Micheline
After leaving school at 14, he delivered milk around the city on a horse and cart before signing up to the Royal Navy.
But homesickness and an ulcer saw him invalided out after just 17 months. The talented footballer was even offered a trial at Manchester United by legendary manager Sir Matt Busby — but turned it down, believing he was too old at 24.
He started pumping iron at the Dunedin Amateur Weight-Lifting Club to look good for the girls and became a life model at Edinburgh College of Art.
During a winter job cleaning presses at the Evening News, he spied an ad in the paper for 6ft male extras needed for a musical. He also entered the 1953 Mr Universe contest — taking bronze.
Dr No: 007 debut in 1962 with Ursula Andress Credit: Alamy
It spurred him on to audition for a touring production of South Pacific, spawning his career.
But he might never have got his licence to thrill as writer Ian Fleming’s secret agent had it not been for a film director’s wife who first spotted his sex appeal.
In Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man, biographer Christopher Bray told how Jacqueline Hill suggested her husband Alvin Rakoff use the little-known actor as the lead in a 1950s BBC play.
Rakoff, whose original leading man pulled out just three days before rehearsals, told his wife: “Sean Connery? You can’t understand a word he says.”
From Russia With Love: On screen passion with Daniela BianchiCredit: Alamy
Jacqueline replied: “Well, the ladies would like it.”
Rakoff later said: “If anyone had told me that Sean Connery was going to go on to become one of the biggest movie stars ever, I’d have laughed in their face.”
It was the break that set him on the road to the role of Bond and the creation of a movie dynasty.
In 1957, Connery starred in Action of the Tiger, directed by Terence Young — who would go on to direct three of the first four Bond movies.
Goldfinger: Suave Sean with Bond’s Aston MartinCredit: Alamy
Young said: “He had a sexual quality. To call it a star quality would be to overrate it, but the sex was plainly there.” Connery married Diane Cilento, an actress he had met when they played lovers in a TV show, in 1962 and their son Jason was born six weeks later.
They split after the actor met Micheline Roquebrune, a French artist and obsessive golfer, at a tournament in Morocco in 1970.
After their marriage in 1975, they lived in Marbella, Spain, to avoid the taxman and take advantage of the resort’s 24 golf courses.
Connery, who agreed to return as 007 one last time in Never Say Never Again in 1983, was knighted by the Queen in 2000 at Holyrood Palace — less than a mile from where he grew up.
Thunderball: A clinch with Bond girl Claudine AugerCredit: Kobal Collection – Rex Features
A staunch supporter of Scottish independence, with “Scotland Forever” tattooed on his arm, he had been nominated twice before but was overlooked because of his political views.
His other films included The Man Who Would Be King, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — in which he played the father of Harrison Ford’s action hero — and The Rock.
Later movies such as The Avengers and his final film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003, were disappointing, prompting him to retire from the big screen.
In 2008, he told an interviewer: “I don’t think I’ll ever act again. I have so many wonderful memories, but those days are over.”
You Only Live Twice: Flying a gyrocopter in fifth film as spyCredit: Kobal Collection – Shutterstock
Since his retirement, home was New Providence Island, west of Nassau in the Bahamas. It was there that he passed away, with his family around him, after being “unwell for some time”.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose party received £5,000 a month from Connery, said: “Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons.”
Sam Neill, who starred with him in 1990’s The Hunt For Red October, said: “Every day on set with Sean Connery was an object lesson in how to act on screen.
“But all that charisma and power — that was utterly unique to Sean. RIP that great man, that great actor.”
Diamonds Are Forever: Sean and Lana Wood in 1971 movieCredit: Kobal Collection – Shutterstock
Elton John shared a picture of him and husband David Furnish posing with Connery and wrote: “A true screen legend.”
Elizabeth Hurley said: “RIP the glorious Sean Connery.”
Biographer Bray added: “Sean Connery reshaped Britain’s sexual image. His friend Michael Caine once said that in British movies before the Sixties you could always tell who the bad guy was because he chased after women.
“Connery turned this cliché on its head; the women chased after him. He also reinvented the idea of Britain around the world.”
A statement from Connery’s publicist said: “His wife Micheline and his two sons, Jason and Stephane, have confirmed that he died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family.
Current 007 Daniel Craig led tributes online
“There will be a private ceremony followed by a memorial yet to be planned once the virus has ended.”
Son Jason told the BBC: “A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.”
Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said: “He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words: ‘The name’s Bond . . . James Bond.’”
GOT a story? RING The Sun on 0207 782 4104 or WHATSAPP on 07423720250 or EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.