Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

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The Scottish acting legend, who passed away at the age of 90, stamped a variety of roles with his particular brand of masculinity and menace

When he looked up from the baccarat table and said “Bond… James Bond,” it was one of those historic moments that became shorthand for an era. However, Sean Connery, who passed away on October 31, 2020 at the age of 90, stamped a variety of roles with his particular brand of masculinity and menace. Here are some of them…

Marnie (1964)

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

As the James Bond wave was sweeping the globe, Connery appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie with shaped eyebrows as a wealthy widower, Mark Rutland. The movie explores the relationship between Marnie (Tippi Hedren), a compulsive thief with a troubled sexual history and Rutland.

Though Connery famously asked to see the script (afraid of it being another spy film a la North by Northwest and Notorious) he and Hitchcock had a cordial working relationship. Marnie came out the same year as Goldfinger where Connery as Bond trashed The Beatles (gasp) and also cured Pussy (erm) of her dislike for men with some hard loving. The rape in Marnie was controversial with writer Evan Hunter being fired from the project for having reservations on the scene.

The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

Based on a Rudyard Kipling novella of the same name, this rollicking adventure by John Huston features knavish Connery and Michael Caine as British soldiers who travel from 19th century India to Kafiristan in search of adventure and riches. Christopher Plummer plays the narrator, Kipling, while Saeed Jaffrey is the Gurkha soldier, Billy Fish. The rascals-to-royals tale was Connery and Caine’s favourite film.

Robin and Marian (1976)

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

Connery’s aging Robin Hood is a very different one from Russel Crowe in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Here he returns home to England to find Marian (Audrey Hepburn) an abbess. Robert Shaw plays the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. Shaw, incidentally, was the horrid assassin, Red Grant, in From Russia With Love (1963). The sweet love story also stars Richard Harris as Richard the Lionheart and Ian Holm as King John.

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

The fourth of Connery’s five collaborations with Sidney Lumet [The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), The Offense (1973) and Family Business (1989)], he plays Colonel Arbuthnot opposite Vanessa Redgrave as Mary Debenham in this star-studded adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie whodunit. With Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot, the film also starred Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud and Anthony Perkins.

A Bridge too Far (1977)

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

Directed by Richard Attenborough, Connery is part of an ensemble cast that included Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Michael Caine, Edward Fox, Elliott Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Hardy Krüger, Laurence Olivier, Ryan O’Neal, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell and Liv Ullmann.

Connery plays Major-General Roy Urquhart leading the 1st Airborne tasked with holding the bridge near Arnhem in Britain’s doomed Operation Market Garden during World War II. While as James Bond Connery could have held the bridge forever, reality proved it a bridge too far as Lieutenant-General Browning (Bogarde) ruefully tells Urquhart.

The Name of the Rose (1986)

Based on Umberto Eco’s deliciously layered eponymous novel, the medieval mystery features Connery as the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville. Though director Jean-Jacques Annaud felt casting Connery as Baskerville would overwhelm the movie, he was won over by Connery’s reading. The movie could not do justice to the multiple themes of the novel. Connery, however, got the best actor BAFTA.

The Untouchables (1987)

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

Connery was the heart of Brian De Palma’s stylish, uber-violent gangster film. His Jimmy Malone teams up with straight as an arrow Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), George Stone (Andy García) from the police academy and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) to bring down Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Connery won an Academy Award for his role.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Connery was only 12 years older that Harrison Ford but played his father, Henry Jones Sr., with great gusto in this film directed by Steven Spielberg. From his introduction where he asks Indy to count in Latin and his stunt with the umbrella to repeatedly calling Indy, Junior despite his protests and of course “She talks in her sleep,” he is a riot. Connery is quoted as saying, “I was bound to have fun with the role of a gruff, Victorian Scottish father,” and he most certainly did.

The Rock (1996)

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

“Did anyone tell Picasso no brushes?” demands the stylist in this breathless offering from the Michael Bay-Jerry Bruckheimer combo. The plot involves Ed Harris as Brigadier General Frank Hummel holding the tourists at Alcatraz hostage and Nicholas Cage as a chemical weapons expert. Connery plays John Mason, an SAS captain who is the only person to have escaped Alcatraz. One can almost imagine Mason as an older version of Bond. Mason agrees to help the FBI only if he gets a suite, a shower and a shave, which brings us to the Picasso comment.

Dragonheart (1996)

Directed by Rob Cohen, Dragonheart features the voice of Connery as Draco, the last living dragon who shares his heart with the tyrannical king, Einon (David Thewlis). Cohen is quoted as saying the dragon’s personality was to be derived from the actor who was going to play the voice. And Draco is all Connery.

Honourable mentions

Highlander (1986): As Egyptian/Spanish Don Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, Connery is Yoda to the immortal Connor MacLeod’s (Christopher Lambert) Luke.

The Hunt for Red October (1990): Connery plays a Russian nuclear submarine commander with a Scottish accent—what’s not to like?

Remembering Sean Connery beyond 007

Rising Sun (1993): Former police captain John Connor (Connery) who is also an expert in Japanese affairs, partners with detective Webster Smith (Wesley Snipes) in this thriller based on a Michael Crichton novel.

Finding Forrester (2000): Critics have found echoes of JD Salinger in Connery’s reclusive writer, William Forrester who mentors a black teenager in this Gus Van Sant film.

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