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Sean Connery | A 20th century icon who will always be James Bond first 

Sean Connery brought to life seven Bond thrillers and each of them, barring perhaps Never Say Never Again, earned him a loyal fan following and lasting fame. 

November 01, 2020 / 07:14 PM IST

I watched Dr No when I was too young to take in the lithe handsomeness of Sean Connery. His animal magnetism was plain to see but I was, without knowing, looking the other way. Only after repeated viewing did I come to understand the importance of that genre-defining film. 

Connery was not well-known when he was cast as James Bond. Most people familiar with the Bond franchise know that Connery managed to impress the producers enough to just walk into the role.  And, the Scottish movie legend, who died on October 31 aged 90, went on to define James Bond. 

No matter what he did, Connery was always 007 first. Except Never Say Never Again, which was a bit of a dud, he was brilliant in Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball. 

Even his Academy award-winning turn in Brian de Palma’s Untouchables did not get him the recognition he craved as a serious actor. 

Also see: Former James Bond star Sean Connery dies: Here's a look at some of his acclaimed films

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In Alfred Hitchcock’s much-maligned Marnie, Connery exuded male sexuality, which audiences understood only years later. He almost outdid Harrison Ford in the third instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise. As the chastising father to Indy, Connery was superb in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Trashy films like The Rock and Entrapment would have been cast aside if not for Connery’s involvement in those projects. In The Rock, he was the partner of Nicholas Cage’s character and he ends up saving Cage from himself. Entrapment depended on Connery’s chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones and both actors nailed it. 

2000’s Finding Forrester repeatedly brought tears to my eyes. As a mentor to an African American boy, Connery’s turn as a writer was dazzling as it should be. 

Though the movie is highly sentimental —I didn’t cry for nothing— Connery’s turn was brusque and down to earth. Though Finding Forrester is part of the Connery’s repertoire of later years, it has already been forgotten.

Dragonheart doesn’t even feature Connery’s face; only his voice. Yet I found it to be quite a gem upon release during my college years. In this movie, Connery is the voice of a talking dragon, a romantic notion that kept me pumped up. 

In the early 1990s, I was quite caught up with Michael Crichton and was making a futile attempt at reading all his books. When Rising Sun, which was adapted from a Crichton novel got released with Connery in it, I was thrilled to bits. The movie, in which Connery is also an executive producer, is a crime story featuring a clash of cultures between Japan and the US.

Many people in India adore Connery. We may not miss him with a pang but we have certainly heard of controversial knighthood and his contribution to the Bond canon. 

Of the old-time actors, I can only think of Gregory Peck who commanded that kind of a fan following in India. My late father, who introduced me to the movies, loved Connery. His idea of a great time was a late-night show of Never Say Never Again with enough popcorn to go around.

In all, Connery brought to life seven Bond thrillers. He shared nothing with Bond—neither the fast cars nor the beautiful women. Connery came from a working-class background and his martinis were neither shaken nor stirred. 

This is not to say that Connery didn’t have anything to do with high art. He played the hero in the movie adaptation of Umberto Eco’s The Name of The Rose released in 1986. 

In The Hunt for Red October, a high-profile adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel, Connery is nothing short of resplendent.   

Connery was a 20th century icon and a great Scotsman. There is no chance that any of us will forget him.

(Nandhu Sundaram is a journalist based in Chennai.)
Nandhu Sundaram
first published: Nov 1, 2020 06:56 pm

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