“I suppose more than anything else,” Sean Connery said in 1964, “I’d like to be an old man with a good face.” No one could deny that his wish came true, particularly after he became the oldest recipient of People’s Sexiest Man Alive honor in 1989 at 59 years old.
Connery passed away in his sleep over the weekend at 90 years old, leaving behind a legacy of popular film roles like his principal portrayal of James Bond.
Though he was widely regarded to have the charm of Cary Grant and the toughness of Marlon Brando, Connery’s foray into show business was a sort of happy accident. He was born into a poor Scottish family and spent his early working years as a truck driver, a cement mixer, and even a coffin polisher. When he landed a role in a touring South Pacific company in London in 1953, he found a passion for performance.
Connery’s debut as Agent 007 in 1962’s Dr. No launched the lucrative spy movie franchise that continues to this day. He became an overnight star, known for bringing tall, dark, handsome life to Ian Fleming’s British agent. Pete Hamill profiled the newly-famous Connery in this magazine in 1964, making much of the Scotsman’s ability to throw his weight around Hollywood. Connery declined interviews, carefully negotiated his contracts, and even demanded to read a Hitchcock script (Marnie) before agreeing to take part. “Compared to the fatuous James Bond, Connery comes off as an admirable, self-effacing, modest, 100-percent, levelheaded good guy,” Hamill wrote.
After Bond, Connery’s career in action and adventure movies chugged along, with roles in Murder on the Orient Express, A Bridge Too Far, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He won an Oscar in 1988 for playing Jim Malone in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Though his career seemed to be predicated on sex appeal, Connery found lasting success through his willingness to play along as a character actor.
In 2000, Connery was finally knighted by Queen Elizabeth II after being denied the honor for several years, possibly because of his support for Scottish independence.
Even the most diehard Bond fans might have missed Connery’s right-arm tattoos, barely noticeable in his shirtless scenes. He received them during his service in the Royal Navy, and they signified a firm commitment to his humble roots: “Scotland Forever” and “Mum and Dad.”
Featured image: pv brothers / Shutterstock
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