Sean Connery, the charismatic Scottish actor who rose to international superstardom as the suave and fearless secret agent James Bond and then abandoned the role to carve out an Oscar-winning career in other rugged roles, has died. He was 90.
Connery’s son Jason said his father died peacefully in his sleep overnight in the Bahamas where he lived, having been “unwell for some time.”
“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,” he told the BBC.
Actor Daniel Craig hailed his fellow James Bond actor as “one of the true greats of cinema”, adding he hopes that “wherever he is there’s a golf course.”
Craig, who is due to appear as Bond for the final time in the delayed No Time To Die, shared a tribute via the official Bond Twitter account.
The 52-year-old said: “It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema. Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style.
“The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster. He will continue to influence actors and filmmakers alike for years to come.
“My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”
Craig’s tribute was one of countless flooding in to remember Connery.
The producers of James Bond said they are “devastated” by his death while others simply wanted to pay tribue to “the world’s greatest Scot, the last of the real Hollywood stars, the definitive Bond.”
Connery, was a commanding screen presence for some 40 years. He was in his early 30s – and little known – when he starred in the first Bond thriller, 1962’s “Dr. No,” based on the Ian Fleming novel.
Connery continued as Bond in From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever, often performing his own stunts.
Diamonds Are Forever came out in 1971 and by then Connery had grown weary of playing 007 and feared he wasn’t being taken seriously despite his excellent dramatic performances in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and Sidney Lumet’s The Hill.
“I’d been an actor since I was 25, but the image the press put out was that I just fell into this tuxedo and started mixing vodka martinis,” he once complained.
When he walked away at age 41, Hollywood insiders predicted Connery would soon be washed up. Who would hire a balding, middle-aged actor with a funny accent?
Connery confounded them all, playing a wide range of characters and proving equally adept at comedy, adventure or drama.
And age only heightened the appeal of his dark stare and rugged brogue; he set a celebrity record of sorts when at age 59 he was named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”
He won the affection of fans of the “Indiana Jones” franchise when he played Indy’s father opposite Harrison Ford in the third picture, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
He won his Oscar for supporting actor in 1987 for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop who joins Elliot Ness’ crime-fighters in “The Untouchables.”
By then he was at peace with James Bond, and when he arrived onstage at the Oscar ceremony he declared, “The name’s Connery. Sean Connery.”
He kept his promise not to play Bond again until 1983, when he was lured back by an offbeat script about a middle-aged 007.
Based on the only Fleming story that hadn’t been nailed down by the film empire Broccoli and Saltzman created, Connery took the role and helped produce the film.
The result was Never Say Never Again, a title suggested by his wife, Micheline Roquebrune.
Even as the 007 films made him a millionaire, Connery tried often to separate his own personality from that of Bond.
“I’m obviously not Bond,” he once said. “And Bond is obviously not a human being. Fleming invented him after the war, when people were hungry for luxury, gourmet touches, exotic settings.”
The “real” Sean Connery had a troubled first marriage and a history of comments justifying domestic violence.
Connery was widely criticised, but still received numerous honours, including a knighthood from the Queen.
Thomas Sean Connery was born Aug. 25, 1930, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first of two sons of a long-distance truck driver and a domestic worker.
He left school at age 13 during World War II to help support his family.
“I was a milkman, labourer, steel bender, cement mixer – virtually anything,” he once said.
Weary of day labour, he joined the British navy and was medically discharged after three years. The ailment: stomach ulcers.
Back in Edinburgh, he lifted weights to build his body and compete in the Mr. Universe contest. He came in third, and briefly considered becoming a professional soccer player, but chose acting because he reasoned his career would last longer.
When he decided to become an actor, he was told that Thomas Sean Connery wouldn’t fit on a theatre marquee so he dropped his first name.
Then came the audition that changed his life. American producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had bought the film rights to a string of post-World War II spy adventure novels by Fleming.
Connery was not their first choice for Dr. No. The producers had looked to Cary Grant, but decided they wanted an actor who would commit to a series.
The producers also realised they couldn’t afford a big-name star because United Artists had limited their film budget to $1 million a picture, so they started interviewing more obscure British performers.
Among them was the 6ft 2in Connery. Without a screen test, Broccoli and Saltzman chose the actor, citing his “dark, cruel good looks,” a perfect match for the way Fleming described Bond.
He announced in 2007 that he had retired when he turned down the chance to appear in another “Indiana Jones” movie.
“I thought long and hard about it, and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an ‘Indiana Jones’ film,” he said.
“But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun.”
Though he lived abroad for many years, Connery was a passionate supporter of Scottish independence and a donor to the Scottish National Party.
Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, said “Sean was a global legend but, first and foremost, he was a patriotic and proud Scot.”
Connery is survived by his wife, brother Neil and sons Jason and Stefan.