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Scottish Actors

Sean Connery (1930- ):

"People used to call me Bond in the street. It was impossible to avoid crowds of people all over the place and blinding flashguns. The Beatles had to run the gauntlet as well, but at least there were four of them!"
~ Sean Connery
Sean Connery
Sean Connery

Thomas Sean Connery was born in the Fountainbridge neighbourhood of Edinburgh to Joseph Connery, a truck driver and factory worker, and Euphemia Maclean, who worked as a cleaning lady. As a child of nine years, he went to work as a milkman for St. Cuthbert's Co-op Society to help with family finances on a wage of one pound a week. As a teenager of sixteen, he joined the Royal Navy, where he got his two tattoos: one says "Scotland Forever," and the other, "Mum & Dad". He was discharged three years later for a duodenal ulcer, and returned to Edinburgh, where he worked in menial labour before entering bodybuilding and modeling with the Edinburgh College of Art.

In 1953, Connery placed third in a Mr. Universe bodybuilding competition. A fellow competitor suggested that he audition for an upcoming stage production of South Pacific, which gave Connery his first taste of acting. The theatre role led to more modeling opportunities and other small roles with stage, television, and film work - and even opened the door to a potential football (soccer) career! While touring with South Pacific in Manchester, England, Connery - who had played with Bonnyrigg Rose for the 1951 Scottish Junior Cup and was subsequently offered a trial with East Fife - played in a local match that was being scouted by Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United. Busby reportedly offered Connery a twenty-five pound per week contract immediately after the game. "I really wanted to accept," Connery admitted, "because I really loved football. But I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of thirty, and I was already twenty-three. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves." 1

Connery's first major role came opposite Lana Turner with 1958's Another Time, Another Place, a love- story between an American reporter and married British serviceman during World War II. Rumors circulated about Connery and Turner engaging in an off-screen affair, much to the ire of Turner's boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato came to the set one day and watched Connery and Turner shoot a romantic scene. After several retakes, the jealous thug barged into the frame and pointed a handgun at Connery, shouting for him to take his hands off of Lana. Connery, having grown up among thugs in Edinburgh, snatched the gun from Stompanato's hand and used it to beat him into submission.

James Bond
James Bond

Connery's breakout role as James Bond came in 1962 with Dr. No. Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, initially worried that Connery didn't have the right look to play the secret agent - it wasn't how he had pictured the character. Fleming's girlfriend assuaged his doubts by highlighting Connery's sexual charisma, a necessary quality for an actor portraying Bond. Connery's star rose from there - he starred in seven more James Bond films over the next twenty years, retiring from the role after 1983's Never Say Never Again.

Connery won critical recognition as a serious actor in 1987, when he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone in The Untouchables. Two years later, the fifty-nine-year-old Scotsman was featured on the cover of People as "The Sexiest Man Alive". He responded humbly to this accolade, smirking, "Well, I don't know too many sexy dead men!" 2

Because the James Bond series was the biggest influence for the Indiana Jones series, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas tapped Connery to play Indiana Jones' father for 1989's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Connery kept up his macho persona with action-adventure films such as The Hunt for the Red October (1990), The Rock (1996), and Entrapment (1999), but showed his softer side in Finding Forrester (2000). The American Film Institute conferred him with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Connery declined roles offered to him for The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogy because he "didn't understand them." CNN reported that he was offered up to fifteen percent of worldwide box office sales to play Gandalf, a role that would have earned him four hundred million dollars had he accepted it. After passing on these series proved to be huge mistakes, he took the lead role in 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, despite not understanding it, either.

The turmoil involved making the film precipitated Connery's retirement from acting. In a 2004 interview with The Scotsman, he confirmed that he was taking a break to concentrate on writing his autobiography (Being a Scot, 2008), and reported at New York's 2006 Tartan Day celebration that he was working on a history book. Rumors circulated that he would be reprising his role of Dr. Henry Jones for 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but he ultimately decided that retirement was just "too damned much fun." 3

Sean Connery in Kilt
Sean Connery in Kilt

In 2000, Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, finally given the accolade many thought long overdue. He was considered for the honour in 1997 and 1998 but purportedly passed over due to his active involvement with the Scottish National Party (as of 2000, he was making monthly party donations of 4800). "It's one of the proudest days of my life," he said at the ceremony at Holyrood Palace, which he attended wearing full highland dress in the dark green Macleod tartan. "It means a great deal for it to happen in Scotland." 4

Sir Sean established the Scottish International Educational Trust in 1971 to support promising Scots men and women seeking higher education or training. The trust awards 100,000 in annual grants, composed of awards to individual students, travel grants for young scientists and engineers, a block grant to the Royal Academy of Music and Drama for student support, an annual Visual Arts award, and a grant for the Scottish team participating in the World Schools Debating Championships.

Sir Sean also extends his patronage to Friends of Scotland, a California-based organization whose mission is to promote a contemporary view of modern Scotland by showcasing cultural, educational, historical and genealogical connections between the United States and Scotland.

Visit Sean Connery's Official Website
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Visit the Scottish International Education Trust Website
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Visit the Friends of Scotland Website
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  1. "NoNo7," Mud & Glory. April 2005
  2. Sean Connery's official website: www.SeanConnery.com
  3. "Connery bows out of Indiana film," BBC News: Entertainment. 7 June 2007
  4. "Sir Sean's pride at knighthood," BBC News: Scotland. 5 July 2000
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