2020 has been a sad year for James Bond fans. Honor Blackman, aka the villainous Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, died from natural causes at the age of 94 in April. Diana Rigg, who played Countess Teresa di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, passed away after a short battle with cancer aged 82 in September. And then, in October, the first — and who many consider being the best – actor to portray 007 on-screen, Sean Connery, lost his life just a few months after turning 90.
As you’d expect, countless tributes to the Scotsman poured in following the news of his death. But while most were of the general “what a great actor” variety, some revealed a fascinating personal story that hadn’t previously been public knowledge.
And it appears that, in most cases, Connery was very much the gentleman that he portrayed for the majority of his career. Here’s a look at ten things that we only learned about the Academy Award winner in the wake of his passing.
Sean Connery suffered from dementia in his final months
Undoubtedly the saddest story that emerged following Sean Connery’s death involved the cause. Shortly after the news of his passing went public, his widow Micheline Roquebrune confirmed that the 007 star had been suffering from dementia in his final months.
Roquebrune, who first met Connery at a golfing tournament at the start of the 1970s, revealed her late husband’s medical condition in a chat with the Daily Mail. She said, “He had dementia and it took its toll on him. He got his final wish to slip away without any fuss … It was no life for him. He was not able to express himself latterly. At least he died in his sleep and it was just so peaceful. I was with him all the time and he just slipped away. It was what he wanted.”
The French-Moroccan painter went on to admit that she would find life difficult now that the person she’d been married to since 1975 was no longer by her side: “He was gorgeous and we had a wonderful life together. He was a model of a man. It is going to be very hard without him, I know that. But it could not last for ever and he went peacefully.”
Sean Connery's final wish was to be buried in Scotland
Sean Connery had always been proud to hail from Scotland. And the feeling was mutual — in 2011, a Euro-millions survey crowned the James Bond star as the country’s Greatest Living National Treasure. So it was little surprise to learn that the Edinburgh native’s last wish involved his home nation.
The Oscar winner passed away at the luxurious Bahamas property he shared with his wife, Micheline Roquebrune. And the latter told the Scottish Mail on Sunday — as reported by Daily Mail — that her late husband had wanted the two countries he called home to be part of his memorial. She said, “We are going to bring Sean back to Scotland — that was his final wish. He wanted his ashes to be scattered in the Bahamas and also in his homeland.”
Roquebrune confirmed that Connery would first be cremated on the island nation during a private service before any additional arrangements. She added, “Whenever it is possible and safe to travel again, then it is the family’s intention to return to Scotland with him. We would like to organize a memorial service for him in Scotland — that is our hope. But we cannot say when this will happen exactly.”
Sean Connery once got involved with a soccer transfer saga
Sean Connery could often be seen cheering on his beloved soccer team Rangers, at their Ibrox home ground. And it turns out that the James Bond star once tried to get a little more involved with the Scottish Premiership giants.
Following the Scotsman’s death, Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso revealed at a press conference that back in the late 1990s, he’d received some career advice from an unlikely source. Then a midfielder with the Glaswegian club, the Italian was being tipped for a move back to his homeland at the time after just over a year in Scotland. But after bumping into each other, Connery pleaded with Gattuso to stay put.
Unfortunately for the Hollywood icon, his words fell on deaf ears, and Gattuso soon signed with Salernitana. But the one-time Rangers player still appreciated the brief time he spent with Connery. He told the press that he wants to send “a very big hug to his entire family,” adding, “I’ve got beautiful memories of him.” After reporters asked Gattuso if Connery spoke to him about pursuing acting himself, the sports star replied, “No, I wasn’t as fascinating as him … But I repeat, I’ve always had good memories of Sean.”
David Mamet recalled Sean Connery's random act of kindness
Sean Connery only got the chance to make one acceptance speech at the Academy Awards — his sole victory came in the 1988 Best Supporting Actor category for his performance as Jimmy Malone in gangster epic The Untouchables. And the man who wrote his dialog was one of many stars who spoke of the Scotsman’s kindness following his passing.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, David Mamet recalled the time he’d arranged to speak with the first on-screen James Bond during the film’s post-production stages: “Before our scheduled call my cousin called. She was in Ohio with a failed marriage, a husband who’d just lost his job, and, no doubt, the attendant kids down sick. In any case, she was beyond despair. I told her I’d have to get off the phone as I was expecting a call from Sean Connery, and I’d call her back after the business call.”
On hearing that Mamet was about to speak to her idol, the cousin requested, “‘Give him my love. Please; I adore him. Tell him first thing.” To his credit, the screenwriter duly obliged. But instead of just a polite thank-you, the veteran actor went above and beyond after hearing more about her current predicament. He asked for her phone number. Mamet continued, “I gave it to him, he rang off, called her in Ohio, and chatted for half an hour. Rest in Peace.”
He paid for Alec Baldwin's The Hunt for Red October memento
Further evidence of Sean Connery’s generosity emerged during a tribute that Alec Baldwin paid in an Instagram video. The 30 Rock star took to the social media platform to discuss his experiences of working with the Scotsman on the 1990 thriller The Hunt for Red October.
As Baldwin gushed, “We talk about people in the legend category — rest in peace, Sean Connery. You made life better. The work you did, the films you made. The experience you gave me, the kindness you showed me. Thanks for that.” The Oscar nominee played Jack Ryan, the CIA’s most famous intelligence analyst, in John McTiernan’s submarine tale, while Connery portrayed Captain Marko Ramius.
As well as sharing the screen with a bona fide movie legend, Baldwin also got the chance to take home a souvenir — and he had Connery to thank. The former Mr. Kim Basinger had become enamored with the leather jacket that his character wore in the film. And in a touching gesture, his senior co-star offered the costume department money to help create an exact replica. As Baldwin explained in his video tribute, “I learned so much from him. He was so kind toward me, so warm toward me, which he didn’t have to be … This guy’s the king. This guy’s a king and he was the king.”
Sean Connery has a director's wife to thank for his big break
The history of James Bond would have looked very different indeed had it not been for the very shrewd judgment of a lady who wasn’t even in the film industry. In 1957, director Alvin Rakoff was just days away from shooting the BBC’s remake of Requiem For a Heavyweight when he got a dreaded call: his leading man Jack Palance had pulled out.
But as a panicked Rakoff began auditioning every available actor, he received another call, this time from his wife. “What about Sean?” she questioned, referring to the man whose name had featured last in the credits for the director’s previous project, The Condemned. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter shortly after Connery’s passing, Rakoff revealed that he wasn’t exactly bowled over by the idea. “I said, it can’t be Sean, he mumbles, he’s never done it before.”
But after his wife argued that “the ladies would like it,” Arkoff relented and cast the then-unknown Sean Connery in the play. Admittedly, the Scotsman’s performance didn’t quite indicate an Oscar-winning career spanning more than half a century. But it was enough to set him on a five-year path that would end with him landing the role of 007. Arkoff acknowledges, “He matured, I’m very happy to say, as the years went by, into a much better actor.”
Sean Connery was written into Time Bandits as a joke
While writing the script for 1981 adventure fantasy Time Bandits, Michael Palin and director Terry Gilliam jokingly threw Sean Connery’s name into the ring for the part of a Minotaur-defeating Agamemnon. Therefore, the pair were understandably astonished when word got back to them that the first big-screen Bond was interested.
Denis O’Brien, whose Handmade Films company was producing the film, had mentioned the role to Connery while the pair were playing golf. Gilliam told The Hollywood Reporter in November 2020, “I guess he was a [Monty] Python fan. I’m convinced the reason he said yes was that he was having some guilt feelings about having been an absent father. And here was a chance to be a surrogate father.”
Connery could never be excused of simply phoning in his performance, either. The star became fully involved in the creative process behind his character’s scenes, much to the delight of Gilliam. “Sean looked at my storyboards, and says, ‘Forget about that, you’ve not gonna get this done, kid.’ So I started throwing pages out. Anything he said, it was ‘Yes, sir.’ I suddenly felt like I was in the hands of an incredible actor with great experience. And we got through that first day thanks to his pragmatism and not my ambition.”
Sean Connery once golfed with OJ Simpson
Here’s one story that Sean Connery would no doubt have wanted to stay buried. Many celebrities who had rubbed shoulders with the Scotsman paid tributes on social media following his passing. And that included none other than footballer-turned-actor-turned-most notorious murder suspect of the 1990s, O.J. Simpson.
In a Twitter video clip he took on a golf cart, the disgraced ex-NFL star revealed how he once met Connery at an exclusive Californian country club. “There weren’t many members back then, so you had to bring your game with you. He ended up playing nine holes with us. He was a total gentleman. We talked about the Lakers — it was basketball season — he had never been to a basketball game, so I invited him to a Lakers game.”
The Entrapment star decided to take up this invitation and enjoyed a game with the Juice and Los Angeles Lakers’ one-time owner Jerry Buss at the Forum. Sadly for the trio, they didn’t get the front row seats they expected and instead were placed in the cheap seats. Simpson revealed that Connery still had a good time, though, and even enjoyed a scotch — rather than shaken not stirred martini — during his first time courtside.
Sean Connery used his influence on The Rock
You can’t imagine anything daunting blockbuster-maker Michael Bay. But The Rock director admitted to The Hollywood Reporter in November 2020 he was initially scared of collaborating with its biggest name. Sean Connery was renowned for being difficult to work with at the time. And yet, the American and the Scotsman ended up being thick as thieves.
The 007 star even persuaded Disney executives to stump up additional money for the film after it ran over budget and behind schedule. Bay explained, “He did it because he loved movies. He loved excellence and doing the best he could. His work ethic was bar none, the best I’ve ever experienced.” It looks like the director looked up to Connery, too. “We all have a few teachers in our careers. The ones that imprint something special on your being. Teachers that you haven’t seen in 20 years, but you still remember their wisdom like yesterday. Sean Connery was one of those for me.”
Connery had already got quite involved with The Rock‘s production before even stepping foot on set. According to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the Oscar winner had gone through its script with a fine-tooth comb, demanding certain changes to be made before agreeing to assume the role of SAS Captain John Patrick Mason. Bruckheimer told The Hollywood Reporter, “It was a long process and I learned a lot, just with his knowledge of good movie making, good storytelling, development terrific characters.”
He dropped out of a project due to an unnamed director
The juiciest story that emerged in the wake of Sean Connery’s death came from Brian Koppelman’s Twitter account. The screenwriter had followers hanging on his every word while drip-feeding memories of his time spent penning a script for Sean Connery alongside David Levien. The trio had spent a considerable amount of time in a nondescript Manhattan office and were all ready to plow ahead with filming when an unnamed director waded in.
Koppelman tweeted, “There’s a tricky action sequence under water that the director wants to do. We set a call to discuss how to write it, what it should be. Sean asks the director how he’s planning to shoot it. Director says, ‘I’ll use movie magic.’ You could hear the silent anger on Sean’s end of the phone. ‘I started making movies before your daddy started pleasuring himself. I want to know, shot by shot, how you will execute this?'” Things only got worse when the anonymous filmmaker missed an arranged call with the Scotsman about the project at the same time he was spotted on TV watching the French Open.
An enraged Connery then announced he was jumping ship. The star had already been burned by his dismal experiences on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and subsequently shunned Hollywood for good. Speculation about which film and director Koppelman was discussing continued to grow, with the general consensus being 2004’s unmade Josiah’s Canon and Brett Ratner.
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