You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Why Sean Connery is still filmdom's best Bond ever

On Friday, March 2, 1962, Sean Connery arrived at Pinewood Studios for his 8 a.m. call. In wardrobe, Connery slipped into his tailored dress shirt with turn-back cuffs and black-pearl buttons. He tied a thin black silk bow-tie around his collar and slipped on a fitted dinner jacket. Around 10 a.m., Connery was rehearsed and ready for the first shot.

Although Connery had been working on “Dr. No,” the first James Bond movie, since Jan. 16, this scene would mark his debut as Agent 007 in the film. Today, 35 years later, Connery’s introduction as James Bond still grabs viewers.

“I admire your courage,” an unseen Connery says to the beautiful Eunice Gayson sitting across the Chemin de Fer table.

Gayson cocks an eyebrow, sizing up the darkly handsome man. “I admire your luck, mister …?”

Now we see Connery for the first time, lighting a cigarette, eyes slowly traveling up from the flame to meet Gayson. He speaks with disinterest, even coldness. “Bond, James Bond.”

Popular on Variety

In just more than a minute of screen time, Sean Connery defined a very different kind of hero. In many ways, Connery was ideal for the role of Ian Fleming’s “blunt instrument,” James Bond.

From the tenement houses of Fountainbridge, to the soccer fields, to the touring theater companies that roamed England, Connery grew up in rugged circumstances. He knew how to fight and also how to hold his anger just below the surface. Soccer taught him to move with grace and deceptive speed. Poverty taught Connery efficiency: He still has no patience for waste.

Yet, by 1962 he had much of the education one would expect of the Eton-schooled 007. Connery learned without the benefit of teachers and Oxbridge institutions, just the self-motivated thirst for knowledge. As a result, he is probably better-read than any other film actor in the $10 million-plus pay range.

Connery and 007 had other similarities back in 1962. Both liked fast cars. Both kept few mementos of the past. And both knew how to look at a woman or man and make knees shake, each for totally different reasons.

One quality Connery lacked however, was the sophisticated panache of Fleming’s spy. “Dr. No” director Terence Young took care of that with tailor-made suits and tips on how the urbane uomo del mondo should comport himself. To complement Fleming’s writing, Connery and Young adopted a dark, dry wit, just this side of Charles Addams. Witness Connery’s smile as he leaves an enemy agent to burn in an overheated steam bath, quipping, “Don’t worry. I’ll tell the chef.”

Connery’s Bond never has to deal with annoying paperwork, red tape or long lines. The world knows this man is more important than the rest of us, so we don’t ask him to play by our rules. Connery’s 007 orders others around with abandon.

Even as a captive, Connery imbues Bond with a sense of command. When brought into No’s underground radioactive decontamination chamber, Bond immediately tells the guards how to do their jobs. After a feeble objection, they do exactly what Bond tells them to do. Why? Not because he is Bond, but because he is Sean Connery as James Bond.

Noted Bond fan James Burkart observed that Connery brought a quality to 007 never before seen onscreen: “He could kill a man, and half a minute later be making love to a woman.” Connery’s Bond showed a generation of men how to dress, how to order champagne and how to conduct oneself with confidence, no matter how tense the situation.

Sure, other actors have played Bond, and they all have good qualities. But Connery’s Bond is peerless. In “Octopussy,” Roger Moore’s Bond races across Germany to stop a nuclear bomb from going off. He finds a pay phone, but a woman has it and refuses to finish her call. Finally, Moore’s 007 gives up, stealing her car rather than confronting her. How long do you think Connery’s Bond would have waited for that phone? Not only would Connery have extracted her from the phone booth in an instant, he also would have stolen her car, killed her evil assassin lover, spoiled her plan to embezzle millions from England, and by the end, she would have felt good about it.

Gayson’s character Sylvia Trench got it wrong when she said she admired Bond’s luck. For Connery, luck has little to do with it. When he’s onscreen, he makes things happen.

John Cork edits Goldeneye magazine for the Ian Fleming Foundation and has produced deluxe laserdiscs of “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball” and “GoldenEye.” For more information on the Ian Fleming Foundation, write IFF, P.O. Box 1850, Burbank, CA 91507, or e-mail strangways@aol.com.

More Scene


    Donna Karan, Mary-Louise Parker Honored at David Lynch Foundation's Women of Vision Awards

    Donna Karan, Mary-Louise Parker and Deborra-Lee Furness were celebrated for their charitable work at the David Lynch Foundation’s 2019 Women of Vision Awards. “We are all being guided to come together as one. There is so much chaos in the world right now,” Karan said, while accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual luncheon on [...]

  • Bill Hader

    Bill Hader, Greg Berlanti, Margie Cohn and Cindy Holland Inducted Into Variety Hall of Fame

    Variety’s annual Hall of Fame ceremony mixed comedy, gratitude and warmth at the annual awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Because the class of 2019 celebrates technical innovation and achievement across film, TV, digital, video games and music. The honorees — Greg Berlanti, Bill Hader, Cindy Holland, Dametra Johnson-Marletti, [...]

  • Billy Porter FNAA

    Billy Porter Explains Why Fashion 'Can and Should' Be Activism

    On Tuesday in New York City, a handful of fashion’s marquee names, including Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, Steve Madden and Pete Nordstrom, and many of its muses, including Billy Porter, Lena Waithe, Adriana Lima and Paris Hilton, gathered to celebrate the annual Footwear News Achievement Awards — or, as it’s more colloquially dubbed, the “Shoe Oscars.” Activism and the potential for designers to spur [...]

  • Tiffany Haddish Black Mitzvah

    Barbra Streisand Gives Tiffany Haddish Star of David Necklace for Her 'Black Mitzvah'

    Tiffany Haddish rang in her 40th birthday Tuesday night by celebrating her black and Jewish heritage with a star-studded “Black Mitzvah” party. One of Haddish’s famous friends, Barbra Streisand, was noticeably absent from the festivities, but sent the comedian a special memento for the occasion. “She got me this beautiful Star of David,” Haddish told [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content