On October 31st, 2020, the world awoke to the sad news of Sir Sean Connery’s death. Connery was one of the most celebrated actors of his time, but there’s far more to his gilded legend than his film career.
Whether you know him from his time as 007 or from any of the dozens of movies he headlined, it’s a fair bet that you know a bit about the man. Still, there are some fascinating facts about the life of Sir Sean, and these ten are just the tip of the iceberg.
10 He Was Knighted By Queen Elizabeth II
Becoming a Knight or a Dame in the 21st century is significantly different than it was in ages past. Instead of becoming a commander for the King or Queen, people are knighted for their contributions to the United Kingdom. In the case of Sir Sean Connery, he was honored by the Queen for his services to film and drama.
Connery was knighted in July 2000 at the age of 69. There was talk of knighting him a couple of years earlier, but his support of the Scottish National Party, which became the official opposition to the Scottish Parliament, likely put his knighthood on the back burner.
Connery was a supporter of Scottish Independence. Despite his unwillingness to back down from that position, he was knighted by the Queen of England. His knighting ceremony commenced with the actor wearing full Highland dress, consisting of a dark green MacLeod tartan.
At the event, an incredibly proud Connery described his knighthood as “One of the proudest days of my life. It means a great deal for it to happen in Scotland.” Though it took a bit of time for Connery to receive the recognition, he remained a proud Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for the remainder of his life.
9 He Served In The Royal Navy Of The United Kingdom
When he was only 16 years old, Connery joined the Royal Navy. He served in the armed forces for three years, having been discharged for medical reasons related to a duodenal ulcer. The condition was hereditary and affected most of the men in earlier generations of his family.
While serving in the Navy, he trained in Portsmouth at the Naval Gunnery School to serve in an anti-aircraft crew. Later in his naval career, he was assigned as an Able Seaman on the HMS Formidable, an illustrious-class aircraft carrier.
Connery’s naval career saw him take part in a tradition common to all navies around the world; he got some tattoos. While serving, he was inked twice, though, “unlike many tattoos, his were not frivolous—his tattoos reflect two of his lifelong commitments: his family and Scotland … One tattoo is a tribute to his parents and reads ‘Mum and Dad,’ and the other is self-explanatory, ‘Scotland Forever.’”
After leaving the Royal Navy, he spent some time driving a truck and working various labor jobs. He was a coffin polisher, and he modeled for artists at the Edinburgh College of Art.
8 He Was Fully Retired
Actors tend to retire in some sort of public statement, every so often. Still, they eventually come back to the world of acting when an interesting project comes along. Several actors have retired multiple times, but for Sir Sean Connery, when he called it quits, he really meant it.
Connery retired from acting in 2006 after working on the live-action adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The movie was a complete and total failure at the box office, but that’s not why he retired. Connery was fed up with the process, and he only signed on to the picture to try and make it better through editing.
Unfortunately, he failed in his attempt, and it frustrated him to no end. He was vocally unsupportive of director Stephen Norrington, even going so far as to say that he should be “locked up for insanity.” He did record some voice-over work in 2013, but that was his only work in the arts since his retirement.
He considered coming back to reprise his role as Henry Jones in a new Indiana Jones movie, but he ultimately declined, saying, “If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film. But in the end, retirement is just too much fun.”
7 He Truly Was The Best James Bond
While it’s certainly a subjective opinion as to determining which actor handled the role of James Bond the best, poll after poll continues to place Sir Sean Connery at the top. RadioTimes.com conducted a poll published on the day he died, and after 14,000 votes were cast, Connery took the lead in a tournament-style round-robin.
In the first round, Connery came in first above Daniel Craig, who managed to score 43% of the vote (compared to Connery’s 56%). Underneath Craig came Pierce Brosnan beating out George Lazenby at 76% to 24% in the second round.
The third round ended with Roger Moore being fully kicked out of the competition, having lost to his successor, Timothy Dalton, who managed to pull in 59% of the vote. This left Dalton and Brosnan going up against the original Bond, and he came out on top.
By the end of the tournament, Sean Connery was awarded 44% of the vote to Dalton’s 32% and Brosnan’s 23%. Connery played the character six times in the film series, beginning with Dr. No in 1962, and ending his run in 1971’s Diamonds are Forever. He did reprise the role in 1983’s Never Say Never Again, though that fell outside the film series’ canon.
6 He Fell Into Acting In A Roundabout Way
While there are plenty of people who study and prepare to become professional actors early in life, Sir Sean Connery was not one of them. He developed an interest at the age of 21 while supplementing his income.
He took a job to help out backstage at the King’s Theater in 1951 and found that he developed an interest in the theater. While helping out during a bodybuilding competition, he learned of open auditions for a production of South Pacific, so he gave it a shot.
Connery managed to land the part of one of the Seabees chorus boys, and his career was launched. By the time the production made its way to Edinburgh, he had advanced to play the part of Marine Corporal Hamilton Steeves while simultaneously understudying for two of the leads.
The following year, South Pacific was back by popular demand, and Connery was working as the featured role, Lieutenant Buzz Addams. His time in the theater helped solidify his interest in becoming a professional actor, so he devoted his time to study and practice.
5 He Was Sexy As Hell!
Sir Sean Connery may have been a talented actor and a Knight of the British Empire, but he was another thing: the man was sexy (and suave) as hell! Sure, that’s generally a subjective statement, but in Connery’s case, he has the creds to back it up.
Connery worked as a model early in his life, and his good looks and charismatic demeanor only served to attract others’ attention. That definitely helped him throughout his career, which was filled with numerous accolades describing him as one of the most attractive men in the world.
In 1989, People Magazine awarded him the coveted “Sexiest Man Alive, and a decade later, he took home a prize that nobody had ever received: he was determined to be the “Sexiest Man of the Century” by New Woman Magazine.
Sure it’s just a magazine, and yes, it’s based on reader’s votes, but when you get right down to it, he’s the only person who could literally claim to be the Sexiest Man of the 20th Century because there’s a magazine cover to prove it. The vote was determined from 16,000 votes, but in the end, Connery beat Brad Pitt, Mel Gibson, and Paul Newman, among many others.
4 He Became Bond, Thanks To The Producer’s Wife
It’s difficult to look back and think of another actor playing James Bond at the beginning of the franchise, but a lot of men were up for the role in the early ’60s. Names like Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, and Lord Lucan were being thrown around, but it was producer Cubby Broccoli’s wife, Dana, who pointed her finger at Connery.
She described him as a man with the magnetism and sexual chemistry to make the part work, and her advice went a long way in landing him the role. Of course, writer Ian Flemming had to be convinced, and when he was approached with Connery’s name, he said, “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stuntman.”
It took a little convincing, but when Flemming finally saw Connery on screen, he rewrote Bond’s backstory to make him half-Scottish — that’s how much Connery looked and acted the part. Granted, he did make the character his own, managing to blend his mannerisms and wit into the character who blew everyone away at the box office.
Dr. No was an incredible success, having made just over $16 million at the box office off a $1 million budget. While $16 million may not seem like a lot of money, it amounts to more than $136 million in 2020. Dr. No’s success launched a franchise that has since released 25 movies — and counting.
3 His Career Was Filled With Accolades
While Sir Sean Connery is best known for playing James Bond, it’s hardly the only role he had throughout his life. Connery acted in nearly 70 movies, and he appeared in 20 television series and TV movies. He may have retired in 2003, but when he was working, he was working hard.
His numerous roles earned him a ton of awards during his life, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the British Academy Film Award for Best Actor, multiple Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award.
He was awarded the Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters from France in 1987. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999 and his knighthood the following year. In 2006, he was honored by the American Film Institute with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Connery worked across so many genres; he’s remembered by people for vastly different roles. Many know him as Bond, but others know him best as Professor Henry Jones. His work in The Untouchables is as well remembered as his time on screen in Highlander and The Hunt for Red October.
2 He Never Overcame His Accent — And Nobody Cared
Despite taking elocution lessons as he was getting into the arts, Sir Sean Connery never managed to adjust his rather thick Scottish accent. While this might have been an impediment to other actors, it wasn’t for him, and it’s the reason James Bond was retooled as being half-Scottish.
Throughout his career, he played characters who were about as far from being Scottish as anyone could be, but it didn’t matter. In Highlander, he played an Egyptian who spent time in Japan before coming to Scotland (where he sounded more like a Scott than the actual Highlander).
In The Hunt for Red October, he played a Russian submarine captain, and he didn’t alter his accent one bit. Did anyone care that a Russian man who had never been to Scotland somehow sounded like a Scott? Sure, people mentioned it over the years, but it didn’t detract from his performance in any way.
It says a lot about an actor’s skills that he can perform as any character in any setting while keeping his accent the same, and it doesn’t detract from the performance or receive criticism. In the end, it was far better to hear Sean Connery sounding like Sean Connery than to hear him attempt an accent poorly.
1 His Passing Was Peaceful
Though it wasn’t common knowledge leading up to his death, Sir Sean Connery was ailing for an undisclosed period of time before his passing at the age of 90. He passed away in his sleep while at his home in the Bahamas.
His son, Jason, released a statement, saying, “We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently, even though my dad has 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.”
Connery was among his family at the time of his death. He is remembered for his numerous contributions to the arts. When news of his passing broke, countless statements of love and appreciation flooded the Internet; many coming from noteworthy celebrities while others came from the fans who appreciated his performances throughout his life.
This article was written in honor of Sir Sean Connery, who will be missed by hundreds of millions of people across the world. He gave us James Bond, but he gave so much more, and he will, most certainly, be missed. Requiescat in pace.