Sean Connery, the popular actor iconic for his portrayal of James Bond in seven films, died Saturday, October 31, at 90.
His death was confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (b. 1970) of his native Scotland, who tweeted:
"I was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons."
Connery's son, actor Jason Connery (b. 1963), told the BBC that his dad had died in his sleep in the Bahamas, confirming longstanding rumors of ill health:
"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."
Bond series producers Michael G. Wilson (b. 1942) and Barbara Broccoli (b. 1960) tweeted, "We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words — 'The name’s Bond ... James Bond' — he revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”
Born Thomas Sean Connery on August 25, 1930, Connery had no choice but to work from age 9, becoming a milkman at 13. His early life of deprivation informed his adulthood, leading to a self-admitted temper (he infamously told Barbara Walters he was in favor of slapping women during arguments), but also left him with a sense of gratitude for small pleasures and a well-known generosity toward those in need. He famously gave his million-dollar salary from one of his films to the Scottish International Education Trust.
At just 16, Connery joined the Royal Navy, but was discharged over an ulcer at 19. He worked polishing furniture (including coffins) and posed nude as an artist's model, a vocation that came naturally to the amateur bodybuilder.
His physique led him to enter the Mr. Universe contest, where in 1953 he caught wind of a touring company of South Pacific that was looking for handsome members of the chorus.
After a year with the show, and an intensive study of theater, he began making small, sometimes uncredited movie and TV appearances, building to his breakthrough as Mountain McClintock on a BBC Sunday-Night Theatre production of Requiem for a Heavyweight, a part he inherited at the last minute from Jack Palance (1919-2006).
Connery appeared in a series of undistinguished films, landed high-profile work with Disney in Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), tackled the title role in a TV version of Macbeth (1961), and appeared as a no-name in the star-studded The Longest Day (1962).
The serious-minded, but never pretentious, actor became an overnight sex symbol and cinema icon with his performance as James Bond in Dr. No (1962). He played the caddish, laddish Agent 007 five more times in the official series, in From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), and Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and — after a long absence — one more time, in the unofficial entry Never Say Never Again (1983). He admitted doing the latter for the cash.
Between and after Bond films, Connery demonstrated that his skill as a film actor was not confined to looking good in a tux, logging sometimes classic performances in such films as Marnie (1964), The Hill (1965), The Molly Maguires (1970), The Anderson Tapes (1971), the original film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Great Train Robbery (1978), Outland (1981), Time Bandits (1981), Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), The Russia House (1990), The Rock (1996), and Finding Forrester (2000).
Connery snagged the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1988 for The Untouchables (1987) which, like so many of his films, was a monster hit at the box office. It was his only Oscar nomination, and he beat out Morgan Freeman (b. 1937), Albert Brooks (b. 1947), Denzel Washington (b. 1954) and Vincent Gardenia (1920-1992). During his speech, he addressed his friends "and a few enemies" and joked that he had planned to give his statuette to his wife, but upon finding out it was worth $15,000 had reconsidered:
After a bad experience filming the dud The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) — he grumbled in 2005 about "idiots now making films in Hollywood" — Connery announced that he probably would not act again. Aside from appearing in the docudrama Freedom: A History of the U.S. (2003) and some voice acting, including for Sir Billi (2012), his final performance of any kind, his prediction came true.
Among his many honors, Connery was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) in 2000.
Roger Moore (1927-2017), who replaced Connery in the Bond series, died at 89 in 2017. His family tweeted of Connery's passing, "How infinitely sad to hear the news Sir Sean Connery has passed away. He and Roger were friends for many decades and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP."
Earlier this year, Goldfinger actresses Honor Blackman (1925-2020) and Margaret Nolan (1943-2020) both died.
Connery was married to the late, Oscar-nominated Australian actress Diane Cilento (1932-2011) from 1962-1973, and is survived by his painter wife Micheline Roquebrune (b. 1929), to whom he had been married since 1975. He is also survived by his son Jason, his stepson Stephane, and his brother.
One of the most fitting tributes to the late actor came from current James Bond Daniel Craig (b. 1968), who said in a statement, "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 film-makers alike for years to come. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”