Sean Connery, the Scottish-born actor who rocketed to fame as James Bond, has died. He was 90.
Connery, long regarded as the best actor to have portrayed the iconic spy, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 and marked his 90th birthday only in August. His death was confirmed by his family, according to the BBC, which notes that the actor died in his sleep while in the Bahamas. He had been unwell for some time.
Connery was an audience favorite for more than 40 years and one of the screen’s most reliable and distinctive leading men. Once pigeonholed as Ian Fleming’s sexy Agent 007, he went on to distinguish himself with a long and mature career in such films as “The Wind and the Lion,” “The Man Who Would Be King” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
Even as he entered his seventh decade, Connery’s star power remained so strong that he was constantly in demand and handsomely remunerated. In 1999 he was selected People magazine’s Sexiest Man of the Century, and from his 007 days to “Entrapment” (1999), opposite the much-younger Catherine Zeta-Jones, his screen roles more than justified the choice. Age seemed only to intensify his sex appeal and virility.
1962’s “Dr. No,” the first of the Bond films, made him a star.
His stature grew with the ever more popular sequels “From Russia With Love,” “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball,” which arrived over the next four years. Bond gave Connery a license to earn; he was paid only $30,000 for “Dr. No” but $400,000 for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Marnie” and was soon getting $750,000 a film.
His initial efforts to break out of the Bond mold, however, proved fruitless. Films like “A Fine Madness,” “Shalako” and “The Molly Maguires” were well-intentioned attempts that did nothing to shake Connery as Bond from the public consciousness. After 1967’s “You Only Live Twice,” he left the Bond franchise, but he was coaxed back for 1971’s “Diamonds Are Forever.” He looked old for the role, and the series seemed tired, so with that, he left Bond behind — though money would tempt him back once last time in 1983 for “Never Say Never Again.”
Pairing Connery and Harrison Ford as father and son in the third “Indiana Jones” film was an inspired move, and the film grossed almost half a billion dollars worldwide.
Meanwhile, “The Hunt for Red October,” in which Connery played a defecting Soviet sub captain, was also a major hit in 1990.
By the 1990s, he was so popular that his uncredited cameo as King Richard in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” became one of the film’s highlights.
Nevertheless, he continued with action roles well after his 70th birthday, playing the legendary adventurer Allan Quatermain in 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” He announced his retirement in 2005. He voiced a James Bond videogame the same year, and he subsequently did some other voice acting, playing the title character in the animated short “Sir Billi the Vet” and reprising the role in 2010 for “Sir Billi,” which he also exec produced.
Connery was devoted to his native Scotland and used his stature to press for the re-establishment of a Scottish parliament. When the body reconvened in 1999, 296 years after its last meeting, Connery was invited to address the first session, where he was greeted with a thunderous ovation. The next year, when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II — an honor he called “one of the proudest days of my life” — he asked that the investiture be performed in Edinburgh.
Connery published his autobiography, “Being a Scot,” co-written with Murray Grigor, in 2008. Besides his knighthood and his Academy Award, he received many kudos over his long career, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999 and the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award in 2006.
Connery was married to actress Diane Cilento from 1962-73. The couple divorced in 1973 and Cilento died in 2011. Connery is survived by his second wife, painter Micheline Roquebrune, whom he married in 1975; his son by Cilento, actor Jason Connery; and a grandson from Jason’s marriage to actress Mia Sara.