I woke up this morning to the news that Sean Connery had passed away.
Sean Connery had a long career in film. He was well paid and played many roles over the years. But for all of his other work, both excellent and regrettable, he will forever be associated with James Bond.
In the 60s he helped cement the James Bond franchise. By the third film, Goldfinger, the style and required tropes, from the opening, to the required plot points, to the nature of the villains, of any James Bond film were set in stone. And with that he became the benchmark against which any future actor taking on the role would be measured.
He played Bond five times in the 60s in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, and Thunderball. He came back again in 1971 in Diamonds are Forever after replacement George Lazenby declined to play the role again, lest he be typecast, and once Cubby Broccoli threw enough money at him.
And then he returned once more to the role in Never Say Never Again, a remake of Thunderball, and outside of whatever continuity the EON produced Bond films have. So that is seven total appearances as the character, for which, by the end, he was paid more than most actors will ever see in their lifetime.
But the appeal of Sean Connery was him being Sean Connery. The role might have been James Bond, but he made it his.
There are actors who get lost in roles, who become different people with different scripts. Actors like Daniel Day Lewis or Meryl Streep. They can morph into what the script needs them to be.
With Sean Connery you got what you got, a tall handsome Scotsman with an oft imitated accent and a brash, confident demeanor. The character was molded to fit him. A Soviet submarine commander, Indiana Jones’ father, a Kipling hero, a Irish Chicago cop, a Franciscan friar, or a post-apocalyptic “brutal,” all of those roles ended up on him like so many tailored suits. They clothed him, sometimes quite well, but did not change what you were getting.
While he had been retired from acting for almost two decades, he still casts a long shadow, especially for anybody taking on the role of James Bond. He leaves behind a legacy on the big screen that will endure.