“I have always hated that damn James Bond. I’d like to kill him.”
Connery, Sean Connery. This Highlander, AKA the Greatest Living Scot, is probably the most famous portrayer of impeccably dressed spy James Bond. Known for his paradoxical mixture of rough-and-tumble Scotsman combined with graceful self-possession, Connery is still much-esteemed in the film world—but he’s not without a handful of scandals and adventures. Get ready to take these 42 suave facts about Sean Connery shaken, not stirred.
42. Big Tam
Sean Connery was actually born Thomas Sean Connery to Effie McBain and Joseph Connery. When he was young, people called him “Tommy” and then “Big Tam.” However, Connery claims he went by his middle name even before becoming an actor; he had an Irish friend named Seamus, and mutual friends of the two would call Connery by his middle name when he and Seamus were together.
41. Really Big Tam
By the time he was 12, Connery was already towering over his peers, and by the time he was 18, he had grown to his full height, a sturdy 6 feet, 2 inches.
40. Coming of Age
Connery claims he lost his virginity at 14 to a full-grown, adult woman wearing a military uniform. In particular, she was wearing an ATS—Auxiliary Territorial Service—uniform.
39. Milking It
When he was just a boy, his first job was as a milk deliveryman. Through the job, he got to know his hometown of Edinburgh extremely well. As he related in an interview from after he was famous, “When I took a taxi during a recent Edinburgh Film Festival, the driver was amazed that I could put a name to every street we passed. ‘How come?’ he asked. ‘As a boy I used to deliver milk round here,’ I said. ‘So what do you do now?’ That was rather harder to answer.”
38. The Hand That Rocks the Bureau Drawer
Growing up, Connery’s family was extremely poor, although he has said he didn’t realize that until much later because everyone else around him was poor too. His parents couldn’t afford to buy him a crib as a baby, so he slept in a wardrobe drawer.
37. All in the Family
Connery ended up joining the Royal Navy, but was later discharged because of a genetically inherited duodenal ulcer—that is, he suffered from stomach ulcers. The same issue had afflicted generations of his family.
36. Timeless Tats
Before leaving the service, Connery gave himself two mementos in the form of tattoos: one says “Scotland Forever,” and the other says “Mum and Dad.”
35. Putting the “Odd” in Odd Jobs
The actor worked many odd jobs when he got out of the Navy, two of the oddest being a (sometimes nude) artist’s model and a coffin polisher. Well, someone’s gotta do it.
34. Building a Mystery
Connery got into bodybuilding around this time, and even entered the Mr. Universe contest. Reports vary on how well he did—while his official website claims he came in third in 1950, other records show him competing in 1953 and coming third in the Junior class, or perhaps competing in the Tall Man class and not placing at all.
33. Retired Life
Although Connery officially retired in 2006, his last live action role was back in 2003, where he played Allan Quartermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; it was his 93rd film. He has since only done a smattering of voice work.
In order to learn some of the suaveness and grace demanded of him in roles like James Bond, Connery refined those hard edges by reading the works of literary greats like Marcel Proust, Leo Tolstoy, James Joyce, and William Shakespeare.
31. Lucky Number Seven
Connery is now known primarily for his tenure as James Bond in films like From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, and You Only Live Twice, but he was initially reluctant to star the Bond movies. Nonetheless, all seven of his films as the debonair spy were successful.
30. A New Bond in Town
At one point, Connery was pulled over for speeding—and the apprehending officer’s name was Sergeant James Bond.
29. Turn Around
Fleming ended up so satisfied with Connery’s portrayal of Bond that he wrote in a half-Swiss, half-Scottish heritage for Bond in later books.
Connery was the first actor to portray James Bond in film.
While at a production party for the film South Pacific in 1954, Connery met fellow legendary actor Michael Caine, and the two would become lifelong close friends.
26. The Bondage of Bond
James Bond might have been his breakthrough role, but Connery soon got tired of the attention the part brought him. As his pal Caine once said, “If you were his friend in these early days you didn’t raise the subject of Bond. He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond. He’d be walking down the street and people would say, ‘Look, there’s James Bond.’ That was particularly upsetting to him.” According to one of his co-stars in the sequel to Highlander, Connery even had a written policy that no one could talk to him about Bond on the set of the film.
25. But Really, Never Say Never
In the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again, Connery stars as the now-aging secret agent. Connery’s second wife, Micheline Roquebrune, came up with the title of the film, and based it off of Connery’s previous statement that he would “never again” play Agent 007.
In 1987, Connery came under fire for suggesting that there were instances where it was appropriate to hit a woman. As he told Barbara Walters, “There are women who take it to the wire. That’s what they are looking for, the ultimate confrontation. They want a smack.” He had made similar comments previously in 1965 to Playboy.
One woman Connery dated, Julie Hamilton, admitted that she was repulsed by the Scotsman until she saw him wearing a kilt, whereupon she claimed he was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
22. Good Kings Make Good Neighbors
In his villa in Kranidi, Greece, Connery shares a helicopter pad with his neighbor Willem-Alexander, who just so happens to be the King of the Netherlands.
21. Scotland Forever
Connery is a member of the Scottish National Party, and believes in Scottish independence; he has even supported the party financially in the past. Guess he probably wasn’t too happy with the recent referendum then.
20. Sir Sean
Although he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2000, he had actually been nominated for a knighthood twice before that, in 1997 and 1998. These previous nominations were reportedly shot down because of his political beliefs.
19. A Charming Third
Connery’s portrayal of James Bond landed him the third spot in the American Film Institute’s list of the Greatest Heroes in Cinema History.
18. Roguish at 60
In 1989, at the ripe age of 60, Connery—who is also known as “the rogue with a brogue”—was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
17. Make It Count
Connery has only been nominated for one Oscar, but luckily he only needed the one: his portrayal of Jimmy Malone, the mentor of prohibition agent Eliot Ness, in The Untouchables earned him the golden statuette in 1988.
16. Pre-Teen Dad
One of Connery’s most well-known later roles is playing Indy’s estranged father Henry in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, Connery is actually only 12 years older than Indiana’s Harrison Ford.
15. Dirty Little Secret
The scene where Indiana and dear old dad Henry are sitting at a table, talking and hiding out in a zeppelin has a dirty little secret: neither Ford nor Connery are wearing pants underneath that table. It was unbearably hot that day on set, and Connery, never one to suffer for his art, took off his pants while shooting. Ford quickly did the same.
14. Codename Bond
A popular fan theory on the James Bond franchise posits that because of all the different actors who have played 007, “James Bond” isn’t a single person, but rather a codename different MI6 agents have used at different times. If this theory proves true, it could pave the way for a female James Bond.
13. Driver Roll up the Partition Please
While filming the Bond film Thunderball, Connery had to shoot a scene with live sharks in a pool. Understandably wary of the sharp-toothed creatures, the Scot demanded that there be a partition between the sharks and him. The production designer complied, but neglected to inform the actor that the partition didn’t fully extend across the area; there was about a four-foot gap in the panelling. Lo and behold, a shark crept through, and Connery made a hasty exit from the pool.
12. Crystal Clear “No”
Although Connery was asked back for the fourth instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Connery—some would say wisely—turned down the part.
11. Robin Hood: Men in Dresses
Connery portrayed King Richard in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and was interested in reprising the role for Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He even had a pretty specific direction he wanted to take the character: he wanted to play the monarch in drag. Even though Sean Connery in a dress sounds like comedic gold (and kind of hot?), his salary of $1 million was too much real gold for the production to spend, and Patrick Stewart was cast as Richard instead, sans drag.
10. Custom-Made Part
When Monty Python alums Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin were writing the film Time Bandits, they described the Agamemnon character as “Sean Connery—or someone of equal but cheaper stature.” Lucky for them, Connery was a fan of Monty Python, and actually signed up for the role.
Highlander, Connery’s cult hit about a bunch of immortals trying to chop each other’s heads off to claim glory and power, was actually first written as college student Gregory Widen’s senior thesis.
8. Big Fan
Parks and Recreation star Nick Offerman is a huge fan of Highlander and claims that, “it was, and still is, the greatest movie about becoming a man that I’ve ever seen.”
7. Expensive Free Advice
Although Connery only spent a measly seven days on the set of Highlander, he was very particular about and critical of the production, and would often get the crew together to discuss where he felt they were failing. According to director Russell Mulcahy, “He can’t stand inefficiency of any kind. He would group us together and air his views on why so and so wasn’t doing his job correctly. This was free advice—very expensive, I might add—that none of us needed.”
6. Nothing but Love
In 2002, he told ABC news that his favorite Bond film was From Russia with Love.
5. Overgrown Stunt-Man
Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels, also wasn’t sold on Connery portraying his fictional character initially. As Fleming said at the time, “He’s not what I envisioned of James Bond looks… I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stunt-man,” going on to call Connery unrefined.
4. Elvish Is Rather Confusing
Connery has said that he was offered to play a role in the Lord of the Rings trilogy—CNN revealed that this role was Gandalf—but he turned it down, he says, because he didn’t understand the script.
3. Touché Toupée
The Scot’s James Bond seems naturally suave and debonair, but in truth Connery got by with a little help—from a toupée. The actor started balding when he was only 21, and wears a hairpiece throughout all of his Bond films.
2. A Hard Man
One time, when he was just starting out in acting, a notorious Scottish gang targeted Connery and followed him out to a balcony. There, all casual like, Connery singlehandedly fought six gang members, taking on one by the throat, another by the bicep, and cracking their heads together. The gang respected him after that, and word got around that Connery was a “Hard Man.” I kid you not, this is all true and not the plot of a Bond film.
1. Only Small Parts
In 2011, Caine confirmed that Connery would never star in another film, and has said previously that his friend “didn’t want to play small parts about old men and they weren’t offering him any young parts in romantic leads.” Looks like we’re just going to have to settle for a Bond marathon.