7 Days of 007 – Day 2: Sean Connery

Happy International James Bond Day, one and all!

On this date 50 years ago, Dr. No, the first James bond film, made its theatrical debut.  Some of the things the general public would come to know about 007 originated here: the gun barrel intro sequence, the tux, the Vesper martini – shaken, not stirred…  And of course, the women.  And the villains.  But this is basic 007 – there are no gadgets and no Aston Martin… yet.  The only notable gadgets introduced in Dr. No is his standard sidearm, the Walther PPK (which makes its debut in the novel of the same name), a Geiger counter, and a radio transmitter.  Like I said: basic.  With this movie, 007 reinvented himself, not only for the big screen, but for the novels as well.  As previously mentioned, Sean Connery’s performance swayed Ian Fleming’s portrayal of Bond in print, setting a new paradigm that would continue to evolve to this day.  Dr. No is ground zero for the 007 of the public consciousness.  I still find this horribly ironic since Fleming was originally against Connery’s casting, preferring Cary Grant or Christopher Lee.  Such is the power of Connery that he could make Fleming change his mind.

Few could imagine in 1962 the effect this movie would have on the public, but from the first time the guitar and brass belt out that infamous theme song, 007 made his mark in a way that would usher in the age of the superspy for at least the coming decade.  To say that the film’s success mandated a sequel is a bit of an understatement.  The popularity of the Bond franchise is certainly evident today, in large part due to the foundations of the Connery era.

Connery would star as James Bond in a streak of five films that mark the “classic era” for many 007 fans:

The gadgets would begin in nominal form in From Russia With Love, beginning with the modified attaché case.  The Aston Martin would make its first appearance in Goldfinger, with all the bells and whistles that have become a fundamental part of Bond lore.

Because I can, here are some fun facts about Sean Connery:

  • During his time as a milkman, Connery delivered to Fettes School in Edinburgh – the same school which James Bond attended in Ian Fleming’s novels following his expulsion from Eton.
  • Sean Connery was already balding (by age 21) when he landed his most famous role as Britain’s leading superspy.  He wore a toupee even then.
  • Connery was paid a huge sum to return as James Bond for Diamonds Are Forever, setting a record.  It was donated to his Scottish charity.
  • He is noted to be one of James Bond’s favorite actors in the novel Scorpius.
  • Connery turned down the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings series because he didn’t want to film down in New Zealand for 18 months, and he could not understand the novels.
  • He declared in March 2003 that he would not return home until Scotland is an independent country. He believes this can still happen during his lifetime.
  • He said in an interview that during the filming of the unofficial 007 movie, Never Say Never Again, he was taking martial arts lessons and in the process angered the instructor who in turn broke his wrist. Connery stayed with the wrist broken for a number of years, thinking it was only a minor pain… the instructor was Steven Seagal.
  • Sean Connery’s last film before retiring was 2002′s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where he played adventurer Allan Quatermain. Director Stephen Norington recalls playing golf with Connery (whom the cast and crew nicknamed “the big man” due to being one of the tallest men on set) when, at one point, both hit their balls into the same rough. Walking to the ball closest to the hole, Norington got ready to take his shot, but Connery insisted the ball was his. “How do you know?” Norington asked. “Pick it up!” Connery replied. Upon inspecting the ball Norington noticed they were custom monogrammed with “007”.

Tune in tomorrow when we continue our “7 Days of 007” with the much-debated George Lazenby… and the return of Connery!