Sean Connery as James Bond

As the first big-screen 007, Sir Sean Connery, reaches his 85th birthday, and a special programme is shown on BBC-4 in celebration (Sean Connery – In His Own Words), the JBIFC helps blow out the candles by looking back briefly over his astonishing career, especially his early years as James Bond, a role that made him one of the most famous actors in cinema history.

007 and Counting

001: In 1957, the then relatively unknown young actor Sean Connery had a small role in Action of the Tiger (1957), alongside Martine Carol and Van Johnson. It was directed by Terence Young. Even then, the Scottish actor made an impression on Young, and he promised Sean he would try and get him a more substantial role in the future. Young went to direct Dr. No (1962), and the earlier ‘bond’ developed between the two men back in 1957 helped Young and Connery work on moulding Fleming’s hero for the big screen – with spectacular success.

002: Location shooting on Dr. No began in Jamaica in January, 1962. Sean’s first day of shooting confirmed to Terence Young what a great choice Connery was for the role of 007. The day included the now-famous ‘phone booth’ scene, when Bond realises the chauffeur (played by Reggie Carter), sent from Government House, is an enemy agent. Young later recalled that Connery’s hard glare at Carter, given from the phone booth, was so good that, as Young put it, ‘it was the beginning of Bond’.

003: Interiors filming on Dr. No began on the Pinewood Studios lot in late February, 1962, with the first shot set in ‘M’s office. Another key scene in Richard Maibaum’s screenplay was set at the gambling tables in a London casino, designed to ‘introduce’ the character of James Bond to cinema audiences for the very first time. Terence Young apparently based this now very famous scene on a scene from the film Juarez (1939), where the entrance made by star, Paul Muni, saw Muni play the whole first scene with his back to the camera; he only turns round when someone asks his name. Young utilised this for the now classic ‘Bond… James Bond’ introduction for Connery, where 007 is first seen with his back to the camera, before lighting his cigarette and delivering the memorable and iconic line. It was an inspired moment, which has gone down in movie history.

004: Much of Sean Connery’s second 007 adventure, From Russia With Love (1963) was filmed in the grounds of Pinewood Studios. However, some boat scenes were also shot in the Scottish Highlands (doubling for the Gulf of Venice), a location which naturally pleased Sean, who has always been very proud of his home-country, right up to the present day. He remains a very strong supporter of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

005: In April, 1963, the main crew for from Russia With Love also went to Istanbul in Turkey and, in a major coup for a British film crew at the time, were given permission to shoot inside the world-famous Saint Sophia mosque. There were also some great opportunities in Istanbul for Connery to pose with Daniela Bianchi for the press, a photo-call feature that was to become something of a regular tradition during the production of many of the subsequent Bond films.

006: The classic golf match between Bond and villain Auric Goldfinger, shot at Stoke Poges golf club for Connery’s third Bond film Goldfinger (1964), gave Sean his first taste of the game of golf, something that became a lifelong passion for the Scottish actor. Connery’s discovery of his love of the game was also helped by the fact that the movie’s director, Guy Hamilton, was a golfer himself, and was very helpful to the actor when it came to describing the requirements of this key sequence.

007: By the time he shot his sixth EON Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Sean Connery had arguably become a global super-star. David Picker, president of United Artists, had lured Connery back for the movie by offering him a huge sum of money (over a million dollars, unprecedented at the time), a percentage of the profits of Diamonds, and UA backing for two non-Bond films of Connery’s choice. As far as Picker was concerned, Connery was worth every penny. And Diamonds proved to be another smash-hit at the box-office around the world.

Happy birthday, Sir Sean!