RIP Sean Connery: Here’s why he was the only James Bond that mattered
Sean Connery passed away this Halloween, but like so many indelible movie stars, his legacy will live on through decades of great work. He played Indiana Jones’s father, the only man to escape Alcatraz, and he won an Oscar for playing a tough Chicago cop, but the role he will forever be associated with is James Bond.
Connery was the first actor to play Bond on the big screen, and to many, he remains the best. He helped to establish the British secret agent as a cornerstone of pop culture, and shaped the persona that is still being used to create blockbuster films today. In an effort to honor Connery, we decided to list the reasons why he is still the ultimate 007.
He created the action star template
Connery created the modern actor star when he appeared in Dr. No (1962). There had never been anybody quite like him. He was tough, charming, and he managed to defeat his adversaries while looking ridiculously cool. He added gravitas to plotlines & scenes that would have otherwise been laughable, and he enhanced iconic moments by giving them an extra bit of flavor.
He’s the reason films like From Russia with Love (1963) & Goldfinger (1964) are still considered among the best Bond releases. He also made efforts like Thunderball (1965) & Diamonds Are Forever (1971) likable, despite their plotting issues. Bond creator Ian Fleming was initially hesitant to cast Connery, as he felt the character should be in the mold of a Cary Grant, but he was instantly won over by the actor’s modernized take.
Fleming was so impressed, in fact, that he changed Bond’s backstory to account for the actor’s Scottish accent. This is an unprecedented move. While most creators deride film versions of their characters, Connery was so good that he inspired the creator to literally change his own creation.
He balanced campiness & coolness
Connery’s intoxicating blend of charisma & cunning made him the ideal actor to play Bond. He could outwit his competitors with a smile and a witty remark or he could beat them to a pulp depending on the situation, and this effortless balance is something that future Bond actors struggled to achieve.
Roger Moore & Pierce Brosnan did a masterful job of capturing 007’s debonair charm, but they were less convincing when it came to the action stuff. Timothy Dalton & Daniel Craig were perfectly suited to killing baddies, but they were sometimes too gruff for the expository scenes. Connery managed to do it all while looking terrific.
Craig has been lauded as the best Bond since Connery, but even he admitted that the Scottish actor was in a league of his own. “He defined an era and a style,” Craig wrote. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in megawatts. He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come.”
He added depth to the character
Connery is the only actor to reprise Bond after leaving the franchise. He put the tuxedo back on for the non-canon film Never Say Never Again (1983) and proved that he could still deliver the goods. The film was well-received by critics, who felt that Connery did a fine job of playing an older, wiser agent without losing any of his appeal.
Connery told reporters he decided to return to the character because he wanted to do a film that relied less on gadgets and more on espionage. “I prefer the story, detective story,” he reasoned. “Getting good actors in all the parts across the board, and getting a more substantial type of film.”
While Never Say Never Again grossed less than the Roger Moore flick Octopussy, it proved to be the more influential film. It set up the tougher, grittier Bond films of the 1980s with Dalton and it laid the groundwork for the wearier, darker films of the 2010s with Craig. None of it would have happened without Connery. Rest in peace, 007.