By Amit Roy
PEOPLE are rather surprised that Sir Sean Connery was 90 when he died last week at his home in the Bahamas.
There is a consensus that of the actors who have played James Bond – Connery (1962- 1967, 1971, 1983), George Lazenby (1969), Roger Moore (1973-1985), Timothy Dalton (1987-1989), Pierce Brosnan (1995-2002) and Daniel Craig (2006-present) – he was perhaps the best.
Connery played Bond in seven movies, making his debut in Dr No in 1962. He then followed it up in From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967). He appeared again as Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and Never Say Never Again (1983).
One of the most eloquent tributes to Connery was paid by Ajay Chowdhury, editor of the James Bond International Fan Club and to my mind, Britain’s foremost authority on Ian Fleming’s creation.
“For the late Sir Sean Connery – you only live twice,” he said. “Once here in life, but forever on our cinema screens.”
Ajay, co-author of Some Kind of Hero: The remarkable story of the James Bond Films, added that Connery was “the original and for many, the best James Bond, a scintillating, ground-breaking British anti-hero. He prowled the screen like a leopard. The global James Bond community mourns the loss of an indelible man and some kind of hero to us all.”
Fleming wrote 12 James Bond novels and two collections of short stories. The Bond franchise is now 60 years old, with No Time to Die, due for a delayed release on April 2, 2021, the 25th in the series. That means the later films were studio creations which somehow lack the authenticity of the movies adapted from Fleming’s novels.
Attempts to modernise Bond or to discuss whether 007 could be played by a black actor or even a woman reveal how far the character has evolved from the one conceived by Fleming.
To me, Connery was the quintessential 007 but set in his period. I don’t think I will ever tire of Dr No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger or Thunderball, which I hope will be shown one day in Cannes in the ‘Classics’ category. Quite apart from anything else, the jokes Connery was given were so bad they were good.
Ajay reminded me: “When you watch the first James Bond film, Dr No, Sean Connery meets Sylvia Trench across the gaming tables of Les Ambassadeurs Casino in Hamilton Place, Mayfair.
“So James Bond begins here when Fleming finally does the deal with (producer) Harry Saltzman in 1960. James Bond literally begins here because this is where we first see James Bond – admittedly on a film set across the gaming tables.”
Cinema’s most famous introduction takes place as the man is winning at cards and the woman losing in the casino.
“I admire your courage, Miss..?”
“Trench. Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr …?”
“Bond. James Bond….”