Sean Connery, the whiskey-voiced son of Scotland who brought James Bond to the screen for the first time and went on to lead a long and celebrated acting career, died on Saturday (October 31). He was 90.
The BBC reported that the actor passed peacefully in his sleep after being “unwell for some time,” according to his son, Jason Connery. “We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently,” he said. “A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.”
Born Thomas Sean Connery on August 25, 1930, his challenging childhood in the slums of Edinburgh influenced much of his life, and he would later donate the $1 million he made from Diamonds Are Forever to the Scottish International Education Trust, which helps Scots from similarly impoverished backgrounds receive educations. His first film role was in the B-movie Action of the Tiger in 1957, followed by Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure and Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People in 1959.
Connery embodied the character of James Bond — tall and suave, with a hidden temper. In 1962, he brought the novelist Ian Fleming’s iconic secret agent to life with Dr. No, becoming a best-selling star throughout Great Britain and the United States with From Russia With Love the following year, Goldfinger in 1964, and 1965’s Thunderball. He left the role after 1967’s You Only Live Twice, later to reprise it in 1971 with Diamonds Are Forever and, once more, in 1983’s Never Say Never Again.
“It took a whole generation along, and it’s turned out almost three decades,” Connery told MTV News in 1992 of the role that he portrayed across seven features. “And it had a certain kind of momentum because the timing was very important. It came out at a time when people were sort of fed up with the kind of kitchen sink, and that sort of drama, and they were very taken with the espionage and the exotic locations, and nice, tailored suits, and beautiful women, and swishing around, and being, you know, highly active — all the elements that were, I think, probably more escapism than anything.”
Daniel Craig, the actor who picked up the role of the resourceful man of espionage in 2006, remembered Connery as “one of the greats” in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “It is with such sadness that I heard of the passing of one of the true greats of cinema,” he said. “Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster. He will continue to influence actors and film-makers alike for years to come. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Wherever he is, I hope there is a golf course.”
Connery led a successful and diverse acting career beyond Bond, too, expanding to further commercial roles in the late 1980s. He earned a best-actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for his performance as a crime-solving monk in 1986’s The Name of a Rose, followed by an Academy Award for best-supporting actor in 1987’s The Untouchables. He was knighted on July 5, 2000, by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to the arts. His final part was Allan Quatermain in 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “heartbroken” to learn of his passing. In a tribute shared on Twitter, she wrote, “Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons.”