I was four years old when I first saw Sean Connery on the silver screen. As a hippie child raised off-the-grid, our weekly screening of 007 was a much anticipated and celebrated occasion. All the day’s solar power energy went to powering the bulky television to watch Connery spearfish henchmen and whip around in a gorgeous Aston Martin tricked out with secret agent ejector seats. We rented the Sean Connery James Bond movies from the library, rewinding the VHS tapes eager to delight in the smooth, never-shaken sophistication and charm that was not only 007, but Connery himself.
He wore the suit; that luxury Brioni tuxedo — the epitome of the most charming and able man in the world. The suit never wore him. And Connery wore the watches, drove the cars. There is no James Bond, there is only Sean Connery and the men who tried to recreate him.
On October 31, 2020, actor and proud Scotsman Thomas Sean Connery died at the sterling age of 90. He passed at his home in the Bahamas. It’s worth noting the cosmic importance of this coordinate, as it was the location for one of his most quintessential 007 films, Thunderball.
I heard the news of Sean Connery passing and was shot back to being that small, barefooted child running around the desert pretending to be James Bond. I called my father to tell him the news and we spent the next hour recalling the man and actor that was Sean Connery. Those swim trunks (paid homage to by 007 actor Daniel Craig in Casino Royale), his unlikely rise to fame being born to a cleaning woman and factory worker in Scotland, and his most official butt chin.
Sean Connery was many things, not all good and not all charming, but through the end of his days, the man maintained a sense of quiet confidence that is worth honoring. He was never rattled. He maintained a subtle, dry sense of humor, was knighted — officially Sir Sean Connery — the quintessential man. You never saw him with a child on his knee, and eventually, Connery owned the silver fox role long past his prime.
Connery was magnetic at any age. He had the swagger of a high-roller and the mind of a chess master. It’s this sophisticated, capable confidence that first attracted me to Connery at a young age. Watching him as 007, I wanted that independence for myself. A stoic, knowing-smile and lethal karate chop.
If Sean Connery were an animal, he would be a fox. Both in his professional career and personal life, Connery displayed an unparalleled cleverness. Never exaggerated or extreme; you never saw him cry, laugh out loud, or be overly tender. This evenness and balance is a trait nearly impossible to master — not that laughing and tenderness are negative traits — but to have mastery over oneself is hard. And Connery largely had that. He was so god damn smooth at that Baccarat table, uttering the buttery words, “Bond, James Bond.” What he really meant to say was “Connery, Sean Connery.” And that’s what we all heard.
A few things you might not know about the man Sean Connery; he held many odd jobs before becoming the first James Bond. The list includes milkman, artist’s model, lifeguard, and even coffin polisher. He joined the Royal Navy at age 16 and was discharged three years later for a medical issue. He was once described by an artist as “too beautiful for words.” He placed third in a Mr. Universe competition before quitting bodybuilding.
Sean Connery is a beautiful combination of man balancing between his most undeveloped and controlled form. He was graceful yet rugged. As I write this reflection, I long for the whirl of the rewinding VHS. The 007 theme song. Connery in Dr. No, in Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice. Connery in The Rock, Entrapment, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The distinct twirl of his accent and held-back smile.
Mr. Connery, this martini’s shaken for you.