Seated at a casino table where he had just won a hand of baccarat, 007 coolly lights a cigarette and introduces himself to the beautiful woman across the way. “Bond,” exhaled Sean Connery, snapping closed his silver cigarette lighter. “James Bond.”
From that indelible moment in 1962’s Dr. No, the late movie icon would forever be known as the first, and many say the best, James Bond. During his final days, he made sure wife Micheline Roquebrune and his son, Jason Connery, “knew how much he loved and cherished them,” an insider exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
The professional painter, 91, and Sean’s only child, 57, were heartbroken following the Academy Award winner’s death at age 90 on October 31, but the rest of Hollywood was also rocked by the tragic news. “The wit and charm he displayed on-screen could be measured in megawatts,” said current Bond actor Daniel Craig.
“He had dementia and it took its toll on him,” the legend’s widow revealed to the Mail on Sunday following her husband’s passing. Micheline said Sean died in his sleep at their home in Nassau, Bahamas.
Ursula Andress, the world’s first Bond girl in Dr. No, dished Sean was “a great friend and a fabulous actor. Today, men like that just don’t exist, they are all too narcissistic, too taken with themselves.” She praised Sean’s sense of humor and empathy. “I was a little timid,” she recalled about filming the role of sexy Honey Ryder. “He was protective of me.”
Michael Caine, a longtime friend who shared the screen with Sean in 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King, also remembers Sean with enormous affection. “Sean was a rare combination of being a great star and a brilliant actor,” Michael tells Closer in a statement. “A wonderful man. We had a great time together. I really miss him.”
Though he achieved stardom as a suave British spy, Sean’s real life began in a cold-water flat in a poor section of Edinburgh, Scotland. At 9, he got his first job delivering milk in the pre-dawn hours. Four years later, he dropped out of school. “From the time I started working at 13, I always paid my share of the rent,” he once said. “I had to make it on my own or not at all.”
After a stint in the Royal Navy and flirtations with semi-pro soccer and bodybuilding, Sean was hired for a touring production of the musical South Pacific largely because he looked like a credible sailor. From there, he found work in TV and smaller films, like 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People, a Walt Disney adaptation of an Irish folktale.
Against all odds, the charisma he exhibited in the role helped convince Dr. No producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli that he’d found his James Bond — although Sean needed some persuasion. “I didn’t want to do it,” the actor has confessed, explaining that it was obvious there would be sequels if Dr. No became a hit. “Contracts choke you, and I wanted to be free,” said the star, who would end up playing Bond seven times, including in his favorite film, 1963’s From Russia With Love.
Women always found him appealing, but Sean, who was previously married to Australian actress Diane Cilento from 1962 to 1973, chose roles in his post-Bond career that didn’t require him to be handsome. “I don’t mind being older or looking stupid,” he shared.
He won an Oscar for playing a supporting part, tough cop Jim Malone, opposite Kevin Costner in 1987’s The Untouchables. “He was a very no-nonsense person” and “a man’s man,” dished Kevin, who added that he will always be grateful to Sean for being “incredibly inclusive with me professionally and personally.”
Another costar, Harrison Ford, recalled the fun he had with Sean while making 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Sean played his eccentric father, Henry. “You don’t know pleasure until someone pays you to take Sean Connery for a ride in the sidecar of a Russian motorcycle,” Harrison gushed. “God, we had fun.”
The Hunt for Red October’s Alec Baldwin reminisced on Sean’s friendship on the set of the 1990 thriller. “He was so kind toward me, so warm toward me, which he didn’t have to be,” marveled Alec. Sean even offered to pay the costume department to make Alec a leather jacket like the one he wore in the movie, after the younger actor admired it.
Sean largely retired from movies in 2003. He and Micheline, a French artist whom he married in 1975, lived in Nassau, where they indulged their shared love of golf. Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000, the star remained very active in the movement for Scotland’s independence. “I am not an Englishman,” he said. “I am a Scotsman … and I will always be one.”
The actor did a little voice-over work in his later years, but enjoyed his retirement until he became ill. “It was no life for him,” Micheline revealed of his final months. “At least he died in his sleep and it was just so peaceful. I was with him all the time … he got his final wish to slip away without any fuss.”
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