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12 Facts you may not know about Sean Connery’s time as James Bond

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If you hadn’t known it before, I’m a gigantic James Bond fanboy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched the entire franchise and through it all, Sean Connery was always my favourite Bond actor. As such, the passing of Connery this weekend past hit me a bit hard, prompting me to write the earlier article about how the late actor, against all odds, initially landed the role of James Bond – the first to bring to life Ian Fleming’s literary hero in a feature film – and then established every key aspect of the character I have loved for my entire life.

But besides the anecdotes I’ve already mentioned about Connery’s casting, there are some other very interesting tidbits about the actor’s tenure as James Bond that I just didn’t have the time to get to (that article was long enough already). So now I present to you twelve facts about Connery’s time as Bond that you may not have known.

  • With his toned bodybuilder physique, the 1.88m tall Connery was already a physical specimen, but to make him appear even more intimidating the set designers on Dr. No built all the furniture and props slightly smaller than usual.
  • Connery started balding at just 21 years of age, and thus from Goldfinger onwards, he’s actually wearing a toupee in every Bond film.
  • Connery was morbidly afraid of spiders, and thus in the scene in Dr. No when a tarantula is supposed to be climbing on his shoulder, it’s actually walking on a pane of glass. Having that knowledge, the trick is painfully clear to see when watched again.
  • The scene in 1964’s Goldfinger in which Connery’s Bond is being tortured by the titular villain is the first time a laser beam was ever shown in a feature film. In the novel, it was a spinning buzzsaw but the producers wanted something more original.
  • Aston Martin was initially not keen on letting Connery drive their cars in Goldfinger, making the producers pay a hefty fee for just two vehicles. After the massive success of the film though, the British car manufacturer has let the Bond filmmakers take any car they want for free.
  • At the time of filming, Pedro Armendariz, the actor who played Bond’s ally Kerim Bey in From Russia With Love, was actually dying from cancer as a result of filming a previous film near a nuclear reactor. He only took the role in From Russia With Love so as to make enough money to take care of his family. His physical state deteriorated so much though, that in some scenes in which the character appears opposite Connery, it’s actually director Terence Young doubling for him. Just a month after filming wrapped, Armendariz committed suicide rather than wait for the cancer to kill him.
  • In Diamonds Are Forever, Bruce Glover and Putter Smith play flamboyant henchmen Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, who in the movie are often seen holding hands. During filming, Glover and Smith managed to trick Connery into thinking they were really a gay couple and kept the practical joke running for years. Connery only found out much later when he happened to be on the same flight as Glover, seated a few rows behind him, and witnessed the actor trying to pick up a female flight attendant. This elicited a rather loud “You son of a bitch!” from Connery much to Glover’s amusement.
  • You Only Live Twice is one of Connery’s most iconic films as Bond, helping to establish a number of tropes of the spy genre. While adapted from Fleming’s book of the same name, most of the original story was tossed out by the screenwriter. That screenwriter? Oh, just a close pal of Fleming’s, another little old author you may have heard of named Roald Dahl.
  • During the Paris premiere for Goldfinger, a crazed fan managed to breach security and climb into the car that Connery was driving at the time. The actor was so shaken up by the experience that he refused to attend any premieres for Thunderball.
  • Thunderball introduces that spy-genre villain favourite of a pool of sharks. Connery was naturally wary of swimming with the predators so a plexiglass partition was made to separate them from the actor. Except, production designer Ken Adams had not managed to acquire enough plexiglass in time to fully complete the partition. With just a tiny gap on one far side, the risk was deemed negligible although nobody informed Connery. He only found out when, sure enough, one of the sharks managed to find the gap and squeezed through, prompting Connery to just narrowly escape from the pool in time. (Thunderball was actually strewn with stunt mishaps involving shark feeding frenzies, exploding boats, and flaming cars – it’s incredible that nobody died).
  • In 1967, hoping to cash in on some familial fame, Connery’s younger brother Neil starred in a James Bond spoof film called Operation Kid Brother. The production managed to even land a number of the actors/actresses who had previously played recognizable roles in Connery’s own movies. And apparently, Connery was pretty pissed off about the whole affair. The film was only ever released on VHS, so for a long time it was impossible to find, but somebody went and uploaded the entire thing to YouTube two years ago. I’ve only ever seen part of it, but it’s not great.
  • By the time he returned to play James Bond in the unofficially released Never Say Never Again in 1983, Connery was a well-established action hero and thus, by his own admission, got very cocky with the young martial arts instructor who had been sent to help him with fight choreography. The martial artist got so annoyed with Connery’s behaviour that he didn’t hold back during a training session and broke Connery’s wrist in the process. That martial arts instructor was none other than a young Steven Segal.

Last Updated: November 7, 2020

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