Sean Connery was not on the list. Not on the list, not on the schedule. In fact, I was very clear the whole time that I had no intention of writing about him during his lifetime. This is because Sean Connery was a terrible person, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk about him in a purely positive way. I also knew that, when he did die, I was going to have to write about him. Too much of film relies on him. There is too much weight behind him to ignore. But my goodness there was a lot that he should have been ashamed of.
I wouldn’t be me if I weren’t delighted that it was his appearance in Darby O’Gill and the Little People that led to his casting as James Bond. I still like it better than I like James Bond, come to that. Before then, he’d been in a wide array of jobs. Probably the most striking of those was as a coffin-polisher. He’d even done a few movies, come to that, and a little television. But a screening of Darby O’Gill was what convinced the Broccolis that Connery had the charisma and sex appeal for the role of Bond.
It’s interesting to note, however, that his most common reason for turning down roles so far as I can tell is that he didn’t understand them. He turned down Gandalf because he didn’t understand Lord of the Rings. He turned down two roles in The Matrix because he didn’t understand it. He took the role of Allan Quatermain despite not understanding it, either, because he figured that turning down roles he didn’t understand had gone poorly for him, so he was going to try to take one he didn’t understand. And that didn’t go so well for him.
Famously, he said that there were some women who just needed someone to hit them. He said it more than once. He pulled out of an interview decades after the first time he’d said it because it became clear that someone was going to ask him to clarify it, and he felt that would be bad for the point of the interview, which was about Scottish independence. Which presumably means that he wasn’t exactly going to say, “Yeah, I was wrong about the whole thing, and that was awful of me.”
He said he wasn’t going to return to Scotland until it was fully independent. He believed it would happen during his lifetime; clearly, he was wrong about that. The issue of Scottish independence is a complicated one; clearly, not everyone in Scotland is interested in it. Connery was. He did not live to see it happen.