Sean Connery, iconic James Bond actor, dies at 90

"Of course the films will go on, but who'll play me?" he once said of Bond.

October 31, 2020, 11:25 AM

Sir Sean Connery, the Academy Award-winning actor famous for playing James Bond, has died, the BBC reported Saturday. He was 90 years old.

"We are devastated by the news of the passing of Sir Sean Connery," Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said in a statement on the franchise's Twitter account. "He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words — 'The name’s Bond... James Bond' — he revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent. He is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him."

Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930 in Scotland, the eventual big screen star quit school at an early age and later joined the Royal Navy. After being released from service due to stomach issues, Connery became a weightlifter, according to

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said in a tweet Saturday she "was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery. Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons."

"Sean was born into a working class Edinburgh family and through talent & sheer hard work, became an international film icon and one of the world's most accomplished actors," she wrote, adding that while he's best remembered as Bond, he was also "a patriotic and proud Scot" and "a lifelong advocate of an independent Scotland."

PHOTO: Sean Connery is pictured in "Goldfinger."
Sean Connery is pictured in "Goldfinger."
Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

In the mid-1950s, Connery competed in the Mr. Universe Competition, which kickstarted his acting career.

"When I went to London for [the competition], one of the guys, he was in [a show] 'South Pacific,' he said, 'Do you want to do a show?'" Connery told Barbara Walters in 1987. "He told me it was £12, £14 a week, which was suddenly, 'Oh, that sounded [nice].' It was only two hours a day. I said, 'I'll have a go at that.'"

After a decade of some success, including several TV series roles and the TV movie version of "Macbeth," Connery was cast in 1962's "Dr. No" as James Bond.

"It was more fun in the earlier ones," Connery told Walters, admitting those films would be his key to success in Hollywood. But Connery also said "the demand was enormous for publicity and exposure."

From "Dr. No," he went on to make "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice" and "Diamonds Are Forever." After half a dozen Bond movies, he walked away in the early 1970s. In between "You Only Live Twice" and "Diamonds Are Forever," Connery vacated the title of Bond to George Lazenby, only to come back for $10,000 a week and the promise to produce more films with the studio, he said in a 1971 Guardian interview.

"Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more," Daniel Craig, the current Bond, said in a statement. "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."

"Of course the films will go on, but who'll play me? I just don't know and can't guess," he told the British newspaper.

That 1971 interview was very telling on why Connery walked away. "Usually I hate interviews because I end up boring myself listening to me talking all the time," Connery said on the amount of press a Bond film warrants.

But even though he walked away again, he wasn't really done with Bond until "Never Say Never Again" in 1983. After his seventh Bond movie, he was finally finished.

PHOTO: Sean Connery portrays British spy James Bond in the movie version of "Diamonds Are Forever."
Sean Connery portrays British spy James Bond in the movie version of "Diamonds Are Forever."

"The films were difficult and got more and more difficult for me to make, because they were never well-planned," he told Walters back in 1987. He added about the exposure, "The only comparison would be The Beatles, but there were four of them to kick it around."

Outside the Bond franchise, Connery appeared in "Marnie," "The Man Who Would Be King" and "Robin and Marian."

In 1987, Connery starred in Brian De Palma's "The Untouchables" opposite Kevin Costner. The role earned him his first and only Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor.

"Patience truly is a virtue," Connery joked about having last attended the Oscars 30 years prior to 1988.

After "The Untouchables," Connery may have been in his late 50s, but he didn't slow down one bit. He went on to star in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "The Hunt for Red October" and "First Knight."

In 2008, after much speculation that Connery might reprise his role as Indiana Jones' father in "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," he posted on his website: "If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film. ... But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun."

His last film was "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in 2003.

Off screen, Connery was knighted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II.

PHOTO: Sir Sean Connery, holding his medal after he was formally knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, during a ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 5, 2000.
Sir Sean Connery, holding his medal after he was formally knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, during a ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland, July 5, 2000.
Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy

"It’s one of the proudest days of my life,” Connery said after receiving the honor, according to ABC News. “It means a great deal for it to happen in Scotland.”

Connery was married twice in his life, first to actress Diane Cilento from 1962 to 1973, then to Micheline Roquebrune from 1975 on. Connery is survived by his son Jason, who was born in 1963.

"It was a privilege to have known Sean. When I last spoke to him it was clear even then that his health was failing - but the voice, the spirit and the passion that we all loved so well were still there," Sturgeon, of Scotland, wrote Saturday. "I will miss him. Scotland will miss him. The world will miss him."

"Wherever he is," current Bond, Craig, said, "I hope there is a golf course."