Sean Connery’s birthday: 85 facts about ‘Big Tam’
1: Thomas Connery was born at 176 Fountainbridge to Euphamia Maclean and Joseph Connery. He has a younger brother, Neil.
2: His father’s family were from County Wexford in Ireland. His grandfather, Tommy Connery, was a rag and bone man.
3: Young Connery’s mental arithmetic was said to be as good as any bookie.
4: His mother’s family came from Kirkcaldy, where the Connerys would spend holidays.
5: His father worked at the North British Rubber Mill, while Euphamia was a cleaner.
6: Home was a top-floor flat with a single bedroom, kitchen/living room and outside toilet. It was demolished in the Sixties.
7: He went to Bruntsfield Primary and says learning to read and write aged five was the foundation for his acting career.
8: He turned down Boroughmuir High because rugby was the main sport. Instead he attended Darroch Secondary on Upper Gilmore Street.
9: He joined the Sea Cadets Corps and learned to box.
10: He fished at the Union Canal, using Euphamia’s old stockings as a fishing line.
11: He started smoking when he was ten years old.
12: When his school closed during the war, pupils were sent to classes at a Morningside manor house. Connery was refused entry by the “lady” of the house because she recognised him as her milk boy.
13: He left school at 14 to work for St Cuthbert’s Co-operative Society at its Corstorphine Dairy as a barrow worker.
14: He recalled having to push his milk cart pony, Titch, up the icy slope of Dean Bridge.
15: The job was organised through Alex Kitson, a neighbour. He became general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union.
16: The milk round included Fettes, attended by a young James Bond in one of Ian Fleming’s novels.
17: Connery was 16 when he joined the Royal Navy for seven years.
18: He was discharged aged 19 with a duodenal ulcer.
19: He was awarded a navy pension of six shillings and eight pence a week, around 33p.
20: He returned home with two tattoos, one saying “Scotland Forever” and the other “Mum and Dad”.
21: He worked as a doorman at the Fountainbridge Palais de Danse dance hall and as a brickie.
22: He also trained as a French polisher in Haddington and spent nights sleeping in one of the coffins, apparently to save the bus fare home.
23: The job gave him his first taste of acting as he’d regularly work on the sets at the King’s Theatre.
24: At one point he installed the printing plates on to the presses of the Edinburgh Evening News.
25: He also famously posed as a male model at Edinburgh College of Art. The cash helped pay subscriptions to Dunedin Weightlifting Club.
26: One of the artists there was the one and only Richard Demarco.
27: Connery played football for Fet-Lors, run for the city’s “poorer” citizens by students at Fettes College and Loretto School.
28: He also played for Bonnyrigg Rose and was offered a trial with East Fife.
29: In 1952 he worked at Portobello open air swimming pool as a lifeguard.
30: His physique got him noticed and he was asked to join Anna Neagle at an Empire Theatre production, Glorious Days.
31: She encouraged him to consider an acting career.
32: He entered Mr Universe in 1953, and prepared by sunbathing on Gullane beach.
33: He was dubbed “Mr Scotland” during the competition, and took third place.
34: It led to an audition for a role in a touring production of South Pacific.
35: Connery marked the Drury Lane role by changing his first name to Sean.
36: While on tour he was spotted playing football and reportedly offered the chance to sign for Manchester United.
37: He fell in love with actress Carol Soppel, who sang Happy Talk.
38: He later romanced Julie Hamilton, step-daughter of politican Michael Foot.
39: He took elocution lessons to polish his Edinburgh accent.
40: His big television break came in 1957, in the live BBC television play Requiem for a Heavyweight.
41: His father watched it on television and was reported to have commented: “My heavens, that was smashing.”
42: In late 1957, he signed a long-term movie deal with 20th Century Fox.
43: His first Hollywood role was Another Time, Another Place.
44: His film career stuttered and he returned to TV to star alongside Diane Cilento in Anna Christie. He later married her.
45: Connery turned down the lead in El Cid after Cilento caught TB, so he could look after her.
46: Film producer Albert Broccoli’s wife first spotted Connery’s potential for the role he’d become famous for – James Bond.
47: When he auditioned, United Artists’ response was a telegram: “See if you can do better.”
48: He signed a six-year deal as James Bond and began filming Dr No in 1962.
49: United Artists was so unconvinced by Dr No, it premiered the film in the American Midwest to avoid negative reviews.
50: Connery and Cilento’s son, Jason, was born in January 1963, six weeks after the couple married.
51: The couple’s turbulent marriage lasted 11 years.
52: He sparked outrage in 1987 when he commented in an interview that it was acceptable to “slap” women.
53: Connery wore a wig for all his Bond appearances.
54: He used his £1.2 million salary from Diamonds are Forever to set up the Scottish International Education Trust to help young artists.
55: In America, he launched the Friends of Scotland charity to raise the profile of Scotland through events such as Dressed to Kilt.
56: He is well-known to be passionate about golf but had no interest until making the Bond film, Goldfinger, which features a golf scene.
57: He played on the first golf course in the Soviet Union in 1989 while filming John Le Carre’s The Russia House. The Moscow City Club had nine fairways constructed around high-rise tenements.
58: He met Moroccan artist Micheline Roquebrune at a golf tournament in Casablanca in 1970.
59: Within three months he had quit the London home that he shared with Cilento.
60: He divorced Cilento in 1973 and married Micheline in May 1975.
61: He retired from his Bond character following 1971 movie Diamonds are Forever, vowing never to play 007 again.
62: He went on to perform in The Man Who Would be King in 1975 alongside Michael Caine in what’s considered one of his greatest performances.
63: He did play Bond again when the role was revised in an “unofficial” 1983 Bond movie.
64: Micheline suggested its title: Never Say Never Again, a reference to her husband’s insistence he’d left Bond behind.
65: His film awards include an Oscar in 1988 for his role as Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables, two Baftas and three Golden Globes.
66: He received £250,000 for two days’ work on Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves in 1991 and gave it to charity.
67: He was made a Freeman of Edinburgh in 1991.
68: He had radiation treatment in 1993 for nodules on his throat.
69: That year he was erroneously announced as dead by Japanese and South African news agencies.
70: In 2006 he had surgery to remove a kidney tumour.
71: He was voted People magazine’s ‘sexiest man alive’ in 1989.
72: He was knighted in 2000.
73: In 2002 he was named Greatest Scot of the 20th century, beating John Logie Baird and Alexander Graham Bell.
74: In 2008, aged 78, he was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton’s advertising campaign.
75: Hollywood hardman Steven Seagal once broke Connery’s wrist during a martial arts lesson.
76: He retired from acting after The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
77: Later he turned down Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, arguing: “Retirement is just too damned much fun.”
78: A staunch Nationalist, he famously insists he won’t return from the Bahamas to live in Scotland until it is independent.
79: He has been a high-profile supporter of the Edinburgh Film Festival.
80: He returned to Fountainbridge to unveil a plaque marking his place of birth and celebrating his contribution to Scottish cinema.
81: His favourite Bond film is said to be From Russia With Love.
82: He was once stopped for speeding by an officer named Sergeant James Bond.
83: Sam Mendes confirmed that Connery was considered for the Kincaide role taken by Albert Finney in Skyfall, but said the idea was shelved as being distracting to the film.
84: He starred in seven Bond films in all between 1962 and 1983 and was the tallest actor to play Bond.
85: In 1992, he formed a production company in Hollywood – Fountainbridge Films.