Sean Connery is basically a living legend. For starters, his name will always be inseparable from James Bond, thanks to the 1962-1983 run that saw him starring in seven films as the suave secret agent. Later in his career, he appeared in critically acclaimed films like The Untouchables, which earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and popular franchises like Indiana Jones. His achievements have garnered some serious accolades. He has been voted both “The Greatest Living Scot” and “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure,” and in 1999, People declared him the “Sexiest Man of the Century.” And to top it all off, he was officially knighted in 2000.
Connery worked his way up from his first gig as a milkman in Edinburgh to become one of the world’s most accomplished actors. It’s the kind of rags to riches story that would inspire any young artist, but today, Connery is far more likely to be spending time with his family at home in the Bahamas than rubbing elbows with other big names on the red carpet. In addition, several scandals may have prompted him to stay out of the spotlight. Here’s why you don’t see Sean Connery at the movies anymore — and why you probably won’t catch him on the silver screen again.
Connery hasn’t appeared in a film since 2003, when he starred in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. His absence was noticed in the following years, but Connery kept quiet about his future plans for some time, which left fans wondering whether he would ever return to acting. Finally, in 2006, he said that he had, in fact, retired, officially confirming his status after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute. In 2007, he reaffirmed that he was truly done with acting. In an interview with Heat Vision, Connery said that he had considered working on another film, but ultimately, he decided against it.
At this point, Connery doesn’t have anything left to accomplish in Hollywood. He’s already built his legacy. Retiring when he was ready rather than continuing to make films solely for the money definitely seems like a better option. After all, what could top being James Bond and Indiana Jones’ dad?
Connery never explicitly stated his reason for retirement, but it seems that a number of different factors made him decide it was finally time to hang up his hat. His last film, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, was panned by critics, and rather than picking up one more role to end his career on a better note, he chose to follow his initial instinct to walk away.
Connery was very frustrated with his experience working with director Stephen Norrington on Gentlemen, going as far as to say that Norrington should have been “locked up for insanity.” Connery stated that he did his best with his role, but he knew that the entire production was going off the rails, and that critics and audiences alike probably wouldn’t be too pleased. He said that he got “heavily involved in editing and trying to salvage” the end result; his efforts may have helped somewhat, but overall, the film was considered a flop. Not wanting to deal with that type of stress anymore, Connery walked away from Hollywood and hasn’t really looked back.
Henry Jones Sr. and the Rejection of the Crystal Skull
After struggling on the set of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and his subsequent decision to retire, one offer did pique Connery’s interest in returning to the big screen. He got in touch with Steven Spielberg, who spoke with him about reprising his role as Indiana Jones’ father, Dr. Henry Jones, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Connery strongly considered the request to appear in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, but in the end, he decided it wasn’t worth coming out of retirement. He had some creative differences with Spielberg as far as the character and the proposed direction of the plot, but most importantly, he didn’t want to deal with the pressures of acting again. “If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film,” Connery wrote in a statement on his website. “But in the end, retirement is just too much fun.”
Invasion of the Hollywood ‘idiots
Toward the end of his acting career, Connery became exasperated with the film industry as a whole — and he skewered the directors and studios who he saw as cranking out lackluster films and wasting great talent. “I’m fed up with the idiots… the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies,” Connery lamented in a 2005 interview.
Years later in an interview with Heat Vision, he elaborated on his previous statement, saying that unfortunately, these “idiots” had “cornered the market in the film industry.” He went on to name George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, and Sean Penn as people who were working hard to produce more creative, high-quality films rather than pouring money into box office bombs or lazy, uninspired scripts. It’s true that Hollywood seems to be oversaturated with remakes and sequels these days. The industry has transformed completely since Connery started acting, and he’s clearly unhappy with the current state of things.
Not enough zeroes in the world
There was actually a time when it seemed like Connery might stage a career comeback, and he even implied that it wouldn’t be totally impossible for a director to lure him back in front of the camera. However, he made it clear that doing so would require a serious paycheck, quipping that “It would almost need a Mafia-like offer I couldn’t refuse to do another movie.”
But now it appears that this window has totally closed. According to Connery’s longtime friend and fellow actor Michael Caine, Connery has shut the door on any potential offers. In 2011, Caine told the Telegraph, “He won’t make another film now. I just asked him. He said, ‘No, I’ll never do it.'” It seems that Connery could not be more clear about the fact that his acting career is long over, despite the sizable paycheck that he could probably still command. Although some of his fans may hold out hope that there could be another film on the horizon, it looks like the chances are slim to none.
Connery didn’t just back out of acting because he was so disappointed in his experience shooting The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He also wasn’t satisfied with any of the parts he was being offered at that point in his career. No matter how talented an actor is, it’s a given that casting directors will undoubtedly see them differently as they get older — and that’s exactly what happened to Connery. Michael Caine offered up some more details about the reasons behind his friend’s retirement, telling the Telegraph, “The movie business retired him because he didn’t want to play small parts about old men and they weren’t offering him any young parts in romantic leads.”
Connery is hardly the first actor to struggle with this dilemma, and he even said that it contributed to his decision to turn down the Indiana Jones offer. “It was not that generous a part,” Connery told Heat Vision. “The father of Indy was kind of really not that important.” Unfortunately, there just aren’t as many fulfilling roles in Hollywood for older actors.
007 in exile
Although Connery is proud to be Scottish, he rarely comes home these days — and it’s not just because transatlantic flights can be taxing. UK citizens who maintain a permanent residence abroad and live there for most of the year can save a pretty big chunk on their taxes depending on where they settle down. Connery and his wife, Micheline Roquebrune, live in the Bahamas, and they are only allowed to spend 90 days in the United Kingdom each year to qualify for non-resident status and a hefty tax break.
While there’s nothing technically illegal about this, Connery came under fire for his tax exile status before the vote on Scottish independence in 2014. Connery was a strong supporter of independence, but didn’t return to help rally voters, and his younger brother confirmed that it was because of his “tax exile” status. Naturally, this served as fuel for the opposing campaign, with one “No” supporter tweeting that if the “Yes” campaign prevailed, an independent Scotland should “chase Connery for millions in back taxes.”
Unfortunately, exile status isn’t Connery’s only source of public tax drama: In 2010, he and his wife were investigated for property fraud in Marbella, Spain. After the sale of their Marbella property, Casa Malibu, they got involved with a development company that built more than 70 luxury apartments on the site without permission from local authorities. To make matters worse, a huge portion of the profits was supposedly sent abroad to be stashed away in tax havens. Although Connery initially claimed that he was willing to cooperate with authorities, he also threatened to sue for damages.
In 2015, the couple was back in the spotlight again when Roquebrune was officially charged with Spanish property tax fraud for the sale of those illegal apartments. Connery was cleared of any charges, but the embarrassment certainly didn’t help him move past the controversy over his tax exile status.
Now hear this
He isn’t interested in going before the cameras, but Sean Connery has made a small exception to his retirement from acting: voice work. Although Connery has remained true to his word about never appearing onscreen in another film, you can hear his distinctive voice on a few projects that have been released since his retirement in 2003. In 2005, Connery returned to the world of James Bond when he recorded voiceovers for the new video game version of his 1963 film From Russia with Love. Executive producer Glen Schofield said Connery agreed for two reasons: From Russia with Love was his favorite Bond film, and his grandchildren love video games.
Connery also voiced the title character in the animated short Sir Billi the Vet, which was later expanded into a feature film and officially released in 2012. He also served as the executive producer for the extended version, but hasn’t been back to the mic for a screen project since.
Times change, even if attitudes don’t
Although Connery is still greatly admired by many, some of his past comments about women would give anyone pause, and it’s tough to interpret these quotes as anything other than sexist. Allegations from his first wife, actress Diane Cilento, certainly didn’t paint him in a better light.
In a 1965 interview with Playboy, Connery was quoted as saying, “I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong in hitting a woman, though I don’t recommend you do it in the same way you hit a man.” He made similar comments in a 1993 interview with Vanity Fair, flat out stating that sometimes when women argue with men, “They want a smack.” Connery claimed that his words were taken out of context, but in 2006, Cilento published her autobiography, in which she wrote that he had physically and mentally abused her. Connery denied all of her allegations, but his previous comments looked even worse after Cilento’s book was published.
Connery even canceled an appearance at the Holyrood Festival of Politics in 2006 because he was worried that he would be questioned about his relationship with Cilento. He went on to say, “I don’t believe that any level of abuse of women is ever justified under any circumstances,” but for some, the apology came a little too late.
Being a Scot
In 2004, Connery signed a contract to work with a ghostwriter and put out a tell-all autobiography. He got a six-figure advance, which persuaded him to go back on his initial refusal to ever write a memoir. But after trying to work through the process with two different ghostwriters, Connery decided to scrap the whole thing, specifically saying he didn’t want to rehash the claims made by his ex-wife, so he returned the advance and set the whole idea aside for several years.
In 2008, Connery finally published his autobiography Being a Scot, written in collaboration with author Murray Grigor. The book is about his own life growing up in Scotland and his journey to becoming a famous actor, as well as a look at Scotland’s culture and history. It’s not the scandalous bestseller that Connery’s original publisher wanted, but it seems like Connery had more creative control over the content.
On the links
So how does Sean Connery spend his days now that he is retired? He has all the time in the world to spend indulging in his love of golf, which originated when he was filming the 1964 Bond movie Goldfinger. The film includes a scene in which Bond and the movie’s villain, Auric Goldfinger, basically have a showdown on a golf course. While practicing his golf game for the film, Connery got hooked on the sport. “I began to see golf as a metaphor for living,” he wrote in Being a Scot, “for in golf you are basically on your own, competing against yourself and always trying to do better.”
Today, Connery’s home in the Bahamas is actually located on a golf course, and according to his son Jason Connery, he can still hit a hole in one. So while you won’t find Connery at movie premieres anymore, you might catch him playing golf in paradise. It’s definitely not a bad way to spend retirement.
What every Bond girl looks like today
Ever since Ursula Andress walked up on the beach as Honey Ryder in Dr. No, Bond girls have been an unshakable part of the James Bond mythos. Sometimes they’re Bond’s allies, sometimes they’re his enemies, and sometimes they’re total wild cards, but for more than 50 years, Bond girls have given Agent 007 a run for his money in the race to see who can be more compelling on the big screen. In celebration of that incredible legacy, and the many actresses who’ve contributed to it, let’s take a look at the 30 most important Bond girls, then and now.
Note: This is not a list of every single “Bond girl” in the sense that it doesn’t include every female character Bond has encountered over the course of 24 films and counting in his MGM releases (that means Kim Basinger is also out). This is a list of the major Bond girls, meaning heroes and villains who played a major role in each film’s plot. Sometimes that means two actresses for one film; other times it means just one.
No list of Bond girls would be complete without Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny. She didn’t fit the same role as the others, but she was a steadfast supporting star, playing the role in 14 films for more than two decades until her final appearance alongside Roger Moore in A View to A Kill in 1985. She never climbed into bed with Bond in all those years, but her scenes trading sly jokes and smiles with him outside M’s office made her a fan favorite and an essential part of the franchise’s legacy. She was not asked to continue the role in Timothy Dalton’s Bond films, but continued to act sporadically in film and television until 2001. Maxwell, whose film acting career stretched all the way back into the 1940s, died in 2007 at the age of 80.
Ursula Andress helped set the template for Bond girls when she appeared as Honey Ryder in 1962’s Dr. No, and the film made her a massive star. The scene in which she walks out of the ocean in a bikini is one of the franchise’s most memorable entrances, and has since been paid homage to numerous times, including in other Bond films like Die Another Day (by Halle Berry) and Casino Royale (by Bond himself, Daniel Craig). She was a prominent sex symbol throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and continued acting regularly through the 1980s, most prominently playing Aphrodite in Clash of the Titans in 1981. Her acting work slowed in the 1990s, and she hasn’t made a film since 2005.
For some Bond girls, time in the spotlight is memorable but brief, and that’s true of Daniela Bianchi. An Italian model and beauty queen, Bianchi’s biggest role as an actress came as Tatiana Romanova in the second Bond film, From Russia With Love. Though her voice was dubbed because of her thick accent, she became instantly recognizable around the world, and continued acting in various films in Europe for several years after From Russia With Love’s release. She retired from acting in 1970 to marry Italian businessman Alberto Cameli, though she has since appeared in documentary footage discussing her time as a Bond girl.
For many, Goldfinger is the quintessential James Bond film, and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore is the quintessential Bond girl. Though she wasn’t the famous girl painted gold (that was Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson), Blackman did get to play a villain who proves Bond’s equal and ultimately switches sides for him. Her work in the film set the standard for villainous Bond girls, and her legacy can be seen in films like GoldenEye, A View to a Kill, and Die Another Day. Since Bond, Blackman has continued working regularly on stage and screen, and has enjoyed a singing career. Her most recent acting appearance was in an episode of You, Me & Them in 2015.
As Jill Masterson in the third Bond film, Goldfinger, Shirley Eaton didn’t have much screen time. Her character was killed off relatively early in the film after one night with Sean Connery’s Bond, but it was the way her character died that made her an icon. Eaton played dead while covered in gold paint, creating an instantly memorable scene for the film and for her career. Eaton was already a star of some status by the time Goldfinger came around, having co-starred in comedies like Panic in the Parlor and dramas like The Girl Hunters, but her Bond role made her an international sensation.
After Bond, Eaton continued acting in Hollywood in films like Rhino! and Around the World Under the Sea before landing a cult hit role as the evil Sumuru in the spy films The Million Eyes of Sumuru and Rio 70. Eaton retired from acting in 1969 to focus on raising her two sons, Grant and Jason. She published an autobiography in 1999, and enjoys painting and sculpture.
TO BE CONTINUED
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