Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City

Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City The hunt for James Bond was on. Ian Fleming’s famous fictional spy was finally about to embark on a career in films. But who would portray the suave, cold-blooded agent with a license to kill? Among the names bandied about were Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Trevor Howard, James Stewart, Michael Redgrave and Peter Finch. Fleming himself had shown a preference for David Niven. The basic problem was in finding an actor who would sign a multi-picture contract for an entire series of Bond films, something which established actors weren’t prepared to do. James Mason was offered the part but said he’d be prepared to make two Bond films, but no more.

Eventually, it was decided to look for an unknown who could be groomed for the role and would sign for the series. The Daily Express newspaper ran a competition to find a Bond and there were 1,100 replies, including one from a man called James Bond! They were all considered unsuitable. The Express also had a list of 250 actors suggested as Bond by the readers – and Sean Connery’s name was near the top. Sean was also on a list of five hopefuls, along with Roger Moore, Patrick McGoohan, Bob Simmonds and Richard Johnson. Johnson wasn’t willing to sign for a multi-picture deal (yet appeared as Bulldog Drummond in two Bond-style pictures in the late Sixties).

Patrick McGoohan rejected the role on moral grounds and found fame as a secret agent in ‘Danger Man’ and ‘The Prisoner’ TV series, with the stipulation that John Drake, the agent, have no sexual affairs. Bob Simmonds ended up as Sean’s stunt double in the movies. Roger Moore was due to start filming the TV series ‘The Saint’ and wasn’t considered ‘he-man’ enough for the part at the time.

For some years, Fleming had wanted the Bond books to be translated to the screen and after his deal with CBS TV to make a series fell through, he sold the rights to ‘Casino Royale’ for a pittance in 1955. Harry Saltzman, a Canadian producer working in England, joined forces with another producer Albert Broccoli of Warwick Films and, with the backing of United Artists, paid for the film and TV rights to the James Bond books, with the exception of ‘Casino Royale.’ Fleming was guaranteed a minimum payment of $100,000 a film plus 5% of the producer’s profit.

In October 1961 film editor Peter Hunt, who’d worked with Connery on the film ‘On The Fiddle’, suggested Sean to Saltzman. Coincidentally, in Hollywood, Cubby Broccoli had ‘discovered’ Connery while watching ‘Darby O’Gill & The Little People.’ Broccoli’s wife thought that Connery was very attractive and would make an appealing Bond, so Broccoli decided to meet him.

Terence Young, who had been hired to direct ‘Dr. No’, had worked with Connery before on a film called ‘Action of the Tiger’. He told the producers, “Look, it’s no contest; this man is far and away the best. You should grab him.” Young arranged for the producers to meet Connery and commented, “I called Sean and I said, because I’d seen him somewhere recently and I knew how he dressed, I said, ‘Sean, come wearing a suit.’ He came without a tie on and wearing a sort of lumber jacket. I never saw anyone come more deliberately to antagonise people. But anyway he went down very well. They liked him. He laughed. And he had a sense of humour. They were worried about his accent but I said, "Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that when the time comes". Cubby was worried. He said "He looks like a bricklayer!" and I said "Well he won’t when I finish with him" and in the end it was agreed it should be Sean. I didn’t have a lot to do with it. I would have said it was mostly Harry Saltzman.”

Of the meeting, Broccoli was to say, “He was rough and tough and didn’t have the right clothes. He was wearing baggy, unpressed trousers with a brown shirt without a tie and suede shoes and he thumped and pounded the desk and told us what he wanted. I think that’s what impressed us: the fact that he’d got balls.” Fleming wrote to a friend, “Saltzman thinks he has found an absolute corker, a 30-year-old Shakespearean actor, ex-Navy boxing champion, etc, etc, and even, he says, intelligent.” Sean and Ian Fleming were to meet up and Connery noted, “Fleming was a terrific snob, yet once you got past that, he was really a very nice guy, quite shy, very intelligent, highly original and most curious. But he had a snobbishness that he wrote into Bond in the novels. It was the lack of humour about himself and his situation which I didn’t like about the character.”

Connery’s accent didn’t prove to be a problem. One of Sean’s friends, a director called Robert Henderson who’d helped him in his early stage career, was to remark, “People later said, oh, how lucky he was getting James Bond – lucky my foot! He had a Scots accent that was so thick it was like a foreign language. He cured himself of that, but think of the study that took. He worked and sweated blood. He always moved marvellously, like an animal. But when anybody says this just came from luck, it’s the old thing in the theatre, everybody gets their chance, and the trick is to be ready.”

Sean observed that Scots stressed words differently from the English and said, “So because of my word stress I was able to get away from the original Bond character and take the sting out of those bad-taste jokes that crop up in the films. Terence Young and I worked hard on the character to get in some humour: it certainly isn’t in the books I’ve read.”
Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City

Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City

Sean was born Thomas Connery on 25th August, 1930 in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. The family lived in a tenement and were so poor that the new baby’s cot was the bottom drawer of the wardrobe. At 13, Big Tammy, as he was called, quit school and took a variety of jobs – labourer, milkman, cement mixer, coffin polisher, steel bender and printer’s devil, then joined the Navy.
He was given a medical discharge after three years, due to an ulcer, and drifted into various jobs again, as a lifeguard and a male model at Edinburgh School of Art before becoming Mr Scotland in 1953 and representing his country in the Mr Universe contest (above left). He then applied for a job in the chorus of the stage show of ‘South Pacific’ and was asked how he’d like to be billed. He said: Thomas Sean Connery, which they thought was too long and they truncated it to Sean Connery.

A number of film parts came along, including ‘Action of the Tiger’ and ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure,’ but his first major role was opposite Lana Turner in ‘Another Time, Another Place’ in 1958 and the following year he appeared in Disney’s ‘Darby O’Gill and The Little People.’
More artistically satisfying were his roles on television, including the part of Mountain McClintock in BBC TV’s version of Rod Serling’s ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ and Count Vronsky in ‘Anna Karenina’ opposite Claire Bloom. In 1961 Sean signed his original contract to make one Bond film a year until 1967 and for ‘Dr No’ he was paid £5,000.

Despite its relatively low budget, ‘Dr No’ had high production values and was a major success, particularly in Europe. ‘From Russia With Love’ consolidated the popularity of the series, but the third film ‘Goldfinger', brought Bond into the big time. President John F.Kennedy had rated the book ‘From Russia With Love’ as number nine in his all-time Top Ten favourite books, which popularised Bond overnight in the States. ‘Goldfinger’ was a sensational hit in America and, at one New York cinema, it was screened constantly 24-hours a day. 'Bondmania' was sweeping the world!


‘Thunderball’ was initially plagued by legal problems. Some years earlier when Fleming had been trying to bring Bond to the screen, he’d collaborated on a screenplay with Kevin McClory and Jack Wittingham and later adapted it as the book ‘Thunderball’, without their permission. McClory had considered making ‘Thunderball’ on his own with Richard Burton, but came to an agreement with Eon (Saltzman and Broccoli), which involved him in the fourth film on condition that he would not revive Bond again as a film project for at least ten years.

Connery was becoming disenchanted with what he considered a low wage, now that he’d helped to establish the Bond character internationally. Everywhere he went there was merchandise with his image for which he wasn’t receiving any remuneration and the media attention and constant pressure of being Bond was causing a rift in his marriage with Diane Cilento (right). Yet Saltzman and Broccoli wouldn’t bring him in as a partner at Eon and so he announced that ‘You Only Live Twice’ would be his last appearance as 007.


Terence Young told Eon, “Take Sean as a partner, make it Cubby, Harry and Sean. Sean will stay with you because he’s a Scotsman. He likes the sound of gold coins clinking together. He likes the lovely soft rustle of paper. He’ll stay with you if he’s a partner, but not if you use him as a hired employee.” At the Royal Charity premiere of ‘You Only Live Twice’, the Queen asked him, “Is this really your last James Bond film?” “I’m afraid so, Ma’am,” he told her. He was offered nearly a million to appear in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, but turned it down. Saltzman and Broccoli tried to get Roger Moore, but he was contracted to make ‘The Persuaders’, a TV series, and they eventually settled on George Lazenby.

In the meantime, Charles Feldman, who’d acquired the rights of ‘Casino Royale’, tried to interest Connery in starring in it. He’d intended filming it as a thriller, but when he couldn’t get Sean, he abandoned the idea and turned it into a comedy which, with seven directors and various actors as Bond, turned into a confusing mess and a box office disaster, despite David Niven as Sir James Bond and Ursula Andress, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, Deborah Kerr, William Holden and John Huston. ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ was a good action film and did respectable business at the box office, but Lazenby didn’t quite shine in the role.

The American actor John Gavin, a Rock Hudson type, was selected to appear as Bond in ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ and was to be given a multi-picture contract. A week before filming, Connery agreed to take on the role and Gavin was paid off. Sean had been given an offer he couldn’t refuse. David Picker, President of United Artists had guaranteed him $1 ¾ million, plus a percentage of the profits, and agreed to provide financial backing to two films of Sean’s choice. Sean was 20lbs heavier than in his last Bond outing and was fuller in the face, with bushier eyebrows, but the scriptwriter Tom Mankiewicz was to comment, “It was the only time in any of his films that he looked mature and there was an old pro’s grace about him".
Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City

Sean Connery - James Bond - Sixties City

He was reputedly offered $5 million to return to Bond in ‘Live And Let Die,’ but refused. Clint Eastwood turned it down, Broccoli vetoed Burt Reynolds for the part and the role of Bond passed on to Roger Moore.

With his ten-year restriction over, Kevin McClory began to make plans to rework the ‘Thunderball’ plot for the screen. He initially involved Len Deighton as his co-writer on the project, ‘James Bond of the Secret Service.’ Then he approached Sean to become involved in the writing of the screenplay.
They were talking of having Sean as M, with Roger Moore as Bond. Sean said, “The three of us did a screenplay and put all sorts of exotic events in it. You remember the aircraft that were disappearing over the Bermuda Triangle? We had SPECTRE doing that. There was also this fantastic fleet of planes under the sea – and they were going to be used to attack the financial centre of New York by going through the sewers of New York – which you can do – right into Wall Street. There were going to be mechanical sharks in the bay, a take-over of the Statue of Liberty and the main line of troops on Ellis Island. All that sort of thing.”

The title had now been changed to ‘Warhead,’ there was talk of Sean reappearing as Bond, with Orson Welles as a villain and Trevor Howard as M. Then the Fleming Estate sued and Paramount pulled out of the venture, but the fact that Sean was now involved came to the attention of Jack Schwartsman, executive vice president of Lorimer. He was able to raise the money from 25 independent backers and the legal action faded because the script had been restricted to the plot defined in ‘Thunderball.


One of Connery’s friends remarked, “It was clever of McClory to involve Sean as he is now quite pleased with the script. Once Sean wrote it he started to care about the character he’d previously got fed up with playing.” It was Sean’s second wife Micheline who suggested the title ‘Never Say Never Again’, humorously referring to Sean’s vow that he would never play James Bond again!


Also see: Sixties City - James Bond Films of The Sixties




Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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