Movies | Celebrity

Sean Connery's Life Story Is Wilder Than Any James Bond Movie

Royal Navy / MGM

Few actors embody what it means to be a Hollywood star like Sean Connery.

Long before the role of secret agent James Bond became a right of passage for talented British stars, Connery was the man who turned the 007 franchise into a global success.

But Connery's life has just as many surprising twists and turns as a James Bond script - and his path to stardom was anything but ordinary.

Far From Hollywood

Sean Connery young
Connery had a working class upbringing in Edinburgh, ScotlandParamount

Connery grew up poor (comfortable, but undeniably poor) in a working class neighborhood of Edinburgh, Scotland.

His mother Euphemia was a cleaner and his father Joseph was a truck driver.

The couple were known for keeping Connery and his brother in a drawer as babies, because they could not afford a crib.

This might explain why Connery started working at age nine, and later left school at age 13.

While he was known for being a small child, he had a growth spurt at age 12, and soon grew to his adult height of 6'2", earning him the nickname "Big Tam."

Sean Connery Navy
Connery was discharged from the navy because of a health condition.Royal Navy

At 17, Connery joined the British Royal Navy, but was soon discharged because of an ulcer.

With no other job prospects, Connery tried anything and everything: he worked as a milkman, a lifeguard, a truck drive, a coffin builder, a male model, and even a babysitter before making his big break.

Connery also developed an interest in body building, and came in third place at a Mr. Universe competition before leaving the hobby behind.

Sean Connery bodybuilding
Connery (center in first photo, left in second) began bodybuilding as a teenager.Oligarchy - Imgur

The young star was even a talented soccer player, who almost missed his chance to act when he was scouted at a local game.

A manager for Manchester United offered Connery a huge weekly salary to join the team, but his burgeoning acting career made Connery think twice.

"I realised that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30," he remembered, "and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves."

An Action Star, On And Off The Set

Connery's early acting career featured two hallmarks of his later life: he won parts through his natural charisma, and found himself in fights that would give even James Bond trouble.

Sean Connery
Connery was involved in a surprising number of fights, even after his acting career took off.Dutch National Archives - Wikimedia

While touring with a stage show, Connery was targeted by Edinburgh's Valdor Gang, local street toughs with a reputation for being ruthless.

After refusing to back down when a gang member intimidated him, six other members cornered Connery on the street.

But "Big Tam" beat them back, reportedly cracking two men's heads together, and had no trouble with the gang after that.

Meanwhile, landing a part in the Disney film Darby O'Gill and the Little people set Connery on the path to starring in Dr. No, the first James Bond film.

Sean Connery Darby O'Gill
Connery's role in this Disney classic was his first big break.Walt Disney Pictures

But even as his career was taking off, Connery still managed to run into trouble.

While starring alongside Lana Turner in the romance Another Time, Another Place, rumors swirled that Connery was having an affiair with his costar.

Her boyfriend, gangster Johnny Stompanato, took the gossip seriously enough to fly to the UK and pull a gun on Connery at the film's set.

Connery reportedly managed to disarm the gangster and knock him down, but said he had to "lay low" while Stompanato's boss, mobster Mickey Cohen, went looking for the actor who had been giving him trouble.

Bond, James Bond

While it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role of James Bond, even today, producers had to be convinced that Sean Connery was the man for the part.

Sean Connery Dr. No
'Dr. No' made James Bond, and Connery, an overnight sensation.MGM

Credit should go to a pair of women for realizing that the Scotsman was perfect for the role.

Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli was not impressed by Connery, but his wife Dana definitely was.

And while Ian Fleming thought Connery was too "raw" for the part, his then-girlfriend convinced him the actor was more than just "an overgrown stuntman."

Still, the pair treated Connery like Eliza Doolittle, and taught him how to walk, talk, dress, and act the part of Bond. Their work paid off when Dr. No became an instant sensation.

Despite propelling him to stardom, Connery would grow to hate his most famous character, saying he was "fed up to here with the whole Bond bit."

"I have always hated that damned James Bond," he added. "I'd like to kill him."

James Bond Sean Connery
Connery played the famous secret agent in seven films.MGM

Despite his tough talk, Connery came out of retirement for Never Say Never Again 12 years after his "final" Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. The movie's title was a joke on Connery's claims he would "never" play Bond again.

But maybe Connery should have thrown in the towel, because he revealed on The Tonight Show that he suffered a pretty nasty injury while preparing for his final Bond film.

The actor had his wrist broken by his martial arts instructor - who turned out to be actor Steven Seagal - but didn't realize he was injured until years later.

Steven Seagal
Connery says that aikido expert Steven Seagal broke his wrist.Steven Seagal - Flickr

"I got ahold of Steven and we had this training in the building where I had an apartment and he was really very very good and everything and I got a little cocky because I thought I knew what I was doing," Connery remembered.

"And I got a bit flash and I did that, and he broke my wrist."

Life After Bond

While he's still known to fans around the world as James Bond, Connery had a long career after finally leaving the part.

He even went on to win an Oscar for The Untouchables - which was also the only part to earn him an Oscar nod.

Sean Connery the Untouchables
Connery won an Oscar for his role in 'The Untouchables.'Paramount

But Connery may have missed out on the biggest role of his later career: playing Gandalf the wizard in The Lord of the Rings.

Producers were so desperate to sign the actor, they reportedly offered him 15% of the film's box office receipts.

If Connery had taken then deal, and the film trilogy was as successful as the films starring Ian McKellan as the wizard, Connery could have made $400 million.

Gandalf Lord of the Rings
Playing Gandalf could have made Connery a fortune, but the actor said he could not understand the script.New Line Cinema

But the actor had no regrets about turning down the parts, saying that "not understanding the script" was his reason for passing.

Connery has performed a few voice acting roles in recent years, but his last major film was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003.

The actor blames "idiots" running Hollywood for his retirement, but he has quite a few laurels to rest on.

Along with his Oscar and BAFTA awards, Connery was named People's Sexiest Man Alive in 1989, making him the oldest man to earn the title at age 59. Connery also earned the magazine's Sexiest Man of the Century title in 1999.

Sean Connery Sexiest Man Alive
Connery is still the oldest man to win the magazine's coveted award.People

Connery is also well-loved in his home country, and has been voted both the Greatest Living Scot and a national treasure of Scotland.

But sadly, Connery does not spend much time in Scotland these days, since he is, by his own brother's admission, living in exile because of tax evasion.

Which of Sean Connery's films is your favorite?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com