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Sean Connery, James Bond actor and Oscar winner, dies at 90

The beloved film star had a wide-ranging career.
In this Jan. 23, 1987 photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie "The Name of the Rose" at a news conference in London.  Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family.
In this Jan. 23, 1987 photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie "The Name of the Rose" at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. [ GERALD PENNY | AP ]
Published Oct. 31, 2020|Updated Oct. 31, 2020

LONDON — Scottish actor Sean Connery, the first actor to play James Bond on film and for many fans the best, has died. He was 90.

Bond producers EON Productions confirmed his death, first reported by the BBC. Producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were “devastated by the news.”

“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,’” they said in a statement.

The producers said Connery’s “gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent” was largely responsible for the success of the series.

The Scottish actor rose to international superstardom as the suave and fearless secret agent, first playing Bond in Dr. No in 1962. After a further four films, he abandoned the role, before being enticed back to play him twice more, finally in 1983′s Never Say Never Again.

While he will be most remembered for his portrayal of Bond, Connery enjoyed a varied career, which included the best supporting actor Oscar for his portrayal of a tough Irish street cop in the 1987 movie The Untouchables.

He also had major roles in films including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Highlander and The Hunt for Red October.

In this file photo dated July 29, 1966, actor Sean Connery is shown during filming the James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice," on location in Tokyo, Japan. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family.
In this file photo dated July 29, 1966, actor Sean Connery is shown during filming the James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice," on location in Tokyo, Japan. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. [ AP ]

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “heartbroken” at the news.

“Our nation today mourns one of her best-loved sons,” she said.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000 for services to film drama and in 2005 he was chosen for a lifetime achievement award by the American Film Institute.

Thomas Sean Connery was born Aug. 25, 1930, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the first of two sons of a long-distance truck driver and a domestic worker.

He left school at age 13 during World War II to help support his family.

“I was a milkman, laborer, steel bender, cement mixer — virtually anything,” he said.

Weary of day labor, he joined the British navy and was medically discharged after three years. The ailment: stomach ulcers.

Back in Edinburgh, he lifted weights to build his body and compete in the Mr. Universe contest. He came in third, briefly considered becoming a professional soccer player, but chose acting because he reasoned his career would last longer.

He got his first big break singing and dancing to There is Nothing Like a Dame in South Pacific on the London stage and in a road production before going on to act in repertory, television and B movies.

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He went to Hollywood for two early films, Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People and Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure.

In this photo dated Sept. 26, 1966, British actor Sean Connery, being given a Japanese bath, during filming of a scene in the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, at Pinewood Studios near London. The actresses shown are Yasuko Nagazuni, at left and Yee Wah Yang at right.
In this photo dated Sept. 26, 1966, British actor Sean Connery, being given a Japanese bath, during filming of a scene in the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice, at Pinewood Studios near London. The actresses shown are Yasuko Nagazuni, at left and Yee Wah Yang at right. [ SIDNEY SMART | AP ]

When he decided to become an actor, he was told that Thomas Sean Connery wouldn’t fit on a theater marquee so he dropped his first name.

Then came the audition that changed his life. American producers Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman had bought the film rights to a string of post-World War II spy adventure novels by Ian Fleming.

In this photo dated April 11, 1988, Sean Connery holds up his best supporting actor Oscar for "The Untouchables" at the 60th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
In this photo dated April 11, 1988, Sean Connery holds up his best supporting actor Oscar for "The Untouchables" at the 60th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles. [ LENNOX MCLENDON | AP ]

Connery was not their first choice for Dr. No. The producers had looked to Cary Grant, but decided they wanted an actor would commit to a series. The producers also realized they couldn’t afford a big-name star because United Artists had limited their film budget to $1 million a picture, so they started interviewing more obscure British performers.

Among them was the 6-foot-2 Connery. Without a screen test, Broccoli and Saltzman chose the actor, citing his “dark, cruel good looks,” a perfect match for the way Fleming described Bond.

It’s the way many will always remember Bond.

By Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless and Hillel Italie, who contributed from Los Angeles. Bob Thomas also contributed from Los Angeles.