Reel Dad: Remembering Sean Connery beyond his 007 roles
One actor will always be remembered for playing Bond, James Bond, the British agent who saved the world with the help of amazing gadgets and a striking Scottish brogue.
But there was more to Sean Connery than 007.
In countless films, this remarkable actor delivered striking portrayals of complex characters while retaining that magic to engage that defined his signature role.
As we remember the actor, who died Oct. 31 at age 90, take a look at seven of his memorable performances beyond Bond.
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
John Huston was a grand director who loved to make big movies. In this adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novella, the moviemaker brings out Connery’s sense of humor in a performance of range and reason. As an ex-soldier in search of adventure, Connery brings a passion to wonder as well as wander to a film that brings out the actor’s ability to make fantasy feel real. And his chemistry with the costars Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer is sublime.
Murder on the Orient Express (1975)
He is not the star of Sidney Lumet’s all-star adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel. And his screen time is limited. Still Connery has a ball creating suspicion around his motives in a film that celebrates the joy of the who-done-it. Playing opposite Vanessa Redgrave, the actor brings a tongue-in-cheek approach to a military man who sheds details on an unsolved murder. But he doesn’t take the role too seriously and lets us know that we don’t have too, either.
The Wind and the Lion (1975)
Yes, the movie is too big, and runs too long. And, yes, it loses its narrative clarity in the final hour. But Connery hits the mark with his ability to fill a widescreen with a performance big enough to justify a massive production. With Candice Bergen and Brian Keith, this tale of tribal tension in Northern Africa celebrates how big a movie can be; Connery, bringing a striking subtlety to his work, reminds us how effective a film can be when it dares to be small.
Robin and Marian (1976)
In Richard Lester’s lovely romance, Robin Hood has matured into a seasoned warrior who longs for a quieter life. Connery’s approach to the role fascinates, playing down the heroics of Errol Flynn in favor of the melancholy of Henry Fonda. The result may be the strongest non-Bond performance he delivered, one that still perfectly plays 44 years after the film opened. Of course, working with the luminous Audrey Hepburn helps, too.
The Untouchables (1987)
As Connery relished playing layered characters, director Brian de Palma offered a challenge: make a familiar television series from the 1960s feel fresh. Connery threads this needle with a fascinating approach to Jim Malone, a veteran police officer who teams up with Federal agent Eliot Ness to pursue underworld criminals. No surprise, the Academy awarded Connery the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
As if to say to fans, “I just want to have fun,” Connery has a great time with Harrison Ford in the third episode of this reliable franchise. While the actor may not surprise in his performance, he makes us feel good about seeing him bring such joy to the screen, embracing the action sequences as well as the quieter moments where a father reveals his love for his son. Of the Connery performances, this may be the most likable.
Finding Forrester (2000)
In one of his final big screen performances, Connery makes us believe in the many agendas of a celebrated writer who hides from the public and himself. He touches our hearts working to make a young student believe in the power of words. The actor reminds us how much we cherish any chance to see him work on screen. Sadly, after this film, he only appeared on screen one more time, and offered his voice to a few other projects.
Rest in peace, Sir Sean, we will always remember.