Sean Connery Dead at 90

Sean Connery - Reuters

Remembering Sean Connery

In 2020, the hits just keep on coming. Earlier this year, we lost Max Von Sydow at 90. And because I thought that couldn’t be topped, we’ve now lost Sean Connery at 90 as well.

Sean Connery as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez
Sean Connery as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez

For many, people think of James Bond when they think of Connery. Personally, he’s not who I go to when I think of 007. I was born perhaps a decade or two too late to make the correlation there. No, Sean Connery for me wasn’t a secret agent—he was an immortal, the “Spanish peacock” of Highlander, to start with. This was my introduction to the actor and, honestly, I couldn’t have done much better. Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez—Ramirez, for brevity’s sake—came in as a suave and lively, ostentatious swashbuckler of a mentor for Connor MacLeod in the first film. He even returned for the much-panned stinker of a sequel, Highlander II. Everyone loves to rag on that flick, but Connery’s brief appearance there carried “a kind of magic” that elevated the film just a little. He truly brought his A-game to what’s a C-grade film at best. He made a habit of doing so throughout his career.

Surely most can point at Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as one of Connery’s great roles. I’ll not disagree—but let’s not forget The Presidio, The Untouchables, or Hunt for Red October. His uncredited but impactful appearance as King Richard at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? I love that film unapologetically, and Connery appearing at the end is just icing on the cake.

A Secret Agent *and* a Dragon?

Two roles that also stand out for me were straight out of the ’90s—his term as Draco in Dragonheart and John Patrick Mason from The Rock. In the former, Connery hits every mark from silly to serious as purportedly the last dragon in existence; in the latter, he lays on the machismo as an SAS operative and one of few escapees from Alcatraz. The Rock, in particular, is an absolutely explosive film teeming with action and sprawling setpieces, every bit the trademark of the trio of Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Don Simpson. Despite all that, Connery is nevertheless titanic in that film. These are movies I can’t imagine being so well-remembered without Connery. They’re just a few of many in his long filmography.

Another confession: I adore The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for its concept alone, but that film wouldn’t be nearly as watchable without Connery as Allan Quatermain. I’m told there were a number of production issues with the film, clashes between Connery and the director, Stephen Norrington. Whether as a result or simply by coincidence, both actor and director here seemed to exit from Hollywood after League flopped at the box office. That’s a sad note to go out on, for sure, but one we don’t have to dwell on. Pour yourself a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred; remember your Charlemagne; and don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Put on a film, any film, starring Sean Connery, and toast to one of the greats.

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