Today’s column will leave you shakened and a little stirred–in a good way. This Friday, October 5th, 2012 is Global James Bond Day and the latest installment in the James Bond series, Skyfall, premieres November 8th in the US.
One of the reasons Agent 007 has been so popular the past 50 years is the spot-on casting of the lead over the years. Here’s the story of how Sean Connery was chosen for the role, recounted in a 2008 UK Daily Mail article:
By the time Bond came around Connery was 31, already written off as a nearly man by some in the business and facing a distinctly uncertain future.
The rights to Ian Fleming’s hugely successful novels about the British secret agent had been acquired by the American Broccoli and his partner, Canadian producer Harry Saltzman.
Their first choice for the role of Bond, James Mason, was unable to commit to more than two films. Another sophisticated star, David Niven, had also had to turn down the offer of the part.
The British director Terence Young, who had been hired to make the film, remembered working with Connery in a B-movie called Action Of The Tiger four years earlier, and recommended the still unknown Scot.
Young impressed on Connery just how important the chance of the role was and warned him in advance not to demand too much money.
He also suggested that as he was up for the part of a dashing and elegant old Etonian, he might consider putting on a decent suit for his meeting with the producers.
The contrary Connery arrived for his interview at Broccoli’s office in South Audley Street, Mayfair, in scruffy slacks and a lumber jacket. It would have been hard to look less like the fictional Bond.
Broccoli later told how he sat amazed as Connery began pounding the desk with his fist as he made his financial demands and laid down his vision of how the part should be played.
When the producers asked him if he would be willing to do a screen test along with the other actors they were considering, Connery dismissed the idea out of hand.
Neither producer was impressed. Fleming, who had been invited to sit in, was horrified. ‘I was looking for Commander Bond, not an overgrown stuntman,’ he exploded.
Connery, with his thick and uncultured Edinburgh accent and his uncouth manners, was the polar opposite of the smooth Bond.
But Broccoli’s wife Dana was convinced Connery had what the screen secret agent needed – sex appeal. ‘Women – and men – will love him,’ she said.
Beckoning her husband and Saltzman over to the window to watch Connery as he crossed the street outside, she told them: ‘He moves like a panther.’
In spite of the serious reservations of executives at United Artists, Connery had got the part.
If you like stories like that one, tune in to the Inside Acting podcast October 18th, when I’ll have on director and author Paul Kyriazi, who wrote “The James Bond Life Style Seminar” and worked with David Hedison, who played CIA agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond movies.
Do something for your career every day and break a leg!