Originally from the pen of author Ian Fleming, James Bond was immortalised onscreen by Sean Connery. Not only did Fleming’s character become a cinematic icon, but Connery himself went on to become a huge star for decades to come.
When the first Dr. No was released in 1962, the world was a very different place: The cold war was in full swing, Beatlemania hadn’t yet exploded on the music scene and the thought of exotic locations was a pipe dream for many. In the 1960′s the life of Bond was almost as far away as space travel (something even Bond would get to experience, although not for another 16 years). James Bond was and still is a means of escaping – his adventures excite millions, and to quote the immortal line: “men want to be him and women want to be with him.”
Bond caused a “spy craze” in the 1960s: Mission: Impossible, The Man from Uncle and Our Man Flint to name but a few. Even Sean Connery’s brother was hired to star in a cheap exploitation film: Operation Kid Brother. As the franchise grew in popularity it became more and more outlandish. However the quality of the productions only got better with each succeeding film. Featuring legendary characters such as Goldfinger, Oddjob, Blofeld and of course Pussy Galore, the Bond films permeated popular culture. Throughout the 1960′s nobody could top Bond. Under Connery the franchise was a huge success – with Thunderball grossing a staggering $141 million in 1965! That’s an impressive sum today but mind boggling 43 years ago.
Connery however, grew tired of the role and the public scrutiny – and decided o quit the series. Faced with the loss of his star, Cubby Broccoli hired Australian model George Lazenby to strap on the Walther PPK in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film took a more grounded approach to the series, and it is seen by many to be one of the best films in the franchise. The film would have been made all the better if it had been Connery’s swan song (as had been originally planned) but alas that was not to be. Lazenby believed that the character of James Bond would die with the end of the 60′s and quit after just one film, vacating the iconic role and leaving producers with the problem of finding yet another 007.
Connery was lured back with a staggering $1.25 million paycheck for Diamonds Are Forever, a tale based loosely on Howard Hughes residency in Las Vegas. Ditching any realism, the film was even more tongue in cheek and helped pave the way for the Roger Moore films for years to come.
The dawn of the 1980s saw the return of Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again – a play on what Connery had said when asked if he would return to the Bond character. The film was produced by Kevin McClory, a filmmaker who helped develop the story of Thunderball. Following a lengthy court battle McClory won remake rights to the film and managed to persuade Connery back with a hefty pay packet.