Sean Connery has carried the torch for masculinity in cinema like no one since Gary Cooper or Henry Fonda. He is the man without neurosisby Mark Cousins / September 24, 2006 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2006 issue of Prospect Magazine
Most people know—or think they know—who Sean Connery is. Baby boomers remember his sharky, “black Irish” masculinity in Dr No and the other Bond movies, his grace at the chemin de fer table, the way he filled a Turnbull & Asser shirt and drove an Aston Martin, the way he looked at Ursula Andress coming out of the sea.
In 1960s France, intellectuals at first found him old-fashioned, a symbol of the ancien régime, but then they looked again and saw a stoicism, a latter-day Bogie or Gary Cooper, Sartre in a tux. In China he is “Seen Connollee,” adored by young women. In Iran, men love his 1996 film The Rock, in which he plays John Mason, banged up on Alcatraz since 1963. In Britain, too, his celebrity seems to have been updated. Teens and pre-teens today are big fans because of peak-time reruns of Bond movies. In Connery’s native Scotland, where he recently opened the 60th Edinburgh international film festival and received a Bafta award, the tabloids have made their own photofit image of him—a tetchy, nationalist, anti-feminist, tax-exile.
But when you meet the real Connery, what you notice is his directness. Two years ago, a bunch of us were in an Edinburgh restaurant and the food was late. I moaned a bit and did nothing. Connery got up, walked into the kitchen and said “the food is late.” It arrived in haste. Ask him why he made a certain decision and he’ll answer “to get the thing done.” It’s a phrase he uses quite a bit, and it reveals an approach to life, I think. Perhaps this is unsurprising in a person with such clout, though it’s an eye-opener to see how many celebs seem paralysed by the challenge of making decisions, or agree to one thing then tell their assistant to get them out of it, pronto.
A more intriguing characteristic of Connery is his interest in ideas. He read James Joyce in his youth—he even had a go at Finnegans Wake. He is a bibliophile and, if you look carefully, you can see this in hi…