From The Express [London] (November 19, 1996)
By Paul Callan
When the autograph hunters and the Bond film fanatics hurtled their way through the doors of the Odeon, Leicester Square on Sunday they were palpitating at the chance of seeing the actors who had translated Ian Fleming's cool hero to the screen.
It was hoped that all the James Bonds would gather - or, at least, send a message - to honour the memory of the big, cuddly film producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who (with Harry Saltzman) turned 007 into an industry that has churned out billions since Dr. No in 1962. He died earlier this year, aged 87.
George Lazenby couldn't make it out, but Pierce Brosnan, the latest Bond (and the one with the soft Irish burr), the very quietly-spoken Timothy Dalton, and the droll jokey Roger Moore obligingly turned up, posed for pictures and bathed in the warmth of the adoration. There was a glaring absence though: Sean Connery.
Connery's non-appearance and failure even to reply to invitations from Broccoli's widow Dana surprised and disappointed many who (rightly) believe that he was the best James Bond of all - an actor who gave 007 just the right touch of ruthless charm.
Sadly, apart from the odd film clip, Connery was absent from Sunday's proceedings. He is in Canada but did not even respond with a short, filmed tribute to the man who had wrenched him from screen obscurity.
The sad truth is that Connery and Broccoli, both strong-willed men in an industry where cut-throat razors are virtually handed out at the studio gates, fell out badly.
They had been close, even devoted, for 2 decades until their relationship soured in the mid-80s. The cause, as ever in the film industry, was money. Connery, driven possibly by the memories of his poor childhood in Scotland, considering suing Broccoli for a share of the profits from the 5 films he made as Bond.
The big Scots actor can be seen as a study in contradiction: he is argumentative, said to be tight-fisted, yet can also be happy to give to charity. Oddly, too, he despises the fame he found with the Bond films, even though it proved to be the cornerstone of his fortune.
There was considerable bitterness some years ago when he said: "I had many problems during the Bond movies. They [Broccoli and Saltzman] would be sitting opposite each other at a table thinking, "That a******e has got my other 30 million." There was a conflict from the beginning. You could never tell when you were going to start or finish the movies. That put me in a very vulnerable position in terms of wanting to do other pictures. With Diamonds Are Forever I put a limitation on it and put such a heavy penalty on them that they finished on time."
Connery had a deep resentment of what he considered to be the Bond film-makers' meanness. It has been estimated, conservatively, that in 1981 the Connery-Bond earnings were around $260 million. But it was highly unlikely that the actor, who brought the character alive on the screen, would have netted even a 50th of that.
He, at this stage, regarded the part of Bond as a serious and continuing commitment spread over nearly 10 years during which Connery nurtured and polished the role. Essentially, Connery was James Bond. Yet Connery seems to have forgotten that without Broccoli's determination and ability to cajole those who opposed him, there could have been a different actor playing the plum role.
After all, Connery was hardly in the top league and among the films he had made before Dr. No had been the less impressive Darby O'Gill and the Little People and (worse) Tarzan's Greatest Adventure. Broccoli, however, had spotted Connery's potential in Darby and even pointed him out, in a private viewing of the film, to his wife Dana. "There," he said, without any doubt in his voice, "is my James Bond."
But the grey-suited money men were unconvinced. They doubted that cinemagoers would react, especially through their pockets, to an unknown Scottish actor who had played only minor roles. Broccoli himself even sent a worried cable from New York to his then partner, the mercurial Harry Saltzman:
"NEW YORK DID NOT CARE FOR CONNERY. STOP. FEELS WE CAN DO BETTER. STOP. CUBBY."
But Broccoli finally won his battle to use Connery as Bond in Dr. No. Like many a Bond purist, he sensed the actor was the epitome of Bond. In Fleming's originals. the intelligence agent was also Scottish - although, unlike the working class Connery (who had been a milkman in Edinburgh), he had been educated at Eton, Fettes and Cambridge.
More importantly, he was physically like Fleming's notion of the man - tall, dark-haired and sexually attractive to women in a cruel way. Connery certainly fulfilled these criteria and his personal, off-screen toughness and blunt talking confirm this.
The antagonism between Broccoli and Connery grew. Eventually the producer chose a new Bond with a totally different style - Roger Moore. he was more laconic and not as good an actor as Connery. Yet he was also a huge box office success and Sean Connery kept a fascinated eye on just how much money the newcomer would receive.
But he was also to enter into no-win box office war against Moore. Connery decided to bring his Bond back to the screen in Never Say Never Again. In retrospect, it was something he should not have taken - not least as an actor.
He was, however, quite confident. "Bond's an interesting character. There's more I can do with him. I'm 52. There's nothing particularly daring in playing your age. I've done it before - in Robin and Marian and Murder on the Orient Express."
But this non-Broccoli film lost the box office battle against the Moore contender, Octopussy. By 1990, for instance, the US rental grosses on the Connery film were listed as $28 million - while Octopussy notched up at least $34 million. Connery later said of it: "There was so much incompetence, ineptitude and dissension during the making of Never Say Never Again that the film could have disintegrated. I was a toilet."
What clearly was lacking - and Connery may have privately admitted this to himself, albeit through clinched teeth - was the Cubby Broccoli touch. Their union had produced the greatest Bond of them all. It was said if lingering bitterness prevented Sean Connery from making some contribution to Broccoli's memorial. Without him there, it was like screen dancing without Astaire. But it was also a reminder of the rancour behind the glamour.
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