12/6/12 - sean connery auditions for the role of james bond

In today's encore selection -- Sean Connery, a marginally successful, hard-working young actor from a poor background, auditioned in 1962 for the role of James Bond in Dr. No. Bond, the sophisticated, impeccably -- styled fictional hero of Ian Fleming's spy novels, had taken the British public by storm as the antidote to their enfeebled post-World War II status. A number of established actors were considered for the part -- including Cary Grant, Michael Redgrave, and Richard Burton -- though none were likely to handcuff themselves to a movie series, especially considering the low pay being offered. Connery was not an obvious candidate since he was not given to wearing suits, much less to Bond's sophistication. So he took a gamble in the audition to convey the power of Bond and thus startle the producers into giving him the part.

"At least initially, [director Terence] Young himself had other ideas, too, petitioning for a television actor named Richard Johnson to be given the part of Bond. When, however, it became clear to Young that Connery was seriously in the running for Dr. No, he thought enough of the young pup he remembered from the [recent small-budget movie] Action of the Tiger shoot to offer him some advice for the meeting [co-producers Harry] Saltzman and [Cubby] Broccoli had invited him to. 'I knew how he dressed,' Young remembered in the eighties, '[so] I said, "Sean, come wearing a suit." He came without a tie on and wearing a sort of lumber jacket.'

"In fact, Connery seems to have approached the interview almost like a Method actor approaching a role. Those scruffy, unpressed clothes, the unadulterated Scots burr, they might have been put on in order to goad the producers into telling him he wasn't quite what they were looking for. That way, Connery could slam their desk with the palm of his hand and tell them that they either took him as he was or they didn't take him at all. Was he acting up, or was he just acting? Certainly, he had planned the whole thing out. 'I shall establish myself on Overpowering,' he told [acting teacher] Yat Malmgren a few days before the meeting, 'and take the interview like that. That would be a good thing, don't you think, sir?' Indeed Malmgren did, adding that Connery ought to be 'thinking about cat animals' during the proceedings because 'they are very loose'. 'I think he walked into that audition very self-assured, very large, very secure,' Malmgren would say years later. Or, as Connery himself would put it: 'I put on a bit of an act, and it paid off.'

"In putting on that act, Connery was giving Saltzman and Broccoli all they needed to know about how he'd play Bond -- with macho, devil-may-care menace backed up by a Brando-style sense of relaxed rebellion. Indeed, the casting interview sounds like nothing so much as that Bond movie staple -- the meeting 'twixt our surly, mocking, ironic hero and Bernard Lee's irascible M. As Harry Saltzman would recall: 'We spoke to him and saw that he had the masculinity the part needed. Whenever he wanted to make a point, he'd bang his fist on the table, the desk, or his thigh, and we knew this guy had something.'

"And so, after he left their West End offices, Connery's prospective producers went to the window and looked down as he crossed the road to where he had parked [his new wife] Diane Cilento's sexless little Fiat. 'He's got balls,' Saltzman said. 'In 30 minutes he sold us both,' Broccoli would remember. 'It was the sheer self-confidence he exuded. I've never seen a surer guy ... It wasn't just an act, either. When he left we watched him through the window as he walked down the street. He walked like the most arrogant son-of-a-gun you've ever seen -- as if he owned every bit of Jermyn Street from Regent Street to St James's. 'That's our Bond,' I said.' "


Christopher Bray


Sean Connery: A Biography


Pegasus Books, LLC


Copyright 2011 by Christopher Bray


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