You have to be very careful about what you promise. Much more if you are turning down the most famous secret agent of all time. Actor Sean Connery, the first to play spy 007, declared in 1971 that he would never again play James Bond. The statements were published shortly after the premiere of Diamonds for Eternity the fourth installment of the saga and would cost him the odd joke. Starting with the title of the film with which, indeed, he returned to play the British agent years later, Never say never again (1986).
But why did Sean Connery refuse to continue with the character of Ian Fleming? And above all, why did he end up eating his own words thirteen years later? In 1983, Connery appeared again on the screens to play Mr. Bond in an installment titled Never say never again, a well-brought irony about the unfulfilled promise that he launched years ago. Escape from typecasting, From the beginning, the Scottish actor understood the professional possibility that would mean getting into the shoes of agent 007, but as he gained fame and, especially, from the third installment, which unleashed the ‘bondmanía’, Connery began to fear being typecast in that role.
His schedule was tightening with other roles that attracted him more and he decided to tighten the strings with his fourth installment, Operation Thunder (Terence Young, 1965), where certain exhaustion of the formula was perceived. After the fifth, You only live twice (Lewis Gilbert, 1967), he decided to play another trick, cause him to be expelled from the shoot by demanding a 25% increase in salary up to one million dollars. It worked. The producers rejected the upload and the sixth installment was shot with another actor.
The James Bond Who Couldn’t Reign
Freed from the spy suit, Connery demonstrated his talent beyond Agent 007 in films such as The Hill of Lost Men (1965) by Sidney Lumet, Marnie (1964) Alfred Hitchcock, or A Wonderful Fool (1966), by Irvin Kershner. Meanwhile, Australian George Lazenby played James Bond with great difficulty. A temporary replacement, because Connery returned with Diamonds Forever in 1971, all the while continuing to combine it with big-name roles like The Man Who Could Reign. (John Huston, 1975). That was a parenthesis that many did not even interpret as a hiatus for Connery. It was, in fact, after filming this latest installment in the early 70s that it seemed like he was leaving Bond forever.
In between, about 13 years passed and a succession of mediocre elections, which did not work out artistically or commercially, leaving Connery with something stagnant and with only one option ahead: go back to 007’s suit and admit that he had made a mistake in setting the date of expiration to the character.
His return, however, was not as expected. Entering quarantine, wearing a toupee and half gas, that spy despite still well above average was not the same as always. It would have been interesting if the director, Irvin Kershner had explored that side of a more human Bond. All this, added to the low box office glory of Never Say Never Again, turned that film into a final goodbye. An ending that Connery knew how to take advantage of to put himself within the shot of great directors and that would lead him to one of his most prominent roles, that of Baskerville in the adaptation of The Name of the Rose.