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James Bond – Ian Fleming and Sean Connery traded insults but the actor had the last laugh | Films | Entertainment


Dr. No: Sean Connery stars as James Bond in 1962

David Niven, Patrick McGoohan, James Mason, Rex Harrison, Stewart Granger and Richard Burton. All were approved by James Bond creator Ian Fleming to play the role of his secret agent. All fell through.

Producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, meanwhile, actually lined up Cary Grant to launch the 007 franchise. Unfortunately, at 58, he was only interested in making one film, not a series.

The casting process became increasingly torturous, with adverts placed in trade magazines. A young Roger Moore was even considered. Everyone seemed to agree that someone suave and sophisticated was required to bring the gentleman spy to big screen life. Everyone, that is, except for the wives and secretaries of the filmmakers – and they would much rather have had a former boxer, bodybuilder and milkman

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Sean Connery in 1957

Sean Connery in 1957 (Image: GETTY)

Sean Connery at a bodybuilding contest in 1950

Sean Connery (centre) at a bodybuilding contest in 1950 (Image: GETTY)

Eunice Gayson, who played Bond’s at home girlfriend Sylvia Trench in the first two films, said: “In the beginning, Sean (Connery) didn’t think he was going to get the part. He did the test which was terrific… We all knew that one day that Sean would make it big, big time. He just needed that break… But none of us knew what a break this was going to be.”

Fleming was absolutely adamant Sean Connery wasn’t right for James Bond but Broccoli’s wife Dana saw something she liked and persuaded her husband to meet him again for lunch. The Scotsman started badly, turning up rumpled and unkempt, in an era when presentation was everything, but turned up the charm and charisma, and channelled the swagger and macho dominance of the role.

When he left, Saltzman famously noted that “he moved like a jungle cat.” Dana Broccoli was already on board and Fleming’s girlfriend Blanche Blackwell also raved about his “charisma,” while the producers noted how very woman in the vicinity watched his every move.

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Bond stars Sean Connery and Ursula Andress on the beach

Bond stars Sean Connery and Ursula Andress on the beach in Dr No (Image: GETTY)

Fleming was dismissive of the casting, saying: “I’m looking for Commander Bond and not an overgrown stuntman.”

He also opposed the choice of Terence Young as director, having wanted Alfred Hitchcock. He even advised his friend and millionaire businessman Ivar Bryce not to invest in the film: “Showbiz is a ghastly biz and the last thing I want is for you to lose your pinstripe trouser in its grisly maw… nor, of course, do I want the first James Bond film to be botched.”

When Fleming met Young at an industry event he blasted: “”So they’ve decided on you to f*** up my work.”

Connery was aware of what was going on: “They couldn’t afford most of the people they wanted. That was the start… I never got introduced to Fleming until I was well into the movie, but I know he was not happy with me as the choice.”

Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and actress Shirley Eaton on the set of Goldfinger

Sean Connery, Ian Fleming and actress Shirley Eaton on the set of Goldfinger (Image: GETTY)

Connery also delivered a beautifully subtle combined insult and compliment: “What was it he called me, or told somebody? That I was an over-developed stuntman. He never said it to me. When I did eventually meet him, he was very interesting, erudite and a snob – a real snob. But his company was very good… for a limited time… for me.”

Young set to work turning his rough diamond into a polished star: “I had a very clear idea of what an old Etonian should be, so I took Sean to my shirtmaker, my tailor, and my shoemaker, and we filled him out.”

Miss Moneypenny actress Lois Maxwell later recalled: “I had first met Sean in Cubby’s office back at the beginning. He had that wonderful atmosphere of menace and moved, as they said, like a panther. But he was still a poor young actor in rumpled corduroys who looked like he lived in a bedsit.”

Sean Connery and Eunice Gayson in Dr No

Sean Connery and Eunice Gayson in the Dr No casino scene (Image: GETTY)

Connery was taught everything, from elocution to table manners but, despite the transformation, it took him a moment to find his feet. Gayson later revealed that he kept fluffing his very first delivery of the iconic “Bond, James Bond” line in the Dr No casino scene. Young told her to take the jittery actor out the back and ply him with alcohol until his nerves settled.

The rest, of course, is history. Dr No was a huge hit, making instant stars of Connery and his Honeychile co-star Ursula Andress (and her iconic swimsuit.)

When he saw Connery at the Dr No premiere Fleming was dazzled and soon became the actor’s greatest fan. Accepting that his literary invention would become indelibly linked to his on-screen incarnation, the author made subtle changes to Bond on page. He even gave him Scottish ancestry to tie in with Connery’s residual native burr by noting in You Only Live Twice, published in March 1964, that Bond’s father was from Glencoe.

DR NO IS ON ITV ON MAY 19 AT 2.25PM

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