Thomas Sean Connery, originally known as Tam, was born into a working class family in Edinburgh on 25 August, 1930. The eldest of two boys, he left school early and did many different jobs before deciding on acting.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text. Here is Sir Sean Connery speaking about
his book Being a Scot .
At sixteen he decided to enlist in the Royal Navy, from which he was discharged with medical problems three years later. It was during that time that he picked up his famous tattoos which read “Mum and Dad” and “Scotland Forever”. It is believed that they reflect his two lifelong commitments: family and Scotland.
After leaving the Navy, Tam returned to Edinburgh and was periodically a lorry driver, a labourer, an artist’s model and a coffin polisher. He was also a keen and successful bodybuilder and took part in a Mr Universe competition where he finished third.
In 1951 he started helping backstage at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, where his interest in the acting profession began. He auditioned for a production of South Pacific and, now calling himself Sean, landed a small part.
Connery was also a keen footballer and by the age of 23 he seemed to have a choice between acting and playing football professionally. Rumour has it that while on tour with South Pacific, Matt Busby, then manager of Manchester United, spotted him and offered him a contract. Being already 23, Connery realised that he would have a longer and more prosperous career in acting and turned down the offer.
It took almost eight years of modelling jobs, small theatrical roles and chorus appearances, until he finally landed his first lead role in the film Another Time, Another Place (1958) starring opposite Lana Turner.
He then performed in various TV series and movies until his defining role found him in 1962, playing James Bond in the classic Dr. No.
It was Connery’s breakthrough and he went on playing the secret agent’s role in six more Bond films: From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Never Say Never Again (1983). All seven films were commercially successful.
Connery quit the Bond role after You Only Live Twice (1967) but returned for Diamonds are Forever (1971) to gather a record-breaking fee, which he donated to his Scottish charity.
Although he is primarily associated with Bond films, he also starred in other critically acclaimed films such as Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would be King (1975) and A Bridge Too Far.
In 1986 Sean appeared in The Name of the Rose, for which he won a BAFTA award, and also played a supporting role in Highlander, which showcased his ability to play the “mentor figure” - a role that has stayed with him for the rest of his career.
The following year, his acclaimed performance as a hard-nosed cop in The Untouchables (1987) earned him the Academy Award or Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, his sole nomination throughout his career.
Despite currently living in the Bahamas, he feels very strongly about his Scottish roots and is one of the most high profile, public supporters of the Scottish Nationalist Party. Connery devotes a lot of time to Scottish charities and promoting Scotland on the world stage, but claims that he won’t live in Scotland again until it is an independent nation.
Connery was knighted by the Queen in 2000 for his services to film.
He retired from the film industry to concentrate on his autobiography, which was published in 2008, on his 78th birthday, and is called Being a Scot.
Connery has been married to French painter Micheline Roquebrune since 1975. He has a son, actor Jason Connery, from his first marriage to Diane Cilento.
In 2006 he received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was voted People Magazine’s “sexiest man alive” in 1989, at almost 60 years of age.