The Almost Sci-Fi/Fantasy Career of Sean Connery
This Halloween, Sir Thomas Sean Connery, the original James Bond, passed away in The Bahamas, and despite his complicated, problematic life, I felt sad to hear of it as someone who grew up watching his movies from my mother’s lap. Even now, my mother will (despite my relentless bullying) watch The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which bears the distinction of being the final live-action role for Connery before his retirement from acting in 2006. Whenever I allow myself to co-watch this movie with my mother, it reminds me of the roles Connery could have had, but turned down, in the fantasy and science-fiction genres.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the kind of movie that Connery would have originally turned down, because the script is … nonsense. However, by the time 2003 rolled around, he’d already passed on two major genre film franchises: Lord of the Rings and The Matrix.
While there is no one I think who could have brought Gandlaf to life better than Sir Ian McKellen, it would have been interesting to see Connery in that role, playing the warm elements of the character as well as the physical, more authoritarian aspects. It is the kind of physical, iconic performance that an actor like Connery would have loved, but he was simply not nerdy enough.
“I read the book,” he told The New Zealand Herald in 2012. “I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it.” He did complement Sir Ian, saying that the actor was “marvelous,” which is amazing. The role may not have stopped Connery from retiring, but Sir Ian is only nine years Connery’s junior and his career has only continued after being in Lord of the Rings and X-Men (and Cats, too, but we don’t hold that against him).
Financially, it would have been a fantastic get for the Scottish actor because he was reportedly offered 15% of “the box office takings,” and an analysis claimed that he lost out on $450 million by turning down the role.
He also declined the role of The Architect in The Matrix trilogy, and so, when the script for League came across his desk, he agreed to play Allan Quatermain despite a confusing script because, well, he’d been wrong before, so … yolo. Connery was not a stranger to fantasy, voicing the dragon in DragonHeart and, of course, the Highlander films, but one cannot help but imagine what it would have been like for him to have gotten a chance to put some more iconic roles under his belt before retiring. League my be my mother’s go-to movie, but it is far from a work of art.
I don’t think we need to separate Connery’s comments about domestic violence from his legacy as an actor. Both matter, and while I can mourn the parts of him that I loved, it doesn’t mean excusing the bad parts.
(image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)
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