He is no longer the man who would be king for he already has the job. Sean Connery, with that immense, quiet, assured authority, wears a Tinseltown crown.
When Hollywood wants box office insurance -- and they always do no matter how fail safe a project appears -- it is his name which tops every studio and producer's wish list. In our age of autodestruct stardom the biggest British star of the 1960s is even greater these many years later as the century marches to a conclusion.
Connery has a presence that only senior screen celebrities achieve and in the past few years that has paid off -- generally at $10 to $12 million a time -- for him and his movies. He's 67 next August but the list of projects he has on offer stretches over the horizon like his commute from his Spanish base in Marbella to his homes in Los Angeles , the Bahamas and Monte Carlo and his charitable and increasingly more fervent political interests in his Scottish homeland. There he is known as an Edinburgh man with a Glasgow attitude.He demands honesty and 100 percent effort. It has antecedents:
‘I've always been told I was either too tall or too short, too Scottish or too Irish, too young, too old,' he says with some disdain. Of course, he was too smart to believe any of it.
He has brought his father-figure charisma to the aid of younger actors in the past decade: he was King Arthur to Richard Gere's Lancelot in ‘First Knight', Wesley Snipe's mentor in ‘Rising Sun' and this summer helped make Nicolas Cage's first action movie ‘The Rock' a blockbuster worldwide.
He's a leading man in his late 60s -- itself a special event -- and if you can find one moment when that began it has to be ‘The Untouchables' a decade ago. He was the Chicago cop, the beat patrolman with an awful Irish accent but all the authority, to tutor Kevin Costner's wet Elliott Ness in the ways of controlling aCapone-challenged city: ‘ He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.'
It was Connery in his glory. All the years of dues-paying -- from the English chorus of ‘South Pacific' and Disney's ‘Darby O'Gill and the Little People' 1959 and the thin years before he became 007 -- came true in his commanding performance. The apparently easy, ambling cinema technique acquired by hard work, worn like the service stripes on his movie cop's uniform, won him new, generous acclaim and an Oscar.
The Last Great Movie Star pauses for a minute to sip his black coffee and lifts an eyebrow which often doubles for a smile. Typically, he plays down the transition from vibrant James Bond action hero to venerable lion:' I think the fact that one's hair disappeared early made it easier.'
More seriously, he allows during a winter visit to Britain where he's been working with the Scottish National Party in preparation for the UK General Election next year, that it was more casual than deliberate:' I never had a transition problem. I played Harrison Ford's father (‘Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade') and Dustin Hoffman's father (‘Family Business') -- I've always played older.