Sir Sean Connery, the first James Bond, has played a variety of roles in his 60-year career. Yet, the 007 tag remains unshakable.

“I don't think I'll ever act again. I have so many wonderful memories, but those days are over.” Thus spoke, Sir Sean Connery on his 80th birthday, on Aug. 25.

The actor, who had spent nearly 60 years in show business, had talked of retirement earlier too, but this time there was a tone of finality in his words.

Sir Sean is an icon. He has been called the ‘Greatest Living Scot', pronounced the ‘Sexiest Man of the Century' in 1999 and knighted ayear later for his contribution to the world of entertainment through 70-odd films. Not bad for someone from a humble Scottish home who worked as a milk man, truck driver, casual labourer, coffin polisher and a body builder model!

Show business

Discharged from the Royal Navy on medical grounds, Connery turned down a football contract and entered show business as a backstage boy, then moving on to minor TV and movie roles before achieving stardom. ‘The Untouchables' on the life and times of gangster Al Capone, brought him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He also received two BAFTA and three Golden Globe Awards. Yet, the film he enjoyed making most was ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.'

Remembers Sir Sean, “I was working with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The team work was special. It was a great adventure and Harrison Ford and Denham Elliot were wonderful actors. I had so much fun.”

The actor may not think much of the James Bond films, but for the fans, he will always be James Bond, Secret Agent 007. From 1962-67, 1971 and 1983, Connery starred in seven Bond movies.Connery was the first Bond hero, making his debut in ‘Dr No'. Ian Fleming (author of the Bond books) was not impressed with the choice of the new hero. But once the film was released, he changed his mind.

Connery's raw talent in the earlier Bond films was smoothened and polished by director Terence Young and today, it is acknowledged that he was the ideal Bond.

Though the Bond books sold well, it was the movies that made Bond a cult figure. A former navy and intelligence officer, Fleming was fiercely proud of his country and this sentiment was often echoed by ‘M', the crusty boss of the Secret ServiceBond had to be from the upper strata of British society with a public school education and a career in the Navy, before being recruited to the Secret Service. Every book (and film) had an array of dazzling women falling for him.

Well, who would not like to be Bond! No wonder, the excitement-starved British fell in love with him. The ‘Image' clicked despite the fact that the Secret Service and its agents were a far cry from those portrayed in the Bond books. Connery clicked because one could clearly visualise him as THE Bond. Good looks, lithe movements, charm and, of course, sex appeal. He had a passionate commitment in developing the role. At the same time, the role did not ask for outstanding acting skills. A Marlon Brando or an Al Pacino would have laughed at the Bond character. As time passed, spectacular special effects took over whatever little acting requirements the role had demanded. Sir Sean was prudent enough to quit the Bond image for more challenging roles but then he left a legacy which was difficult to better.

There were many contenders for the role. Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, Pierce Brosnan (and now Daniel Craig) played Bond with varying degree of success. Brosnan was a ‘likeable' Bond, but the intensity was lacking. Craig has the energy but is too brutal lacking the essential charm of the character. Finally, it boils down to the views of a film critic, ‘Basically, you have Sean Connery, and then you can have all the rest'. Connery may love ‘Indiana Jones' or any other movie, but he is fated to carry the Bond label.