ALISON BOSHOFF: Sean Connery quipped about being James Bond

ALISON BOSHOFF: Sean Connery quipped about being James Bond

November 2, 2020

The Bahamas enclave where Sean Connery finally escaped Bond: ‘It’s with me till I go in the box’, Sean Connery quipped about being 007, even though it brought him his fortune and a refuge where he could TRULY be his own man, by ALISON BOSHOFF

The high-security Lyford Cay estate on New Providence, the most populous island in the Bahamas, is one of the world’s richest enclaves.

It was there, in a bungalow backing on to an exclusive private golf club, that Sean Connery passed away in his sleep on Saturday at the age of 90.

In death, Connery has finally escaped James Bond. He always knew it could happen only one way: ‘It’s with me till I go in the box.’

He used to growl those words with resentment, even though the 6ft 2in one-time milkman and bodybuilder owed both his fame and the foundation of his £316 million fortune to Ian Fleming’s 007.

In fact, he discovered the home where he was to end his days while filming scenes for the Bond film Thunderball near by.

A golf-mad Scot, Connery bought the house — named Out of Bounds — because of its proximity to a course, and from the 1980s onwards he and his wife of 45 years, Micheline, 91, would spend most of each winter enjoying the sunshine in the tax haven just north of the Caribbean.

Ripped: Young Connery (centre) won the Mr Scotland contest. He won a bronze medal in the Mr Universe competition

Acquaintances invited into the house, which is surrounded by manicured tropical gardens and has a two-car garage, say it is comfortable rather than plush.

Artist Micheline’s paintings are hung on the walls, including one of Connery in a yellow bathrobe.

Connery docked his small speedboat, also called Out of Bounds, at the private marina a few hundred yards from the bungalow.

With their small circle of close friends on the 300-house estate, the couple were considered among the mainstays of Lyford Cay life. Glasgow-born photographer Jim Leggett, who was living in the Bahamas while working for a travel guide publishing company, was stunned to receive an invitation to their home while he was grieving for his son David, who had committed suicide.

‘The phone rang at home and a man with a slight Scottish accent asked for me. I asked who was speaking and he said: ‘Jim, it’s Sean Connery. Come over for a drink’,’ Leggett told the Mail yesterday.

‘I went over two days later. We had a couple of whiskies. He mentioned my son and offered his condolences, then we talked about Scotland. I gave him an old book on Scottish castles and as he leafed though it, he noticed the address of the publisher and said: ‘Jesus Christ, I used to deliver milk there’.

‘It was like having a pint with a friend. He didn’t stand on ceremony or act like a big star.

‘We talked about how Scottish settlers had a big influence in the Bahamas and I teased him about his golf game.

‘As I left, I joked about the old rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh, saying ‘If only you’d been a Glaswegian, you’d have really been a star’. He laughed but got his own back. He had really big hands and he gave me an absolutely crushing handshake.

‘I had first met him a couple of years earlier, in around 2006, when I’d taken a photograph of him with Nicolas Cage at a red-carpet event. He clocked my accent and we had a brief chat. I mentioned a film that was coming out — a drama set in Edinburgh that was due to show at the Bahamas Independent Film Festival.

Left: Connery with Thunderball co-star Claudine Auger. Right: Connery and Bond girl Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in Dr. No

‘He said he was going with his wife and asked me to join them. Can you imagine, Sean Connery invited me to the pictures! It was a preview, so there were only about 12 of us in the audience. We exchanged telephone numbers — everyone had everyone’s number on the Bahamas — and when he heard on the grapevine about my son dying, he called.

‘I was so touched. It was a truly awful time but he helped me and provided the one bright spot.’

But a few years ago a serpent entered their paradise, in the shape of seedy Finnish-Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who is under investigation by the FBI over allegations of sex trafficking.While Nygard tried to claim that he and Connery were friends, in fact nothing could be farther from the truth.

Furious when Nygard posted a photograph of himself with Connery a few years ago, Micheline told the local Nassau Tribune newspaper: ‘Sean, my husband, went only for a very brief moment to Nygard’s property, accompanied by me and a friend, just to have a look.

‘It was for a very short time. He has never been a friend. He made it seem like we had been many times but it was just once, very short.’ Indeed, the two men were in dispute at the time, because of Connery’s decision to add his signature to a lawsuit organised by a local environmental group, Save the Bays, protesting at Nygard’s alleged damage to the ecosystem.

The group of 103 residents, including billionaire hedge fund manager Louis Bacon and environmentalists, had accused Nygard of doubling the size of his property and wrecking nearby Clifton Beach, where scenes from Thunderball were filmed.

Save the Bays claimed Nygard had built non-permitted structures on natural coral and erected breakwaters that depleted the sand elsewhere.

He turned down the chance to appear in the fourth Indiana Jones movie the following year, saying: ‘Retirement is just too much damned fun.’ Pictured: Connery with Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

In his final years, an increasingly frail Connery rarely ventured far from the 1,000-acre estate and his favourite restaurant was Mahogany House, just outside the gates of Lyford Cay.

Connery had announced his retirement from acting after receiving the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

He turned down the chance to appear in the fourth Indiana Jones movie the following year, saying: ‘Retirement is just too much damned fun.’

The millionaires’ playground was certainly a world away from the Edinburgh slums where he was brought up, the son of Euphemia, a cleaning lady, and Joseph, a lorry driver and factory worker.

The first of two sons, he was christened Thomas Sean and, because of his height, was known as Big Tam.

He was just 13 when he left school to work in a dairy, then in a butcher’s shop, before joining the Royal Navy.

Discharged after three years with a duodenal ulcer, and a couple of tattoos — Mum and Dad on one arm, Scotland Forever on the other — he embarked on a series of dead-end jobs including as a coffin polisher, labourer, cinema attendant and brickie. He also became a life model for an art school and, after taking up bodybuilding, won a bronze medal in the Mr Universe contest.

Connery with wife Micheline, 91, celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary at home

After moving to London, he snared a job in the chorus of the musical South Pacific — and embarked on a rigorous programme of self-improvement.

‘I spent every day in the library, giving myself an absolute education,’ he said. ‘I must have more library tickets than any man in Britain; every town we played, I joined the library and spent hours hitting the books — Shaw, Proust, Ibsen, Dostoevsky. I read the whole of Joyce’s Ulysses while the show was in Sheffield.

‘I’m not a religious man at all but I remember that at that time I got deeply interested in religion and thought I’d like to become a Catholic. I visited the priest in every town we played and took religious instruction. But I never became a Catholic. I think the celibacy of the priests and nuns made me nervous. Asexuality disturbs me.’

In London, the theatrical agent Leslie Linder saw him in South Pacific and insisted on signing him, despite his partner’s objection to Connery’s ‘dirty fingernails’. Twentieth Century Fox put him under contract, then loaned him out to play a fey Irishman in a Disney fantasy, Darby O’Gill And The Little People.

Connery,whose movie career spans five decades, is best known for being the first to portray the role of British fictional spy 007 who he played between 1962–1971. Pictured: Connery as Bond in Doctor No in 1962

He also played a hunk opposite the fading Hollywood actress Lana Turner in Another Time, Another Place — a movie better remembered now for the fact that Turner’s mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato, resenting the close relationship that had developed between Turner and her leading man, pulled a gun on him. Connery promptly twisted the weapon out of his hand.

Although that incident put him on the front pages, it was Connery’s small screen performances — as Hotspur in Henry IV and Vronsky in Anna Karenina — that caught the attention of producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli, who were searching for an ‘inexpensive’ actor to play Bond.

Connery’s success as Bond was huge and, as his fame and confidence grew, so did his demands. On You Only Live Twice, he claimed $250,000 overtime.

He sued Allied Artists for a £109,146 discrepancy in the 5 per cent of the gross he had been promised on top of his fee. He sued Broccoli and MGM claiming fraud, deceit, breach of contract and emotional distress.

For Diamonds Are Forever, he demanded $1 million dollars up front and 12.5 per cent of the film’s profits, using the money to found an educational trust in Scotland.

‘Sean is a complex and deeply flawed human being. He’s a giant star, verging on mythical. But his greed is shameless,’ a studio boss once said. ‘Only his talent permits him to get away with things he gets away with. Unfortunately, he has talent in abundance.’

In her 2006 autobiography My Nine Lives, his first wife Diane Cilento, by whom he had a son, Jason, and a stepdaughter, Gigi, claimed Connery had beaten her on several occasions. Although he vehemently denied her accusations, he had often talked about women who needed to be put in their place with a slap.

1957: Margaret Rawlings and Sean Connery in No Road Back, a British crime film that was directed by Montgomery Tully

In a notorious television interview with U.S. TV host Barbara Walters, he said it was acceptable for a man to hit a woman with an open hand if she continued to provoke him after he had conceded an argument to her.

Certainly he had history in this regard. ‘I don’t think there is anything particularly wrong about hitting a woman — although I don’t recommend doing it in the same way that you’d hit a man,’ he told Playboy magazine in a 1965 interview.

‘An open-handed slap is justified if all other alternatives fail and there has been plenty of warning. If a woman is a bitch, or hysterical, or bloody-minded continually, then I’d do it.’

Yet Connery loved women and enjoyed affairs with more than a few of them, during and in between his marriages to Cilento and second wife Micheline Roquebrune, whom he married in 1975. But by the 1990s time was beginning to take its toll.

He had received radiation treatment for what is believed to have been throat cancer following years of heavy smoking, and in 2003 he had cataract surgery on both eyes. In 2004 he announced that he’d had an operation to remove a kidney tumour; and later he was diagnosed with a heart condition — but said he intended to continue drinking his vintage red wine.

Nassau-based public relations executive Diane Phillips said Connery was bed-bound for the final months of his life and had round-the-clock carers, but followed his grandchildren’s projects and achievements with great pride. Big Tam, his own man till the end.

Additional reporting by Annette Witheridge

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