What You Never Knew About Sean Connery

The name's Connery. Sir Sean Connery. While the beloved "James Bond" actor passed away in October 2020 at the age of 90 (via The New York Times), his legacy as 007 lives on. Other actors have stepped into the famous Aston Martin, and many more will do so in the future, but for a legion of fans, no one will ever top Connery as the charismatic spy with a license to thrill.

While much has been written about Connery's time as Bond, he also had quite the adventurous and storied life before and after his most celebrated role. The actor was unapologetic and blunt about who he was, never being shy of airing his thoughts on topics and others — no matter who he might have offended in the process. From almost playing professional football for one of the biggest clubs in the world to nearly quitting "Highlander" and his real-life rumble with gangsters, here's what you never knew about Sean Connery.

He turned down The Lord of the Rings for an interesting reason

As a legendary name in cinema, Sean Connery was never short on movie offers. Naturally, it was always going to be unlikely that he'd say yes to a crude teen comedy like "American Pie" or as one of the crew in Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups," but the bigger blockbusters must have certainly piqued his and his agents' interest. At one point, it was rumored that Connery had been in the running to portray Gandalf in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Connery was offered $30 million and 15% of the box office returns to play the wonderous wizard. That's some serious cheddar right there.

While Connery never outright confirmed that he turned down "The Lord of the Rings" gig, he admitted that he had read the script. "I read the book," he said (via The New Zealand Herald). "I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it. Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvelous in it." He wasn't alone in his thoughts here, as there are certainly many confusing moments in "The Lord of the Rings" that confound fans to this day.

His career before becoming an actor

While some people were born to act, they didn't exactly put on their sunglasses and stroll right into Tinseltown. There are many actors who were discovered doing completely different jobs and others who took on odd jobs to keep the landlords at bay. It was no different for Sean Connery. However, he wasn't waiting tables in Los Angeles or serving as a bouncer outside of a London nightclub. No, the Scottish actor did something a lot more "bare"-bones than expected.

Speaking to Jay Leno in 1999 (via The Independent), Connery was asked if it was true that he had been a nude model before suiting up as 007. "At the Edinburgh College of Art, to make ends meet, if you know what I mean," Connery said. "There was an old guy who'd done it for years and years and quite an attractive young woman and myself. And we were the three models." The actor revealed that he received anywhere from six to eight pence an hour for posing in the buff in those days.

He could have been a Manchester United player

Manchester United is a prestigious football club with a lot of heritage. Not only have the Red Devils won the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) three times, but Old Trafford has also been the home to some of the best footballers of all time, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona, and George Best. Competing at the highest level of professional football is no easy feat, and many talented players have failed to make the grade at a club like Man United. As it turns out, Sean Connery wasn't only an exceptional actor but also a proper baller as he was offered a trial at the English giants by legendary manager Sir Matt Busby.

As per the Scottish Football Association, Connery was playing for Bonnyrigg Rose when Busby was in town and scouting potential talent for the Red Devils. After seeing Connery's performance in a game, he reportedly offered him a £25-a-week contract. However, the actor turned it down, stating: "I really wanted to accept because I loved football. But I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23. I decided to become an actor, and it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves."

Sean Connery started balding at 35

To paraphrase (and potentially butcher) an iconic Shakespearean quote: To be bald or not to be bald, that's the question. In the case of Sean Connery, he embraced the chrome dome life and wore it with pride, proving that bald is beautiful too. Due to the extent of his baldness, it had long been speculated that he wore a hairpiece during his James Bond years, as per Groovy History.

In an interview to promote 1996's "The Rock," Connery discussed how he started balding at the age of 35 when he had been cast as Bond, but he believed it was only a natural part of life. However, he did have strong words for men who tried to overcompensate for their baldness. "I think the really stupid thing is to see somebody who's got a wisp of hair that's 8 feet long that he's coiled around and he's kind of nailed it to the back of his head," Connery said." And it looks like a snake that's about to take off."

He quit acting after a terrible experience on a film

On paper, "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" appeared like the perfect project for anyone. As an adaptation of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's comic book series directed by Stephen Norrington of "Blade" fame, it had all the key ingredients to be a major hit. Even though Moore was famously against it — much like any other adaptations of his work (via Comic Book Resources) — the project managed to attract an all-star cast that included Sean Connery as Allan Quatermain.

Unfortunately, the experience was anything but extraordinary, as it led to Connery quitting the film industry altogether. The Scottish actor didn't pull any punches when he discussed how unpleasant he found the process and director in a 2007 interview (via The Hollywood Reporter). "The last one I did, [Norrington] was given $85 million to make a movie in Prague, but unfortunately, he wasn't certified before he started because he would have been arrested for insanity," he said. "So, we worked as well as we could, and [I] ended up being heavily involved in the editing and trying to salvage."

He was discharged from the navy for medical reasons

As James Bond, Sean Connery portrayed the spy who pledged allegiance to Her Majesty's Secret Service and would not accept a martini if it were stirred. While the actor wasn't known to have any real-life ties to espionage agencies (well, would that be made public knowledge in the first place?), he did receive some formidable and highly rated training in the Royal Navy.

As per a We Are the Mighty profile on the actor, Connery enlisted in the navy at the young age of 16 and diligently served for three years. Unfortunately, he ended up being honorably discharged from service because of an ulcer. While his naval career didn't quite go according to plan, things didn't turn out too bad for Connery in the end, as he found his way into the acting world. Honestly, who would say no to starring in seven James Bond films over two decades?

He almost quit Highlander during the production

While Sean Connery might be James Bond to a generation, there are others who remember him as Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez: Connor MacLeod's immortal mentor in 1986's "Highlander." The film became a cult classic and inspired a host of sequels and related media. According to director Russell Mulcahy, though, Connery almost walked away during the production after an incident with co-star Clancy Brown, who portrayed The Kurgan.

"When Sean and Clancy Brown, who plays the villain, had their first big fight, Clancy was meant to burst in and slice the table in half with his sword," Mulcahy told The Guardian. "But he struck it with the flat of the blade, and it broke. A shard shot over Sean's head. He was on the verge of walking." The director revealed that Connery called a meeting to discuss what had happened, and Brown was extremely apologetic, saying that he made a mistake because he was anxious about acting next to a cinema superstar like Connery. Without hesitation, the Scottish actor let the incident go and suggested that his own stunt double do more in the future.

He turned down a role in Indiana Jones 4 because it was too small

Even though 2008's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" cleaned up at the box office ⁠— it made over $790 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo) ⁠— it wasn't quite a hit with the viewers, sitting with a 53% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sean Connery had been retired for a few years before the film went into production, but he revealed that he was approached by director Steven Spielberg to reprise his role as Henry Jones Sr. from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Connery said the following in an interview about the proposal: "I spoke with Spielberg, but it didn't work out. It was not that generous a part, worth getting back into the harness and go for. And they had taken the story in a different line anyway, so the father of Indy was kind of really not that important." The actor added that he suggested Spielberg kill off his character in the franchise altogether.

Sean Connery claimed the Dr. No director truly molded James Bond

Sean Connery might have made the suave and sophisticated James Bond in vogue in 1962's "Dr. No"; however, the actor credited someone else for the super-spy's charming personality and dapper appearance. And no, it wasn't Ian Fleming, who came up with James Bond in the first place. In Connery's eyes, it was "Dr. No" director Terence Young who was responsible for shaping the core essence of 007's on-screen persona.

"Terence's contributions were enormous because he was always a great bon vivant," Connery revealed in a 40th-anniversary Variety tribute article (via IndieWire). "He was very much up on the latest shirts and blazers and was very elegant himself — whether he had money or not — and all the clubs and that kind of establishment." The actor discussed how he never had much of an interest in fashion or suits, so he found Young's contributions to be incredibly valuable for his portrayal of Bond.

He helped get the studio off Michael Bay's back

Michael Bay might be all about explosions in his films, but it seems like he experiences his fair share of fireworks behind the scenes as well. Writing a tribute to Sean Connery, which was published by The Hollywood Reporter, Bay revealed an entertaining tale from his time working with Connery on the action film "The Rock."

One day on set, Connery noticed that Bay was looking a little down and prodded him about it. The director told him that he was two days over schedule, and the studio executives had come down to grill him. Connery asked if Bay wanted his assistance, and the director accepted. The two went out to lunch with the executives, and Connery laid into them, praising the job that Bay was doing and how they needed to put up more money to finish the film. Reportedly, the executives agreed to all of the terms, and Connery's actions left a positive impression on Bay. "He did it because he loved movies," Bay wrote. "He loved excellence and doing the best he could. His work ethic was bar none, the best I've ever experienced."

Sean Connery liked to sing in between takes

Considering his no-nonsense approach toward the press and his volatile relationship with Stephen Norrington on the set of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," most people would likely presume that Sean Connery didn't have time for horseplay and was all business, all the time. According to "The Rock" co-star Nicolas Cage's comments to Entertainment Tonight, his on-set behavior was anything but hostile. In fact, Cage recalled him as a fun and warm performer who would often share a drink with him and discuss movies late into the night.

Years earlier, Cage revealed something equally interesting and surprising about Connery. "He likes to sing, you know," Cage said (per Entertainment Tonight). "So, in between shots, he'll be singing. It's very cool to see Sean Connery singing a big-band version of Donna Summer's 'Hot Stuff.'" Why, oh why, didn't anyone get any footage of this back in the day? If only Instagram or Snapchat had been around in 1996.

Sean Connery had to flee town to escape a co-star's mobster boyfriend

One of Sean Connery's earlier roles was in the 1958 film "Another Time, Another Place," which starred Lana Turner. According to Rolling Stone, Turner herself selected the young Scottish actor to appear alongside her in the film. Reportedly, the two became close during the production and went out in the evenings along with Turner's teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane. This didn't go down well with Turner's jealous boyfriend at the time, John Stompanato — the muscle for notorious gangster Mickey Cohen. Reportedly, Stompanato stormed onto the set of the film and pulled a gun on Connery (per Den of Geek).

Then, Connery received a threat directly from Cohen that it was time for him to get out of town or swim with the fishes — and he didn't think twice about it, hightailing it as quickly as possible. However, the relationship between Turner and Stompanato continued to be strained and culminated in Crane stabbing Stompanato in the stomach and killing him. As per the Los Angeles Times, Crane confessed that she did it, stating that she did so in order to protect her mother from a raging Stompanato. Eventually, Crane's action was deemed a justifiable homicide.