Sir Thomas Sean Connery turns 80 on August 25, and Being A Scot notwithstanding, there’s still no sign of his long-rumoured autobiography; neither has he participated with any of his previous biographers. Meanwhile, the meagre content of the relatively few interviews Connery, famously (and justifiably) wary of what he has called “the degrading compromises of publicity”, has granted over the years, makes the customary cut-and-paste biography more than usually redundant. Into this vacuum steps Christopher Bray, who sets out to paint a portrait of the “greatest living Scotsman” through the prism of his body of work. For what do we really know of Da Vinci or Shakespeare, he argues, except through their artistic output?
Bray, writing with the wit, skill and aplomb which made his recent biography of Connery’s fellow ’60s icon, Michael Caine, such a riveting read, wisely sprints through his subject’s pre-Bond years, having him cast in Hell Drivers (1957), just five years before his life-changing leading role in Dr. No, as early as page 33. From there, he does his best to extrapolate Connery’s motives for accepting, or rejecting, each successive project — this is, after all, the man who turned down The Matrix and The Lord Of The Rings, choosing instead The Avengers and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moreover, he studies Connery’s performance in each of his films, from the best-known to the most obscure — a fascinating experience akin to the camera focussed entirely on a single footballer in Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s mesmerisingly myopic documentary, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait. As should any biographer worth his salt, Bray takes particular delight in challenging the assumptions, apocrypha, received wisdom and PR nonsense which plagued previous biographies, and resolves to expose the roots of the false rumours of Connery’s alleged propensity for off-screen violence, including towards women.
Although Bray’s insistence that every post-Bond film Connery chose was some sort of comment on his 007 persona is somewhat irksome, this may be the preeminent Connery biography — even without the word ‘auto’ in front.
Reviewed by David Hughes