Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sean Connery Interview

No, I didn't snag an interview with the legendary Sir Sean Connery (I wish), but I did find this old interview from issue #9 of the Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine from 1989.

Sean Connery
Discovering the Bonds Between Father and Son
by Dan Madsen & John S. Davis
The entertainment industry is filled with various types of individuals. First, there are the would-be actors, writers, directors, producers and so on who flood into Hollywood on a daily basis, most of whom will remain in hopeful obscurity forever. Then there are the people who make a living in the business, but many of their names are unknown to the public. Now come the handful of household names - the stars - the people we adulate whether their new project has any redeeming value or not. And, of course, the personality gamut of all three groups range from one extreme to another, from the egomaniac who feels he's the best thing to ever happen to the entertainment industry to the laid-back individual who is so genuinely nice you sometimes wonder how they survive in such a cut-throat world. And actor Sean Connery certainly falls into that latter category. But who is this man?
Born in a poor and rugged part of Edinburgh, Scotland, Thomas Sean Connery learned the value of work early in life. By the age of nine he was already rising at six in the morning to deliver milk before going to school. Work such as this helped keep Connery's family afloat while his father worked in a munitions factory during World War II. Only a few years afterwards at age thirteen, he abandoned school and eventually found himself, three years later, entering into the Navy, only to be discharged due to stomach ulcers at nineteen.
With the Navy behind him, a string of odd jobs followed during the next several years (lorry driver, cement mixer, bricklayer, steel bender, printer's devil, lifeguard, coffin polisher). At the Edinburgh School of Art, he both studied and worked as a model. Then fate stepped in when he entered a Mr. Universe competition in London, from which he was invited to audition for the touring company of South Pacific.
Connery's love and fascination for acting grew in the coming years as he worked in the repertory theatre and gained small roles in film and television, including Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, Age of Kings, Anna Christie, and Anna Karenina. About a decade after his entry into the world of acting, the British Secret Service beckoned him. James Bond, Agent 007, soon proved to be the greatest boost for Connery's career. Yet, in time, his newest persona became much like a cage from which Connery continually tried to free himself. After years of struggle, Connery finally managed to gain his long sought-after parole from the Bond image, which first manifested itself because the stars of the time, such as Cary Grant, David Niven, Richard Burton, James Mason, and Roger Moore, were too high-priced for that first Bondian adventure, the one million dollar Dr. No.

"I'm not quite as branded or destroyed by the association with Bond as I once was," says Connery. "There's no question it was getting in the way of my decisions to do anything else. The strange thing was how long it hung around, but it doesn't bug me as much as it used to."

After Dr. No, Connery returned to the role of James Bond for the film Diamonds Are Forever (to the joy of all concerned because they had singularly failed to find a replacement in George Lazenby in On Her Majesty 's Secret Service) and gave his entire fee to the Scottish International Education Trust which he helped form. Its aims are, "the advancement of education for the public benefit and the provision of facilities for recreation and other leisure time activities." Sean Connery is a firm believer in putting something back.

Apart from his return for the film Never Say Never Again in 1983 (not one of his happier experiences), Diamonds Are Forever was Connery's last mission for the secret service.

In the years that followed, Connery firmly left his image as James Bond behind with such films as Murder on the Orient Express, The Wind and the Lion, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King with Michael Caine, Robin and Marian (with Audrey Hepburn), A Bridge Too Far - Richard Attenborough's star studded film about Arnhem, Outland, The Name of the Rose, The Presidio and the veteran Chicago cop Jimmy Malone who taught Kevin Costner how to deal with Al Capone in the acclaimed The Untouchables - a role for which he won an Oscar.
"It was very encouraging and flattering to receive an Oscar," says Connery. "Of course you do hear conflicting cases about people never working again but fortunately that doesn't seem to be the problem. I think the goals remain the same - finding material that is stimulating and challenging.

"I'm highly competitive in sport," he adds, "and I've never made any secret of that, whether its golf, tennis or poker, but ('m not competitive as an actor. I don't mind giving a scene to anyone who can take it from me."

But the question remains: who is Sean Connery? That's hard to say. He is a man who is both straightforward and somewhat mysterious. Perhaps it is these qualities coupled with his fine acting abilities that makes him such a sought-after star by both the public and film directors alike, including Steven Spielberg.
"Sean was immediately my first choice. I never had to think about it," Spielberg recalls, "because the second I thought, 'Who is worthy enough and strong enough in the area of screen charisma to be Harrison Ford's dad?,' I ruled out every character actor that the casting people gave me. And I immediately went right to Sean Connery, never thinking we could get him."

"But George Lucas wasn't so enthusiastic," Connery recalls about his casting as Professor Henry Jones. "He had a different idea. He wanted someone more bookish and Yoda-like."

As everyone now knows, Lucas was eventually convinced and Connery took on the role as Indy's father. However, in the beginning, even Connery had to be convinced that the role was right for him when he first read the script.

"I was rather disappointed," he recalls. "When I voiced my reservations about it, Steven was, I think, a bit surprised. My reservations at the beginning were mainly to get a clearer picture of where we were going with this character - this father figure.

"I liked the idea of him being more like Sir Richard Burton - the explorer; much more  active and academic to begin with and then you realize what the genes were that  produced this Indiana Jones. So you get this picture of the action man with the academic but still very much a Victorian father. And therefore, you could get a lot of mileage out of the stunts and still play the father and be a part of the relationship.

"He's got skin and that's what I think captures an audience for this type of story and that's what the James Bond films had, too. Indiana Jones, in some ways, is a Bondian character because he always ends up in terrible situations which always have to be resolved with some invention or humorous action. That's the only solution he ever has whether it's  jumping into a plane and he says he can fly it but that he doesn't know how to land it. Yes, he's very Bondian."
Whether Indy and Henry are escaping from an Austrian castle, fighting for their lives on a German tank or facing the mystical forces in the Grail temple, one thing is very  apparent - these two characters work well together and create what could only be described as movie magic.

"There is the most wonderful chemistry between the two of them," says director Steven Spielberg. "It's a little like the Newman/Redford chemistry in Butch Cassidy and The Sting. It's a real sparkle of screen magic."
For both Ford and Connery, the experience of working together was a pleasure and one of the highlights of the film. "Sean is, of course, such a terribly experienced actor," states Harrison Ford, "and that made it interesting to work with him. He's an awfully nice guy, too. I've enjoyed knowing him as well as working with him."
One aspect that not only Ford but the Indy III crew enjoyed was the lightness and good humor Connery brought to the set. He is one actor that believes in having fun while you work and spreading that enjoyment to others.
"I think the essence of the fun for me is the pleasure," Connery says. "The greatest pleasure is when the whole team is working and then what you're all trying to do works. When a film set is harmonious and everybody has the same similar intention and goal, it's terrific. It's like a microcosm of a really good society.
"The nice thing about Indiana Jones is the humor and the fact that it's back to an older age, not an age of hardware and spacecraft, but cars and airplanes and trains and horses. I'm always looking for the humor in a situation and Harrison Ford has a nice sly sense of humor. I'm very impressed by Steven Spielberg; he's very inventive, very quick. We've built up the humor as much as possible in the relationship between Indiana and his father."
Not only does the Indiana Jones series of films owe a debt of gratitude to the old cliffhanger serials of the 40's and 50's for its style, it also owes some thanks to Sean Connery who influenced Hollywood's portrayal of the modem screen hero with the characteristics he injected into James Bond: humor, irony, detachment, and  self deprecation. So the interesting thing about The Last Crusade is not just the fact that Sean Connery relinquishes the heroic reins to his on-screen son, Indiana Jones, but that Indiana Jones has followed in his father's footsteps and graduated with honors from the Connery School of Screen Heroes.
Unfortunately, not all stars are as well-grounded as Connery. In addition to fame and fortune, stardom brings responsibilities and certain problems to the lives of many celebrities. Some are well able to handle their success without flaunting it or being consumed by it such as the case with Connery. Then there are the others who seem to have little regard for their fans, who enabled them to reach star status in the first place, and often make a concerted effort to avoid fans. To Connery, such behavior is way out of line, and in his mind his rule of thumb is this: if he is in a public place he has to deal with the public, and if he's in a private place he expects his privacy to be respected. Quite simply, Sean Connery knows and accepts the trappings of stardom.

"You can't really explain it to people who haven't experienced it," he says. "If I went into a public place, I did so completely at my own risk and you can't complain about your privacy being infringed upon. On the other hand, I made myself go into some places and move around because you can very easily have a Burton-Taylor situation, which was greatly self provoked, where you have a phalanx of guards in the restaurant in front of you, setting up the scene like a tableau before you enter."

Connery, as an individual, is unconcerned about what others may think of him. His goal is simply to be a serious actor. The size and nature of a role is unimportant to him, only the quality of the characters he is asked to play matter.  In his thirty-plus year career, he has been seen on screen as a middle-aged Robin Hood, an honest Chicago beat cop, a convict in a brutal British military prison in North Africa, a grandfather in the current generational crime caper, Family Business, and as the Russian sub commander in The Hunt For Red October due out next spring. Yet, when looking over his list of credits, one fact becomes immediately apparent - the almost complete lack of comedies, a point others have expressed to Connery before.
"Everybody says, 'You don't do much comedy,'" states Connery. "But I always try to find the comedy in everything, because it's much more revealing, much more enjoyable and harder. There is something quite comedic and absurd about somebody sitting in that sidecar! What we really got down to in The Last Crusade was trying to find as many places as possible where they would have problems relating to each other, which always lends itself to the comedic elements. Right from the very beginning Henry calls Indy 'junior!'

"As I go on," adds Connery, "I still retain an appetite (for acting) which at some times gets even greater than it was before. But as long as I still have that there I'm perfectly happy working. The day I wouldn't have that enthusiasm or that sort of appetite, then I will look in another direction."

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