"A candid conversation with James Bond’s acerbic alter ego"
The Bahamas have long been a favourite retreat for vacationing cosmopolites in search of a sunny sanctuary from the tumult of 20th Century city life. Those hapless hundreds who made the mistake of going to the islands last March, April or May, however, might well have wished they'd stayed at home, for the tiny archipelago was in a state of siege--occupied by an invading army of newspaper reporters, magazine writers and photographers from nearly every major publication in America, England, Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan; TV camera crews from ABC, NBC and B.B.C.; silk-suited press agents and swim-suited starlets; bit players, extras, make-up men, cinematographers, script girls, set designers, electricians and assorted hangers-on. The white beaches were festooned with cables and bristling with sound booms; the surf was aswarm with masked men in orange scuba suits armed with spear guns. Moored offshore were a small fleet of futuristic two-man submarines and a huge, sleek, 95-mile-an-hour hydrofoil camouflaged in the shell of a luxury yacht. And the Olympic-size swimming pool of a nearby home was stocked with a school of tiger sharks.
At the eye of this storm, surrounded most of the time by an adoring mob of 200 or more gaping tourists just beyond camera range, and visibly annoyed by all the adulation, was the man responsible for it all: Sean Connery, a sinewy, saturnine, 34-year-old Scotsman better known to the world's moviegoers as James Bond, Ian Fleming's indestructible superspy. Connery was there to film "Thunderball," a spectacular $5,500,000 production (set for world premiere next month) that promises to be the biggest of the celebrated Bond flicks. The first three ... "Dr. No," "From Russia with Love" and "Goldfinger" ... have already been seen by 100,000,000 people; earned more than $75,000,000; spawned a spate of copycat spy movies and TV series; promoted a plethora of Bond-bred 007 products ranging from toothpaste, T-shirts, trench coats and golf clubs to nightgowns, attachè cases, bedspreads, toiletries and even a toy transistor radio that turns into a rifle at the touch of a button. And together with the Fleming books ... of which some 60,000,000 copies have been sold in 11 languages ... they've inspired a rash of scholarly treatises purporting to assess the sexual and sociological implications of "the Bond syndrome." They have also brought world-wide fame and considerable fortune to their leading man. Both, however, were slow in coming.
In many ways the antithesis of his urbane, Eton-bred screen self, Connery is an earthy sort who prefers beer to brut blanc de blanc, poker to chemin de fer. Son of an Edinburgh millworker, he left school at 13 to earn his keep, mostly from hand to mouth, as a drayhorse driver, coffin polisher, lifeguard, seaman, artist's model, welterweight boxer, printer's apprentice and finally as chorus boy in a road-company production of "South Pacific" ... at $35 a week. His provincial head turned by "all that easy money," Connery thought better of an offer to exert himself as a professional soccer player and forthwith decided to carve out a career in show business. After months of earnest drama study, he began to find himself in demand for bit parts, then featured roles and finally leads in Shakespearean repertory theatre (as Macbeth and Hotspur, among others) and in London telly plays (including the starring role in "Requiem for a Heavyweight"). Making the movie grade at 26, he was signed by 20th Century-Fox--only to languish inconspicuously in a series of forgettable films that culminated with a walk-on in "The Longest Day."
Then, in 1961, he got a call from a pair of American movie producers, Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, to drop by their London office for a job interview. He went. Though he was still a relative unknown, the two men were sold on the spot by his "cocksure animal magnetism" and decided then and there to gamble $1,000,000 on his power to project that quality from the screen as the star of a property called "Dr. No." It turned out to be a wise investment. Within three weeks after the picture opened, Connery was receiving several thousand fan letters a week, and James Bond, the character he played with such sardonic self-assurance, was well on his way to becoming an international folk hero. Then came "From Russia with Love," an even bigger hit, and finally the blockbuster "Goldfinger," which escalated the Bond boom into the box-office bonanza of the decade ... and its protagonist not only into a first-magnitude superstar but also, in the opinion of many female fans, the reigning masculine sex symbol of the movies.
There's only one flaw in the plot of this storybook saga of success: The subject doesn't like his role. Connery has acquitted himself creditably enough in two non-Bond pictures since the 007 series started ("Marnie" and "Woman of Straw"), and the critics have been lavish in their praise for his performance in "The Hill," his latest film (reviewed in this issue); but his public identification as Bond is so complete that the name of the character he plays is better known than his, and his face ... not the one described by Fleming ... is the one PLAYBOY used as a model for the illustrations that accompanied our exclusive prepublication serializations of the last three Bond books. Contracted to make two more 007 spylarks after "Thunderball" ("On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and probably "You Only Live Twice" ... both of them prepublished in PLAYBOY), Connery is ambivalent about his on-screen alter ego; though he told one reporter recently that "Bond's been good to me, so I shouldn't knock him," he confessed that he's "fed up to here with the whole Bond bit."
In the hope of finding out more about the man behind the image, we approached his press representatives in London with our request for an exclusive interview. Our chances of getting to see him were none too good, they said, for Connery has become increasingly reluctant, in the clamorous months since "Goldfinger," to talk to the press about Bond ... or about anything else, for that matter. After a two-week wait, we repeated our request in a note addressed to his home, a former convent in a west London suburb where he lives with his wife, actress Diane Cilento, and their two children. He called us the next day and invited us to share a pint at a local pub. We did, and found him at first almost as reticent as reputed. But he began to unbend after a few more brews, and before long was talking to us more freely, frankly and fully than he ever has before for publication. A few weeks later we joined him between scenes during the filming of "Thunderball" in the Bahamas, where we sat on set and completed our conversations ... which had dwelled at length on the very subject we'd been warned he wouldn't discuss: James Bond.
PLAYBOY: How do you account for the phenomenal success of the Bond books and films?
CONNERY: Well, timing had a lot to do with it. Bond came on the scene after the War, at a time when people were fed up with rationing and drab times and utility clothes and a predominately grey colour in life. Along comes this character who cuts right through all that like a very hot knife through butter, with his clothing and his cars and his wine and his women. Bond, you see, is a kind of present-day survival kit. Men would like to imitate him ... or at least his success ... and women are excited by him.
PLAYBOY: Would you like to imitate him yourself?
CONNERY: His redeeming features, I suppose. His self-containment, his powers of decision, his ability to carry on through till the end and to survive. There's so much social welfare today that people have forgotten what it is to make their own decisions rather than to leave them to others. So Bond is a welcome change.
PLAYBOY: Have you acquired any of these traits since you began playing him?
CONNERY: I like to think I acquired them before Bond. But I am much more experienced as a film actor; that's for sure. And I do play golf now, which I never did before. I started after Dr. No, not so much because Bond and Fleming were golfers, but because I couldn't play football as much as I used to, and golf is a game you can play until you're 90.
PLAYBOY: Do you share any of Bond's other sporting tastes?
CONNERY: Well, I gamble ... not chemin de fer, however; poker mostly, which I played hard when I was touring in South Pacific. And, like Bond, I'm fond of swimming, but on the surface. All this stuff underwater with bottles of oxygen strapped to one's back in Thunderball doesn't thrill me to bits. I have a fear of sharks and barracudas, and I have no hesitation at all in admitting it. It's not that I'm allergic to them ... it's just plain fear.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any expertise, as Bond has, with guns and cars?
CONNERY: Well, I've driven competition cars and I've had experience with guns, because I was an armourer in the navy. But I know nothing about espionage and sniperscopes and that sort of thing. What had to be seized on, in playing a special agent like Bond, were certain immediates such as dress, physical ability, humour, coolness in dangerous situations . . .
PLAYBOY: And masterfulness with women?
CONNERY: Well, yes. I've had a certain amount of experience in that field, I suppose. But I've never been a womanizer, as Fleming called Bond. Of course, one never loses the appetite or appreciation for a pretty girl, even though one does not indulge it. I still like the company of women ... but then, I like the company of men, too. They offer a different sort of fun, of course. But I do not have a retrospective appetite for the women in my past.
PLAYBOY: There are critics of Fleming who claim that Bond's appeal is based solely on sex, sadism and snobbery; yet his defenders, most notably Kingsley Amis, find Bond a repository of such admirable qualities as toughness, loyalty and perseverance. How do you see him?
CONNERY: He is really a mixture of all that the defenders and the attackers say he is. When I spoke about Bond with Fleming, he said that when the character was conceived, Bond was a very simple, straightforward, blunt instrument of the police force, a functionary who would carry out his job rather doggedly. But he also had a lot of idiosyncrasies that were considered snobbish ... such as a taste for special wines, etcetera. But if you take Bond in the situations that he is constantly involved with, you see that it is a very hard, high, unusual league that he plays in. Therefore he is quite right in having all his senses satisfied ... be it sex, wine, food or clothes ... because the job, and he with it, may terminate at any minute. But the virtues that Amis mentions ... loyalty, honesty ... are there, too. Bond doesn't chase married women, for instance. Judged on that level, he comes out rather well.
PLAYBOY: Do you think he's sadistic?
CONNERY: Bond is dealing with rather sadistic adversaries who dream up pretty wild schemes to destroy, maim or mutilate him. He must retaliate in kind; otherwise it's who's kidding who.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about roughing up a woman, as Bond sometimes has to do?
CONNERY: 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. An openhanded 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. I think a man has to be slightly advanced, ahead of the woman. I really do ... by virtue of the way a man is built, if nothing else. But I wouldn't call myself sadistic. I think one of the appeals that Bond has for women, however, is that he is decisive, cruel even. By their nature women aren't decisive ... "Shall I wear this? Shall I wear that?" ... and along comes a man who is absolutely sure of everything and he's a godsend. And, of course, Bond is never in love with a girl and that helps. He always does what he wants, and women like that. It explains why so many women are crazy about men who don't give a rap for them.
PLAYBOY: Do you think it's OK to tell a woman you love her in order to get her into bed?
CONNERY: You can say something, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is so. I think before words came along there was always physical contact and physical satisfaction. There may be things said afterward just as there are things said before. But the action came first--then the word.
PLAYBOY: Do women find you more attractive since you started playing Bond?
CONNERY: I suppose they do, because they're bound to mix up the man with the image. I get a lot of pretty strange letters from women saying all sorts of things. I just hand them over to my secretary for a formal acknowledgement. If I actually started to behave to any woman the way Bond does, she'd run like a jack rabbit ... or send for the police.
PLAYBOY: This brings up a point raised by many of Fleming's critics: While conceding that Bond's adventures are entertaining, they denounce him as a caricature of sex appeal, and his erotic exploits as impossibly farfetched. Do you feel that's valid?
CONNERY: No, I don't. The main concern for an actor or a writer is not believability but the removal of time, as I see it. Because I really think the only occasions you really are enjoying yourself, being happy, swinging, as they say, are when you don't know what time it is ... when you're totally absorbed in a play, a film or a party and you don't know what time it is or how long it has been going on; then you'll usually find there is contentment and happiness. When an artist can suspend time like that for an audience, he has succeeded. It doesn't really matter, I think, whether it is "believable" or not. The believability comes afterward; or it doesn't. If you want to question it afterward, that's up to you. But the writer's and the actor's job is to remove time ... while you're still in the book or the theatre. That's exactly what Fleming achieved for millions of readers; and that's what I've tried to achieve in the Bond films.
PLAYBOY: Despite your success in the role, as you probably know, several critics thought that you were miscast as Bond. What are your feelings?
CONNERY: Before I got the part, I might have agreed with them. If you had asked any casting director who would be the sort of man to cast as Bond, an Etonbred Englishman, the last person into the box would have been me, a working-class Scotsman. And I didn't particularly have the face for it; at 16 I looked 30, although I was never really aware of age until I was in my 20s. When I was acting with Lana Turner I realized suddenly I was 28 ... and I'm even more aware of time and age now than I was then. But today my face is accepted as Bond, and that's how it should be.
PLAYBOY: What was your first reaction when you were offered the role?
CONNERY: Well, after I got over my surprise and really began to consider it, I didn't want to do it, because I could see that properly made, it would have to be the first of a series and I wasn't sure I wanted to get involved in that and the contract that would go with it. Contracts choke you, and I wanted to be free.
PLAYBOY: Why did you accept the role, then ... for the money?
CONNERY: Not entirely. I could see that, properly made, this would be a start--a marvellous opening. But I must admit in all honesty that I didn't think it would take off as it did, although it had the ingredients of success: sex, action, and so forth. The only thing lacking, I thought, was humour, and luckily the director, Terence Young, agreed with me that it would be right to give it another flavour, another dimension, by injecting humour, but at the same time to play it absolutely straight and realistically.
PLAYBOY: Did you do any research on Bond before you made Dr. No?
CONNERY: Not really. I had read Live and Let Die a few years before, and I'd met Fleming a couple of times and we had discussed Bond; but that's all.
PLAYBOY: What were your impressions of Fleming?
CONNERY: He had great energy and curiosity and he was a marvellous man to talk to and have a drink with because of the many wide interests he had. What made him a success and caused all the controversy was that his writing was such good journalism. He always contrived extraordinary situations and arranged extravagant meetings for his characters, and he always knew his facts. He was always madly accurate, and this derived from his curiosity. When he was discussing anything, like how a truck worked or a machine or a permutation at bridge, there was a brain at work and an enormous amount of research involved; it wasn't just a lot of drivel he was talking. That's what I admired most about him ... his energy and his curiosity.
PLAYBOY: In any case, Dr. No turned out to be a hit, and you found yourself under contract for a series ... exactly what you said you wanted to avoid.
CONNERY: Yes ... but it allows me to make other films, and I have only two more Bonds to do.
PLAYBOY: Which ones?
CONNERY: On Her Majesty's Secret Service and possibly You Only Live Twice. They would like to start On Her Majesty's Secret Service in Switzerland in January, but I'm not sure I'll be free in time and I don't want to rush it, although they say the snow will be at its best then. I'm not going to rush anything anymore.
PLAYBOY: We'll be looking forward to both films ... especially since we were fortunate enough to serialize both books exclusively prior to their hardcover publication. Do you think the success of the series will continue to snowball?
CONNERY: Well, it's a healthy market and it has been maintained because each succeeding film has got bigger and the gimmicks trickier. But we have to be careful where we go next, because I think with Thunderball we've reached the limit as far as size and gimmicks are concerned. In Thunderball we have Bond underwater for about 40 percent of the time, and there is a love scene underwater, and attacks by aquaparas from the sky, and two-man submarines under the sea, and Bond is menaced by sharks. Instead of the Aston Martin we have a hydrofoil disguised as a cabin cruiser, and Bond escapes with a self-propelling jet set attached to his back. So all the gimmicks now have been done. And they are expected. What is needed now is a change of course ... more attention to character and better dialogue.
PLAYBOY: As you know, there is a rival Bond film in the works ... Casino Royale, to be made by another company ... in which someone else is expected to play Bond. What are your feelings about that?
CONNERY: Actually, I'd find it interesting to see what someone else does with it. Lots of people could play him. No reason at all why they shouldn't.
PLAYBOY: Still, you are the one identified as Bond in the public mind. Aren't you concerned about being typecast?
CONNERY: Let me straighten you out on this. The problem in interviews of this sort is to get across the fact, without breaking your arse, that one is not Bond, that one was functioning reasonably well before Bond, and that one is going to function reasonably well after Bond. There are a lot of things I did before Bond ... like playing the classics on stage ... that don't seem to get publicized. So you see, this Bond image is a problem in a way and a bit of a bore, but one has just got to live with it.
PLAYBOY: Have you been happy with the non-Bond films you've made?
CONNERY: Marnie ... with certain reservations, yes. But I wasn't all that thrilled with Woman of Straw, although the problems were my own. I'd been working nonstop for goodness knows how long and trying to suggest rewrites for it while making another film, which is always deadly. It was an experience; but I won't make that mistake again.
PLAYBOY: How about The Hill? Are you pleased with your performance in it?
CONNERY: That's the first time, truly, since the Bond films that I've had any time to prepare, to get all the ins and outs of what I was going to do worked out with the director and producer in advance, to find out if we were all on the same track. Then we went off like Gang Busters and shot the film under time, and it was exciting all the way down the line. Even before being shown, The Hill has succeeded for me, because I was concerned and fully involved in the making of it. The next stage is how it is exploited and received, and that I have absolutely no control over; by the time The Hill is out, I shall be involved in Thunderball. You get detached; a film is like a young bird that has flown from its nest; once out, it's up to the bird to fly around or to fall on its arse. When Woman of Straw was shot down, I wasn't entirely surprised. But whatever happens to The Hill, it will not detract from what I think about it.
PLAYBOY: Do you think your box-office drawing power as Bond had anything to do with your getting the lead in The Hill?
CONNERY: It had everything to do with it, of course. As a matter of fact, it might not have been made at all except for Bond. It's a marvellous movie with lots of good actors in it, but it's the sort of film that might have been considered a non-commercial art-house property without my name on it. This gave the producers financial freedom, a rein to make it. Thanks to Bond, I find myself now in a bracket with just a few other actors and actresses who, if they put their names to a contract, it means the finances will come in.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of finances, in two years you've become one of the highest-paid stars in the world. As a workingman's son, are you relishing all this new-found affluence?
CONNERY: Certainly. I want all I can get. I think I'm entitled to it. I have no false modesty about it. I don't believe in this stuff about starving in a garret or being satisfied with artistic appreciation alone. But that doesn't mean that I will do anything just for money. I gave up a part in El Cid to act for 25 pounds a week and no living expenses in a Pirandello play at Oxford. But as far as this series is concerned, after the next two, the only condition for making any more would be one million dollars plus a percentage of the gross.
PLAYBOY: What were you paid for Dr. No?
CONNERY: Six thousand pounds [$16,800].
PLAYBOY: We're told you're now getting half a million dollars per picture.
CONNERY: I never ask anybody what they earn and I don't tell anybody what I earn.
PLAYBOY: But that figure of half a million wouldn't be too far off the mark?
CONNERY: No, not really.
PLAYBOY: Despite this lofty income, you're said to be rather tight with your money. True or false?
CONNERY: I'm not stingy, but I'm careful with it. I don't throw my money around, because money gives you power and freedom to operate as you want. I have respect for its value, because I know how hard it is to earn and to keep. I come from a background where there was little money and we had to be content with what there was. One doesn't forget a past like that.
PLAYBOY: How do you spend your new-found wealth?
CONNERY: Well, I bought a secondhand Jaguar, and I bought the house I now live in, with about an acre of land; but I don't invest in land, and I don't have a lot of servants ... just a secretary and a nanny for the children. Old habits die hard. Even today, when I have a big meal in a restaurant, I'm still conscious that the money I'm spending is equal to my dad's wages for a week. I just can't get over that, even though I sign the bill and don't actually pay in cash. But I still prefer the feel of real money to a checkbook. And I'm still the sort of fellow who hates to see a light left on in a room when no one is there.
PLAYBOY: Do you have an extensive wardrobe?
CONNERY: I think I've got seven or eight suits now; I took them all from the films ... plus a couple I bought awhile ago in a moment of weakness. Something came over me and I went out one day and spent 300 pounds [$840] on two suits.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever imagine, when you were hoofing in the chorus line of South Pacific in London, that you'd someday be able to buy a $400 suit?
CONNERY: Never ... but I was never in any sort of despondence or living like a malnutritional artist in a basement. I knew I'd make it sooner or later, one way or another. I think every actor has the seed of knowing he will be successful.
PLAYBOY: At one time you considered becoming a professional football player instead of an actor. What decided you against it?
CONNERY: Mainly because I was already in South Pacific when I got this offer to sign up as a pro footballer. I really wanted to accept, because I'd always loved the game. But I stopped to assess it, and I asked myself, well, what's the length of a footballer's career? When a top-class player is 30 he's over the hill. So I decided to become an actor instead, because I wanted something that would last, and because it was fun. I'd no experience whatever and hadn't even been on a stage before, but it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves.
PLAYBOY: Yet the big break with Bond didn't come for nine years, until you were 31. Were you beginning to wonder whether you'd made the wrong choice?
CONNERY: No, I never doubted that the break would come eventually. I was quite late in deciding to become an actor, you see ... around 22 ... and most people by that time have already had a few years at their job, or contemplating it. So I didn't expect it soon. Everything I've done has had to be accomplished in my own cycle, my own time, on my own behalf, and with my own sweat.
PLAYBOY: How did you become so self-reliant?
CONNERY: My background was harsh. One's parents left one free to make one's own way. When I was nine my mother caught me smoking and she said, "Don't let your father find out, because if he does he'll beat you so hard he'll break your bottom." From the time I started working at 13, I always paid my share of the rent, and the attitude at home was the prevalent one in Scotland ... you make your own bed and so you have to lie on it. I didn't ask for advice and I didn't get it. I had to make it on my own or not at all.
PLAYBOY: Would you have preferred it otherwise?
CONNERY: Absolutely not. This sort of motivation is the great thing that's lacking in present-day society. Everything is so smooth-running, so attainable, that one is deprived of initiative, lured into a false sense of security. In the days before the War, with high unemployment, many people simply put in an appearance every morning at the factory although they knew there was no chance of work. Sheeplike, they felt they just had to go. Today everything's handed to them on a platter: they know they can get work and enough food, and socialized medicine has taken the worry out of being ill. If there is a malnutrition of any kind in this country ... and I think there is ... it's self-inflicted. The only competition you'll find today is the conflict between those few who try to correct a wrong, and the majority who hope it will just cure itself in the end.
PLAYBOY: We take it you number yourself among the former group.
CONNERY: I like to think so.
PLAYBOY: According to your critics, this spirit of competition, in your case, sometimes takes the form of verbal and physical conflict. They say you have a penchant for abusive arguments and even fistfights with those who take exception to your views.
CONNERY: Not really. I'm not a violent man, and I don't go in for fighting.
PLAYBOY: How about your reputation for rudeness and belligerence?
CONNERY: I know they say that, but what am I supposed to do about it? To some people I am rude and aggressive, but I think they provoke about 50 percent of it by their attitude to me. I like getting along with people, but I don't believe in bending over backward to be nice, just to show they're wrong about me, or in hiring a press agent to write heart-searching stories about how different I am from the boor they believe me to be. I cannot go round with a welcome mat hanging round my neck.
PLAYBOY: Some publicity men claim that during the making of a film you tend to be short-tempered and highhanded.
CONNERY: Look, during my working day I'll give my full pound of flesh--to the film. The interviews, publicity, exploitation and what have you, have to come second, because otherwise what really counts suffers. But one gets lumbered. In the middle of a big sequence of Goldfinger, the publicity man brought on a French magazine lady and left me with her. First of all, she asked what the film was called. I told her. Then what part was I playing. I told her. Then she asked who was starring opposite me. I said a very famous German actor, Gert Frobe. "Well, I've never heard of her," she said, and with that I just blew up and walked off the set; so I suppose I'm considered very rude by that person. Well, I consider her disrespectful and incompetent, and both are definite sins. If someone treats me rudely or dishonestly, you see, I repay them an eye for an eye. But given the chance, I try to treat everyone, man or woman, as I would like to be treated myself.
PLAYBOY: And how is that?
CONNERY: Honestly, openly and simply. But without being too Machiavellian about it, you have to acknowledge that there is no future in turning the other cheek if somebody does the dirty on you and sends you down the river after you've been straight with them. You can't be straight with them next time; you have to do something about it.
CONNERY: Straighten them out.
CONNERY: If possible, by argument ... even at the expense of being thought rude and belligerent.
PLAYBOY: You complained once that too much attention was given to personal popularity ... that life wasn't just one long popularity contest. Was that a rationalization for being generally disliked?
CONNERY: Ever since the introduction of psychoanalysis there have been too many terms to excuse behaviour and phrases that can be flipped off to explain everything. People who are aware of the dangers of this, who see through the phrases, as they see through the pomposity and hypocrisy around them, are obviously not going to win any popularity polls. All those ... whether they be actors, writers, painters or social reformers ... who don't conform to the normal, accepted pattern of society always come in for a bit of a beating.
PLAYBOY: What's your reaction when you hear comments such as "Connery may be fine as Bond, but he's not really much of an actor apart from that"?
CONNERY: I haven't met anyone who actually said that to me, because it would certainly not be a very bright thing to do, and if they did say it to me, I'd ... you know ... straighten them out. But they do tend to sort of judge me only on Bond.
CONNERY: Moviegoers ... well, perhaps not in Britain, because people here can follow everything that one does, because the film studios, TV and theatre are all in one town, and the press is national.
PLAYBOY: Is the fan mail you get from America primarily about Bond?
CONNERY: Yes, but I got some nice letters also about Marnie, the Hitchcock film, where I played an American. I think one of the reasons they accept me over there is that most of the younger British actor today, like Finney and O'Toole and me, are more organic, down-to-earth actors than previous generations. In America and Canada and places like that, where they are still breaking through, they appreciate and accept organic acting more readily and enthusiastically. In America there is much more feel for realism than in Europe, where there is still a conception of an actor as being somehow divorced from real life, and in Britain, where acting is still often associated more with being statuesque and striking poses and declaiming with lyrical voices. I'm more interested in things that appeal to me and what I think I have a contact with. But I can still appreciate classical acting ... like Olivier's Othello.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel you have any limitations as an actor?
CONNERY: I have never thought that way.
PLAYBOY: Haven't you any personal or professional doubts at all about yourself?
CONNERY: None to speak of. I harbour a normal allotment of transient worries, of course. If they're professional, I discuss them with the director; if they're personal, I may take them home to Diane, but more often, I just keep them bottled up inside me and don't tell anyone about them. Or I may listen to advice from friends, but after sifting it, I usually do what I thought was right in the first place.
PLAYBOY: Are you afraid of anything?
CONNERY: Besides sharks and barracudas, you mean?
CONNERY: Being in an absolutely vulnerable position and not being able to do anything about it. Like you read in the War-crime trials in Germany about troops of Jews filing into the gas chambers and being utterly helpless to do anything about it. Then you are really vulnerable. Even with the gladiators in Rome there was a chance you could pull it off, but in Germany there was just a horrific total vulnerability. I don't know how I would react to that.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel vulnerable professionally?
CONNERY: Not really. If things weren't coming my way, I'd move on.
PLAYBOY: To what?
CONNERY: Who can say? Wherever my feet led me.
PLAYBOY: Have you always been this way?
CONNERY: It's a national characteristic of the Scots; they're all over the world ... in shipbuilding, engineering, shipping, acting, journalism. Coming out of my own rather grim and grey environment, everything had a sense of newness and discovery about it. Yet my brother is still a plasterer in Edinburgh, and all the people I went to school with are still doing the same jobs.
PLAYBOY: Do you still have this wanderlust?
CONNERY: Very much so. With their far-flung locations, the Bond films help to satiate it. But to give you an idea how great the hunger is, I was in bed with the flu on a Friday morning in London about three years ago and I got a telephone call and I was chatting away for about 20 minutes before I realized it was Toronto on the line. My first thought was, "My God, I hope he hasn't reversed the charges!" Then he said, "We're doing Macbeth on Monday. Would you like to play it? I said, "What, this Monday?" and he said, "Yes, get a plane and come over. It's a special cultural thing on TV and there's not a lot of money in it" ... which seems always the actors' bait. I was to get $500 or so for it. So I said, "Give me an apartment and enough money to live on while I'm there so I don't have to steal food," and he said all right and would I get the plane that afternoon. And there I was, in bed at 11:30 in the morning with flu and I jumped up and said to myself, "Christ ... what do I do first?" The first thing was to read the play. So I sat down and read it and suddenly realized what I'd bitten off. It was monumental. I reread it over and over all the way to Canada and somehow I was ready to go on Monday morning.
PLAYBOY: Are you usually that fast?
CONNERY: Not really, no. I'm impatient by nature and I'm always trying to find the right way much too soon ... cutting into it and trying to get the details right and missing the main points of the play.
PLAYBOY: Do you find it less demanding to act for the screen?
CONNERY: In many ways, yes; I've had probably greater success at it with less effort. It's much easier, of course, for an actor to play the same part ... Bond ... four times than to create a new part each time.
PLAYBOY: When you're not working ... either in a film or a play ... how do you spend your time?
CONNERY: Well, I read a great deal. Between jobs I've read the whole of Shakespeare and Ibsen and Pirandello and even Proust, which seemed to go on forever; 12 volumes are just too much. At the moment I'm reading Herzog. And I've been going to the theatre quite a lot lately. But I like to do physical things, too: I still play football; I play a great deal of golf, and I like to do things with my hands like lifting bar bells and carrying my own clubs on the golf course, which I always do.
PLAYBOY: Didn't you say once that golf could only be a Scots invention, for hitting a small ball over an open field would drive an ordinary man mad?
CONNERY: I did, because it's very true, and very characteristic of the Scots. It's a loner's game. I think it was the late Sir Winston Churchill who said it's a rather exciting game but they made such bloody awful tools to do it with.
PLAYBOY: Do you find the game relaxing or taxing?
CONNERY: I find it terribly frustrating, but I'm really getting to the best stage of my golf game now: I'm really getting near. Five or six times I've broken 80 and at last I know what I'm doing and I get a tremendous sense of achievement and enjoyment out of it. I think it is one of the most important games in the world. I don't think I'd go quite round the bend without it, as someone predicted I would ... but I want to play it every day I can. As a matter of fact, I'd like to have a go at the pro circuit. It's a bit late to try it now, but I'd like to just for the hell of it. Of course, I haven't the time for it.
PLAYBOY: If your time were entirely your own, how else would you spend it?
CONNERY: Writing a bit, I think ... short stories and poetry.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever done any before?
CONNERY: Quite a lot, actually. Most of the stuff I've done was written when I was on tour with South Pacific when I first decided to be an actor ... just ideas and images and how one felt and what impressed one. They were usually written late at night, and in the light of day they seemed a bit alarming. I destroyed quite a lot of it. Very few people have read what's left; but it's considered pretty fair stuff.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any other extracurricular talents?
CONNERY: Well, I'm fairly handy around the house. When I was having my present home altered before moving in two winters ago, the workmen tried to flannel me by saying that they couldn't do this or that job because of the weather. They didn't know that I've worked in building ... with plasterers and carpenters and electricians ... and I know that line of work pretty well. So I drew up a list of the things I knew could be done each day, and I supervised them like a foreman to see that they got it done.
PLAYBOY: Are you a jack of any other trades?
CONNERY: Well, I can harness horses and herd them. And I can cook. I like cooking for a lot of people or just two ... Diane and myself. But not just for six or seven.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any speciality?
CONNERY: Yes--goulash á la Connery. Would you like the recipe?
PLAYBOY: All right.
CONNERY: Well, for three or four people with some left over, I take a pound of the best beef and do it in olive oil and garlic for half an hour in a pot with a lid on it, so that all the juice is drained away from it, and while that's going on I finely chop onions and carrots and have fresh tomatoes and tinned tomatoes all ready. Then I fry the carrots and the onions in butter, and once the steak has been cooking for about half an hour in the pot, I take it out and dice it up into squares ... one- or two-inch squares ... and then roll it in flour, salt, pepper and seasoning, and line the bottom of the bowl or stone dish. Then I cover all the meat with the onions and the carrots and the tomato ... fresh and tinned ... and the oil that's left over in the juice that's been taken from the meat I pour over the top. I then add a tube of Italian tomato purèe, and top it all off with either good stock or boiled water, and bake it in the oven for three hours and medium heat. It's superb.
PLAYBOY: Where did you learn all this?
CONNERY: In boy service in the navy, when I was 16; we used to have to do our own cooking. I also cooked for myself when I kept my own flat in London. I used to make a big dish of soup that would last me five or six days, so when I came in at night I could always take some and heat it up. It wasn't very good, but it was cheap and plentiful.
PLAYBOY: Do you have to watch your weight?
CONNERY: I don't really keep any check on it. I know what I am now, because we were doing a scene in a health farm for Thunderball and there were weights and scales around. I'm 14 stone, 5 pounds [201 pounds]. It seems to stay pretty constant.
PLAYBOY: Do you drink?
CONNERY: Beer at lunch if I'm filming, because wine makes you doze off in the afternoon. But I like good wine and champagne--doesn't everyone? But I am not a connoisseur like Bond.
PLAYBOY: How do you keep in shape?
CONNERY: Football, golf and swimming, if possible. My metabolic system seems to burn up what I don't need, so I don't have any sort of problem.
PLAYBOY: Do you practice judo or karate?
CONNERY: No, but if I'm shown a move or a routine I can usually follow it.
PLAYBOY: Harold Sakata, who played Goldfinger's manservant Oddjob, seemed to be a tremendously powerful man. Was he as strong as he looked?
CONNERY: Tremendously so. He knows karate and judo and wrestling and weight lifting. With it all, though, he is a very sweet man, very gentle.
PLAYBOY: Did you use a double in your fight with him?
CONNERY: No. There are doubles, but I usually do my own stunts--and all the fight sequences, except for that fall on one's back on the rails in Russia. Bob Shaw [who played the blond Spectre assassin] and I did most of that scene ourselves.
PLAYBOY: Was Thunderball an equally strenuous picture to make? In a recent Look article, you were quoted as saying that you suffered everything from "the trots to leprosy" during the filming.
CONNERY: They've got that wrong. It wasn't on Thunderball in the Bahamas, but during The Hill in Spain, where Spanish tummy and the heat combined to lay me out.
PLAYBOY: At this point in your career, as you pause between Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service, do you feel that the Bond boom, apart from making you rich and famous, has changed you as a man or as an actor in any fundamental way?
CONNERY: No, I'm what I always have been: a Scot, a bit introspective; I don't tell lies and I prefer straight dealing. I don't lose my temper often, except at incompetence ... my own or others'. Or when I play golf badly. But I never lose my temper at work; if I have a row there I have a head like ice. I have learned to rely on myself ... and to keep my own counsel ... since I started earning at 13. Like all Celts, I have my moods, and I'm not particularly generous with them. I rather like to keep them to myself; but if people want to infringe on a mood they are welcome to any part of it. I suppose you could say I am more introvert than extrovert. The extrovert side is in my work.
PLAYBOY: As a non-extrovert, does it make you uncomfortable to be the object of so much world-wide press coverage and public adulation?
CONNERY: To be quite honest, yes. I find that fame tends to turn one from an actor and a human being into a piece of merchandise, a public institution. Well, I don't intend to undergo that metamorphosis. This is why I fight so tenaciously to protect my privacy, to keep interviews like this one to an absolute minimum, to fend off prying photographers who want to follow me around and publicize my every step and breath. The absolute sanctum sanctorum is my home, which is and will continue to be only for me, my wife, my family and my friends. I do not and shall not have business meetings there or acquaintances or journalists. When I work, I work my full stint, but I must insist that my private life remain my own. I don't think that's too much to ask.
PLAYBOY: One last question: since you seem to consider stardom, at best, a mixed blessing, how long do you think you'll want to remain in movies ... and in the public eye?
CONNERY: I have no idea how I'll feel or what I'll be like or what I'll be doing even five years from now. I'm eternally concerned with the present. I've been working my arse into the ground for 21 years and I'm just coming up for air now. I find there are two sorts of people in the world: those who live under a shell and just wait for their pensions, and those who move around and keep their eyes open. I have always moved around and kept my eyes open ... and been prepared to raise my middle finger at the world. I always will.