One would be hard pressed to find someone with more "former"s on his resume former Mr Universe contestant, former brick layer, even former coffin polisher but there's one label Sean Connery is unlikely to ever shake: James Bond. The first to take on the role, he is responsible for defining the debonair spy for generations to come.
The indelible 007 label hasn't held the Edinburgh-born actor back from showing his versatility as an actor, however, and he has gone on to be arguably the most successful post-Bond in Hollywood. Just four years after his final reprisal of the role (an older, balder secret agent in 1983's "unofficial" 007 flick, Never Say Never Again), he proved his versatility in Brian DePalma's Al Capone gangster film The Untouchables, which reaped him an Oscar.
Thomas Sean Connery was born on August 25, 1930, and began work life early, delivering milk before school at the tender age of nine. Shortly afterwards he broke with academia, and three years later left the two-room flat he shared with his brother and parents to join the Merchant Navy. He was still a teenager when he was discharged due to severe ulcers. Then, in 1950, the hunky 20-year-old Scot landed a supporting role in a London production of South Pacific. "I was touring around Britain for a year before I decided I would become an actor," he told HELLO!. "I was more interested in soccer!"
In 1953, the aspiring actor was placed third when he represented Scotland in the Mr Universe body building contest, and the latter half of the decade brought a number of firsts: his first BBC TV production, Requiem For A Heavyweight, his big screen debut in No Road Back, his first leading role (opposite Lana Turner in Another Time, Another Place) and his first part Stateside, Walt Disney's Darby O'Gill And The Little People in 1959.
It was also in 1953 that he reached what he referred to as his "turning point", playing James Bond in Dr No. Sean carried the 007 torch through five other Cubby Broccoli-produced 007 films and gained international fame before choosing to broaden his horizons, and in doing so defying naysayers who predicted he would fade away after leaving the franchise.
To say they were wrong might be the world's biggest understatement 40 years after Dr No, Sean has seen success in everything from adventure-thriller The Hunt For Red October to the critically acclaimed drama Finding Forrester. He also showed he has fans in high places, being awarded a knighthood by the Queen in 2000.
"There are seven genuine movie stars in the world today," says filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who worked with the actor on Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. "And Sean is one of them. I won't name the others, because some of my best friends wouldn't be among them."
Accolades aside, as he grows older Sean says, "More than anything else, I'd like to be an old man with a good face, like Hitchcock or Picasso." Though few would deny he's got a "good" one, his face is not usually compared with that of the plump filmmaker or moustachioed artist. Although Sean is now in his 70s, "sexy" continues to appear in front of his name. Not only was he selected as one of Empire magazine's 100 sexiest stars in film history, he was also voted Sexiest Man of the Century by People Magazine, aged 60.
Though on screen he played the bed-hopping Bond and wooed Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment, off screen the actor has been happily married for nearly 30 years. He tied the knot with French painter Micheline Roquebrune in 1975, one year after divorcing his wife of more than a decade, actress Diane Cilento. He had one son with Diane, actor Jason Connery.
So what is the secret of Sean's success? He says it is simple variety is the spice of an actor's career. "The reason Burt Lancaster had a longer, more varied career than Kirk Douglas was that he refused to allow himself to be limited," he explains. "He was more ready to play less romantic parts, and was more experimental in his choice of roles. And that's the way I've tried to be. I don't mind looking older or looking stupid or whatever I've tried to be guided by what was different, what was refreshing, stimulating to me."