While it has long been known that Sean Connery was not Ian Fleming’s first choice to play James Bond, it has just been revealed that things were far worse than anyone ever knew. During an October 15 interview with the South Bank Show, Connery told interviewer Melvin Bragg that he had “little time” for Fleming and that 007′s creator was initially angered that a “working class Scot” had earned the role.
These recent revelations come on the heels of another 50 year old secret: that Ian Fleming had a list of seven actors for the part including Cary Grant and David Niven, but not Connery. In fact, according to Connery, he and Fleming never met until they were on the set of Dr. No. After running through a list of his preferences, they came to Connery because they “couldn’t afford most of the people they wanted.”
This is all especially interesting, as Fleming certainly warmed up to Connery during his final years of life, to the extent that in his final Bond novels Fleming gave 007 a Scottish background.
According to the Daily Express:
Now Sir Sean has revealed more about tension behind the scenes as cameras started rolling on the first Bond film in 1961. In an interview with Melvin Bragg to be shown on the South Bank Show on Wednesday, Sir Sean says he had little time for the secret agent’s creator.
He says: “I never got introduced to Fleming until I was well into the movie but I know he was not happy with me as the choice.
“What was it he called me, or told somebody? That I was an over-developed stunt man. He never said it to me. When I did eventually meet him he was very interesting, erudite and a snob – a real snob.
“But his company was very good for a limited time for me.”
Fleming’s first choice of actor to play 007 in Dr No, the first Bond book to reach the big screen, was Cary Grant – but he was too expensive. David Niven, James Mason, Patrick McGoohan, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton and Stewart Granger were also on his list. Niven turned down the role because he felt he was too old.
Sir Sean, who confesses he was surprised to get the part, says: “They couldn’t afford most of the people they wanted. That was the start. They were seeing people, they were advertising in the papers. Then they brought me in to see them and they wanted me.”
Sir Sean’s performance won Fleming over and in later books he gave 007 a partly Scots ancestry. Sir Sean tells the South Bank Show he was convinced that the Bond movies were doomed to failure.
“Anybody that says it was going to be a success is lying. I must say that from the beginning. I think about it quite a bit. If I see it on a screen I think, yeah, they could have done this better or that better.”
He says he believes now that the series can continue for years. “The ingredients are all there for a kind of movie that people want to see. It’s very good, entertaining value. It’s a spectrum of actors, from myself to Daniel Craig, who I thought was fantastic in the role.”