August 26, 2008

Sir Sean Not Stirred When Asked Which of His Leading Ladies Stood Out in His Mind

By Tim Cornwell

HE MARKED his 78th birthday yesterday and has not made a film in five years. But Sir Sean Connery, dressed in a natty white polo shirt and James Bond-ish black blazer, still makes women swoon.

As the actor launched his book Being a Scot, an idiosyncratic look at his life and Scotland, an American woman in the Charlotte Square audience got her chance. "Hi, Sean, I've waited 45 years for this moment," she told him.

"I want to make sure you've seen me. Of all the women that you've had, the leading ladies, do you have just one that stood out in your mind a little more than the others?"

The Bond star growled: "You've got the mike stuck half-way down your throat." Then he ignored the question, perhaps wisely, with his wife, Micheline, in the front row near the First Minister, Alex Salmond.

Scotland's most venerated film star shared a question-and-answer session at the Edinburgh International Book Festival yesterday with his co-writer, Murray Grigor. It was billed as the festival's highlight.

The actor, who lives in the Bahamas, told how his life had been in a "different cycle" since he stopped making films, after 2003's unsuccessful The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. "I do reading and computers and golf. I feel there's something cooking, but I don't know quite what it is yet," he said.

The book has caught reviewers by surprise. Neither memoir nor autobiography, it weaves reminiscences with writing on Scottish architecture, social history and folklore, hardly touching the Bond films and going nowhere near Sir Sean's many entanglements with women. There were 20 signed copies available by ballot yesterday.

In person, Sir Sean ranged from his Edinburgh milk run to Dr No, to his passions for football and a national centre for Scottish photography. He told the old story of delivering milk to Fettes College, where the fictional Bond went to school. "In the Dean Village, when it was icy, I had to shove the horse's arse up the hill," he said.

He joked how Alfred Hitchcock, filming Marnie, told him. "I don't think people in Delaware are interested in your dental work; your mouth is open when you are listening."

One woman from Auchtertool, in Fife, stayed down the street from where his grandparents lived, she told him. "You came in from Auchtertool today?" he asked. "Thank you very much."

Sir Sean didn't desert his politics, insisting Scots "should stand alone" in their Olympics team as in everything else.

He talked about how childhood history at Bruntsfield School was all "English kings". He said Scotland was still the country of The Bowler and the Bonnet, the 1969 documentary he directed about unemployment and social division on Clydeside, but was surprised that his old school now had classes filled with "Greeks, Italians, everything".

He joked how fans might "spit on me" at Parkhead because he had switched from supporting Celtic, his father's team, to Rangers.

He also described his initial strong support for US tycoon Donald Trump's planned golf complex in Aberdeenshire when the two met in New York, but said he had no idea of the "local repercussions".

Sir Sean struggled to hear several questions and his wife and Mr Grigor had to prompt. But loud applause greeted his entrance and every sharp aside. "There was a fantastic affection for him, quite extraordinary," said Mr Grigor.

(c) 2008 Scotsman, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.