What Most People Don't Know About Sean Connery

On Oct. 31, 2020, screen legend Sean Connery passed away at his home in Nassau, Bahamas. He was 90. According to BBC News, Connery's son, Jason, said the Scottish icon died peacefully in his sleep, but had "been unwell for some time." His son added, "A sad day for all who knew and loved my dad and a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor."

Connery's beloved Scotland also mourned his passing. "I was heartbroken to learn this morning of the passing of Sir Sean Connery," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon released in a statement on Facebook. "Our nation today mourns one of her best-loved sons. He was a global legend but, first and foremost, a patriotic and proud Scot — his towering presence at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 showed his love for the country of his birth."

Probably best known for his two-decade run as British secret agent James Bond, Connery had an illustrious career with countless memorable role in such films as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Highlander, The Rock, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Untouchables — the last of which earned him the Oscar for best supporting actor in 1988. But what else is there to learn about People's "Sexiest Man of the Century?" Here's what most people don't know about the late Sean Connery — shaken, not stirred.

Sean Connery polished and bleached coffins for a living

Sean Connery enlisted in the Scottish Royal Navy at the age of 16, but his military career didn't last long. He was discharged three years later due to stomach ulcers (via The Scotsman). So, at 19 with no real prospects, Connery took on a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet, including as a bricklayer and a nude model at the Edinburgh College of Art. "We used to get six and eight pence an hour for standing stationary and with 15 minutes off," he told Jay Leno during an appearance on The Tonight Show in 1999.

But the weirdest job Connery ever held was at a funeral home in Haddington, Scotland, where he polished coffins. The grandson of the funeral home owner shared a newspaper clipping of Connery speaking about his time there during a ceremony at Edinburgh's Usher Hall, including the fact that when he wasn't polishing coffins, he was bleaching them to appear like oak. 

During the same Leno interview, Connery told funny but bleak story about the funeral home owner. "We had a chap [who] used to go around and visit the people who were really, very sick," he explained. "He used to mentally measure them, and then come and tell us what size the box would be. And then we used to polish them up."

Sean Connery's reason for turning down the role of Gandalf is hilarious

The Lord of the Rings trilogy will go down as one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Grossing almost $3 billion worldwide, the Peter Jackson-directed epic fantasy is beloved by fans and will remain that way forever. It's now hard to imagine anyone else other than Ian McKellen in the role of Gandalf, but he actually wasn't the first choice to play the wily wizard.

According to NME, Sean Connery was offered $6 million and a 15 percent stake in each film's box office performance, but turned it down because he "never understood the script." He maintained that stance even after seeing the first film. "I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don't understand it," Connery once said, adding, "Ian McKellen, I believe, is marvelous in it."

We know what you're asking: How much money did Connery lose on this? You might want to sit down. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Connery would have raked in "the biggest single payday any actor has ever received" with $450 million. Yikes. "Even a veteran star like Sean can make a mistake so big that it ultimately causes him to lose out on a mind-blowing amount of money," the site explained. We shouldn't feel too bad for Connery, though, because he was worth an estimated $350 million at the time of his death.

Sean Connery, soccer star?

Sean Connery will live forever as a movie star, but on Earth 2, he is a soccer star. According to The Indian Express, the avid footballer — who played for the Scottish professional football club Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic in the 1950s — turned down an offer from Manchester United and decided to pursue acting full-time instead. 

In the book, Sean Connery: The Measure of a Man, former manager of Manchester United, Sir Matt Busby, spotted Connery playing against a local team while he was on tour with a stage musical, and offered him a contract of £25 (or a little over $32) a week on the spot. "I really wanted to accept because I loved football," Connery told his homeland's Mud and Glory magazine in 2005 (via The Indian Express). "But I realized that a top-class footballer could be over the hill by the age of 30, and I was already 23."

However, Connery's love for soccer never left him. He was in regular attendance at Celtic-Rangers matches in Scotland and even narrated the official 1982 World Cup film.

Sean Connery quit Hollywood because he was tired of 'idiots'

Sean Connery's last onscreen performance was in the critically-panned movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. After its massive flop back in 2003, Connery publicly slammed the ill-fated flick's director, Stephen Norrington. Per the Independent, the actor once claimed Norrington should have been "arrested for insanity," and revealed that the actor himself was forced to be "heavily involved in editing" in order to "salvage" the film the best he could. 

Connery announced his retirement three years later while accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award. Although he was asked by Steven Spielberg to reprise his role as Henry Jones, Sr. alongside onscreen son Harrison Ford in 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Connery found that "retirement is just too damned much fun," per BBC News

But in the end, Connery became tired of the Hollywood system. "I'm fed up with the idiots... the ever-widening gap between people who know how to make movies and the people who green-light the movies," he explained to The New Zealand Herald (via BBC News) in 2005. "I don't say they're all idiots. I'm just saying there's a lot of them that are very good at it." 

Sean Connery hated James Bond

Sean Connery made his screen debut as James Bond in 1962's Dr. No and portrayed the suave British agent in six more films in his twenty-year run as 007. And although some might argue that it was his most iconic role, Connery wasn't actually the biggest Bond fan. "I have always hated that damned James Bond — I'd like to kill him," he told The Observer (via the Independent) in 2004, saying he was "fed up" with the character.

One of Connery's best friends, actor Michael Caine, revealed in the book, Sean Connery: Neither Shaken Nor Stirred, that James Bond wasn't a subject he appreciated fans bringing up. "He was, and is, a much better actor than just playing James Bond, but he became synonymous with Bond," Caine said (via the Independent). "He'd be walking down the street and people would say, 'Look, there's James Bond.' That was particularly upsetting to him."

That being said, we assume Connery wouldn't like this statement from Eon Productions at the time of his October 2020 death: "He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond whose indelible entrance into cinema history began when he announced those unforgettable words — 'The name's Bond... James Bond.'"