Mr. Connery’s magnetism did not diminish as he got older. In 1989, when he was 59 years old and had long thrown his James Bond nipple, People magazine anointed him “the sexiest man in the world.” His response was to growl that few men are sexy when they’re dead.
“The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), directed by John Huston, in which Mr. Connery played a British soldier who sets out to plunder a country and is taken for a god, was among the highlights of his second act. When Mr Huston first attempted to finance a film based on Rudyard Kipling’s short story of the same name 20 years earlier, he intended to play Danny Dravot, the exuberant thug who is fatally starting to believe. in his own greatness, for Clark Gable, the undisputed king of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s. (The role of his partner Peachy Carnehan, played by Michael Caine, was originally intended for Humphrey Bogart.) Mr. Connery was, wrote The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, “a much better Danny than Gable would ever have been.”
She continued, “With the exception of the glorious exceptions of Brando and Olivier, there is no movie actor I prefer to watch than Sean Connery. His vitality can make him the most richly masculine of all English speaking actors. Few actors, she added, “are as subconsciously stupid as Connery is willing to be – as he is. enjoys being.”
If he liked being silly on screen, Mr. Connery was darker and more complex when the arc lights were off. Always afraid of being cheated, he audited the books of almost all of his films and sued everyone he thought was taking advantage of him, from his business manager to the producers of the Bond films.
In 1978, he and Mr. Caine brought an action against Allied Artists, the distributor of “The Man Who Would Be King,” for the calculation of their share of the film’s proceeds. (The case was settled out of court.) He was still there in 2002, suing producer Peter Guber and Mandalay Pictures for abandoning “End Game,” a CIA thriller in which Mr. Connery was scheduled to star. He later ditched the costume.
The enduring resentment behind his many lawsuits, which he carried with him since childhood, has also been a key to his success as an actor.