There’s a good reason Sir Thomas Sean Connery was dubbed “Scotland’s Greatest Living National Treasure” back in 2011. Besides charming the world as James Bond for about twenty years, the guy’s proven through a number of roles that he’s just flat out cool.
Though he’s entertained us on the big screen for about six decades, Connery didn’t always want to be an actor. In fact, he had other aspirations early in life — aspirations that came in handy one night after a tense confrontation in a pool hall…
It was sometime in the early 1950s, and Sean Connery was playing billiards and chatting up a few lovely ladies at a crowded pool hall on Lothian Street in Edinburgh. As the story goes, he was wearing a really nice leather jacket.
What Connery didn’t realize was this pool hall sat squarely in the territory of the Valdor street gang, leather-clad tough guys who didn’t take kindly to new faces schmoozing up women — and wearing nice jackets — on their turf.
Edwardian Teddy Boy
In fact, Connery might’ve reconsidered his interest in billiards and women had he known the Valdor gang, through violence and terror, had earned a reputation as gentlemen you didn’t exactly want to bring home to meet your parents.
Anyhow, one of the Valdor boys walked up to young Connery, grabbed his jacket — which he’d taken off while playing — and threw it on the ground. His message to Connery was clear: get out of here, pretty boy.
A weaker man — or maybe a more sensible one — might’ve withered at this. He might’ve gathered his crumpled jacket from the floor, given a subtle nod to his friends, and run out the front door. Sean Connery did not do this.
Instead, Connery raised his pool cue like a knight might raise a sword. “I’ll give you five seconds to put that back,” Connery said, nodding to his jacket, his knuckles turning white as he clenched his weapon of choice.
Perhaps a tense staredown followed. Perhaps the next few seconds felt like half a century to the Valdor boy, who considered what the repercussions might be if he sunk a fist into the future James Bond’s jaw right there.
Right then, however, the gangster backed down. As he fled the club, thoughts of revenge raced through his mind. There was no possible way, he concluded, someone could come into his pool hall and disrespect him like that.
So the gangster gathered five friends, and a few days later, the group of six men tracked Connery down to the Fountainbridge Palais, a nightclub where Connery worked as a bouncer.
The plan for the gangsters was simple: they would walk up to Connery, pummel him until his face looked like a pizza that’d been dropped off a ten-story building, and then leave. Maybe they’d even get to symbolically swipe his jacket.
But there were a few things that these gangsters didn’t take into account when they hatched their revenge plot. See, while we might know Connery as an actor — an artist — back then, he had other ambitions.
At the age of 18, Sean Connery started training to become a bodybuilder. After two years, he started training with a former gym instructor for the British Army. To fund his ambitions, he took on labor-heavy jobs.
He lugged bottles as a milkman, swam long distances as a lifeguard, and kept the peace throughout clubs and bars in Scotland as a bouncer. In 1950, strapping young lad that he was, he competed for Scotland in the Mr. Universe contest.
He won third place, but even so, there was no denying Connery’s strength and size. As his good friend and fellow actor Michael Caine said, at this time, Connery looked like a “Scottish Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
It was this absolute monster of a man the Valdor gang approached outside the nightclub. When they made their intentions for a fight clear, Connery, a non-violent guy by all accounts, climbed onto a 15-foot high balcony, hoping to escape.
The Valdor gang pursued, however, and before Connery knew it, he was on a balcony 15-feet up with nowhere to hide. He couldn’t run, so now there was just one more option left: fight.
And fight he did. At one point, with the powerful calloused hands of a champion weightlifter, Connery grabbed one of the gangsters by the throat and squeezed; with the other hand, he grabbed another by the biceps.
In total control of these two gangsters, he slammed their heads together. The ensuing crack of their skulls colliding probably sounded something like banging two coconuts together.
Nearly 70 years later, we only know a few details from the fight. All surviving eyewitness accounts, however, make the same claim: Sean Connery absolutely annihilated these six gangsters.
When the fighting finished, Sean Connery stood tall over the six leather-clad men. This had an odd effect on the gangsters. So used to their utter dominance of the streets, they couldn’t help but respect the man who’d kicked all of their butts.
So the Valdor gang, flushed with respect for Connery, offered him a spot within their ranks. He politely declined, but the Valdor gang knew he was someone to be respected. And this all made Connery’s role as James Bond all the more obvious.
Of course, there’s no talking about Bond without talking about Bond girls. Sometimes the cunning enemy, other times the sharp sidekick, these iconic women have defined the Bond franchise over the years. But once they left the side of 007, they forged careers all their own…
Diana Rigg: Prior to playing Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Rigg was a wildly successful actress. Today, you might recognize her as the formidable Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones.
Eunice Gayson: Dubbed the first-ever “Bond girl,” Gayson, who played Sylvia Trench, starred in the first two franchise films, Dr. No and From Russia With Love. In her older age, Gayson appeared as the grandmother in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
Grace Jones: Boasting a long résumé in modeling, acting, and music Jones, who played May Day in A View to a Kill, is better recognized as a pioneer for women in rock. In 2008 Jones was presented the Q Idol Award for influencing the drag scene.
Shirley Eaton: She appeared in Goldfinger painted head to toe in gold! Several years later, the Jill Masterson actress opted to make raising her family her main job.
Lana Wood: The sister of the late-Natalie Wood portrayed Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever. She’s since starred in over 20 films and 300 TV episodes including The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Starsky & Hutch, and Bonanza.
Eon Productions / NBC
Honor Blackman: Well-known in the industry when she played the infamous Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, Blackman continued her post-Bond career in movies, TV, music, and theater. Later, after diving into politics, she criticized former-Bond Sean Connery publicly for his politics.
Jill St. John: Starring alongside Wood as Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever was the height of St. John’s acting career. Post-Bond, she transitioned to a career of cooking and homemaking, appearing frequently on Good Morning America.
Akiko Wakabayashi: The King Kong vs. Godzilla star was cast for a minor role in You Only Live Twice. but after her talent pleasantly surprised the producers, they bumped her up to the role of Suki. Until Wakabayashi, all of the “Bond girls” had been European.
Jane Seymour: In Live and Let Die, Seymour played Bond’s sultry love interest, Solitaire, and made every fan fall in love with her. She went on to construct a successful TV and movie career but left Hollywood after constant sexual harassment.
Barbara Bach: After dropping out of school at 16 years old to start a film career, she caught the eye of one franchise producer and was cast as Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me. Several years later, she caught the eye of Ringo Starr — her current husband.
Reddit / Kevin Mazur via WireImage
Lois Chiles: Because of roles in The Great Gatsby and Death on the Nile, Chiles was cast as Dr. Holly Goodhead in Moonraker. In 1997, she made a cameo in the Bond spoof, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, but her scene was cut.
Lynn-Holly Johnson: After winning a silver medal in the 1974 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, Johnson was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Ice Castles. This attention resulted in transforming into “Bond girl” Bibi Dahl in For Your Eyes Only. By the mid-90s, she had quit acting to focus on her family.
Corinne Cléry: On the American screen, this French-born actress’s most notable role was Corinne Dufour in Moonraker. Most recently, Cléry joined housemates on season two of Grande Fratello VIP, the Italian adaptation of Celebrity Big Brother.
Eon Productions / Fandango
Gloria Hendry: Earning the title as the first African-American “Bond girl,” Hendry starred alongside Seymour in Live and Let Die as Rosie Carver, a fierce CIA agent. Although she later assumed smaller roles, Hendry never found much success outside of Bond.
Eon Productions / Anders Frejdh
Alison Doody: As the youngest “Bond girl” to date, Doody was just 18 when she played Jenny Flex in A View to a Kill. After the movie aired, Doody was named one of the 12 Promising New Actors of 1986 by John Willis’ Screen World!
Tanya Roberts: Prior to playing Stacey Sutton in A View to a Kill, the superstar played TV Julie Rogers in Charlie’s Angels. Most recently, Roberts played the character Midge on That ’70s Show, but left before the series ended because her husband fell terminally ill.
Eon Productions / Fox
Maryam d’Abo: Cast as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights, d’Abo went on to co-write a tribute to the franchise titled Bond Girls are Forever. The book inspired a documentary, released in 2002, featuring d’Abo and other “Bond Girls.”
Pinterest / Les Wilson
Carey Lowell: While working as a model for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein in New York City, Lowell was cast as agent Pam Bouvier in A License to Kill. Post-Bond, Lowell played Assistant District Attorney Jamie Ross on the hit TV drama Law & Order.
Eon Productions / NBC
Famke Janssen: Her role as Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye is actually one of Janssen’s least impressive roles. Notably, she played Jean Grey in several of the X-Men franchise films, Ava Moore in the TV show Nip/Tuck, and Lenore Mills in the Taken trilogy.
Eon Productions / EuropaCorp
Carole Bouquet: The lethal Melina Havelock in For Your Eyes Only, Bouquet has starred in over 40 movies, winning Best Actress at the César Awards for her role in the 1989 film Too Beautiful for You and joining the competition jury for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Britt Ekland: The Swedish-born actress played Mary Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun. Her high-profile marriage to Peter Sellers made her one of the most photographed celebs during the ’70s, and in her later career, she worked mainly in TV and stage.
Claudine Auger: After earning titles like Miss France Monde and 1958 Miss World first-runner up Auger played “Domino” Derval in the 1965 film Thunderball. Although big in Europe, Auger never was able to solidify her career across the Atlantic.
Daniela Bianchi: Before joining the franchise, Bianchi was first runner-up in the 1960 Miss Universe pageant. The media attention helped her land the role of Tatiana Romanova in From Russia with Love.
Eon Productions / Gianfilippo Pedote