Sean Connery’s James Bond Would Have Failed Without Director Terence Young


With Daniel Craig bowing out as 007, we're all awaiting the announcement of a new James Bond. Taron Egerton might be out of the running, but there are still plenty of names doing the rounds as potential Craig replacements. Thus far, longtime Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have revealed little about their plans beyond confirming they're looking for a 10 to 12 year commitment from the new Bond actor. But by this point, whoever does take on the super-spy's mantle will have the pressure of trying to put a new spin on a character who's been a cultural mainstay for 60 years.

Back in 1962, however, when the first Bond movie, "Dr. No" debuted, audiences hadn't seen anything like Bond before. Neither had they seen an actor combine classic movie star sophistication with a more rough-edged demeanor in the way Sean Connery did. The leading man had taken the long road to acting, growing up in working-class Fountainbridge and working as a milkman and butcher's assistant before he'd even hit the age of 10. Connery wouldn't become an actor until his short stint in the Royal Navy abruptly ended in him being discharged on medical grounds, and the young Scot considered a career in professional soccer. By the time he did enter showbusiness and was eventually chosen to portray James Bond, he had all the rugged charisma you might want from such an actor, and hardly any of the equally important cool sophistication.

Which meant he needed some help in order to become the iconic on-screen version of Bond that we all know. And while you might think he found it in the pages of Ian Fleming's books on which the films were based, it actually came from the director of "Dr. No," Terrence Young.

Terrence Young The 'Great Bon Vivant'

Made on a budget of $1 million, "Dr. No" was, as Sean Connery told the BBC, a "poverty-stricken production." Though it eventually came to be seen as a classic and kicked off cinema's most enduring franchise, at the time it was a gamble for United Artists. Bond was yet to command the kind of cultural recognition he does today, and the studio kept producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli on a tight leash. But while the project itself may have struggled to match the classiness of its central character, its director certainly didn't.

In fact, if you ask Connery, it was Terrence Young that was responsible for much of Bond's seemingly effortless style. The actor's working-class roots had provided him with all the braun necessary to play England's greatest spy, but Young's influence was key in adding the sly sophistication Connery's Bond would become known for. As the actor told Indiewire:

"Terence's contributions were enormous because he was always a great bon vivant. He was very much up on the latest shirts and blazers and was very elegant himself — whether he had money or not — and all the clubs and that kind of establishment. And also he understood what looked good — the right cut of suits and all that stuff, which I must say was not that particularly interesting for me. But he got me a rack of clothes and, as they say, could get me to look convincingly dangerous in the act of playing it."

That wasn't the first time Connery credited his "Dr. No" director with shaping his portrayal of Bond. In a previous BBC interview, he noted how Ian Fleming was, "very bright, very erudite" but, "a real snob," and how Young's humor and sophistication was, "the greatest influence."

Bond's Enduring Style

Young, who'd been directing since 1948, actually had an upbringing more befitting of James Bond than Connery's. Born in Shanghai as the son of a Municipal Police commissioner, his family soon moved to England where he studied at London's Harrow School and Cambridge University before serving as a tank commander in the Irish Guards. All of which seemingly prepared him to bring a worldly and urbane sensibility to Bond through his influence on the more rugged Sean Connery.

Young also seemed to understand just how important it was for the character to display an unmatched sense of style. In his BBC interview Connery recalled how the director took him on a shopping trip that turned out to be "an eye-opener" as, "the budget on the clothes was astronomical in relation to the film." While set designers were making paintings out of cardboard and projecting stock footage of fish onto walls rather than using real fish tanks just to stay within budget, Young and Connery were spending huge amounts on the latest fashion for their super-spy to model.

But that proved to be an inspired tactic. Bond would become somewhat of a style icon in the years after "Dr. No" — a status that has only grown with time. Daniel Craig recently paid respect to Connery's style, telling GQ that the actor, "knew how to wear a suit," and today the internet is filled with articles on James Bond's outfits, proving that part of the character's enduring appeal is his impeccable dress sense. Of course, the irony is that Connery did not, in fact, know how to wear a suit until Terrence Young came along. It's even been reported that the director told Connery to sleep in his suits in order to fully embrace the attire.

'You Wear It With Such Disdain'

It's hard to overstate the influence of Terrence Young, especially considering he's hardly mentioned with the same frequency as Connery in conversations about the "definitive Bond." The director was the genesis for so much of what we now know as 007 that, as "Dr. No" editor Peter Hunt once said, "Terence Young could have played James Bond. It was his style and his schooling of Sean that really made James Bond James Bond."

In reality, it was the melding of Connery's style with Young's that created the blueprint that has influenced every James Bond movie since. Interestingly enough, the actor's statement to Indiewire that the intricacies of tailoring and style were "not that particularly interesting for [him]" recalls a line from Eva Green's Vesper Lynd in 2006's "Casino Royale." When she and Daniel Craig's 007 first meet, she comments on Bond's suit and notes how he "wears it with such disdain."

Which is exactly the kind of energy Connery projected in his Bond run, seemingly regarding the whole affair with a very slight disdain, which when combined with his working-class background, gave his portrayal that all-important edge. Indeed, being cast as Bond proved to be a double-edged sword for the actor. And once you know how much of his on-screen persona and style was Terrence Young's influence, it becomes obvious that Connery clearly did see the fancy suits and upper-class posturing as a bit silly — which just reinforces how integral Young was to Bond's success. If it weren't for him, Connery might not have had as much to slyly smirk at, and we wouldn't love him as much as we do for it.

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The post Sean Connery's James Bond Would Have Failed Without Director Terence Young appeared first on /Film.

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