OK, Connery!

Sir Sean Connery, pictured at Edinburgh Filmhouse where he engaged in a brief but tasty discussion with TV’s Mark Cousins, ahead of a screening of Sidney Lumet’s searing THE HILL.

Fiona and I arrived good and early, as befitted the importance of the occasion, and immediately encountered my ex-student Jamie Stone in the bar (with current student Tali Yankelevich). Jamie, who had been presented a Connery Honorarium (or Connerarium, for short) at the recent Edinburgh International Film Festival, had turned up in hopes of grabbing a spare ticket, but there were non to be had. However, he had the edge on me in another respect, since he was newly returned from Mark Cousins’ and Tilda Swinton’s own film festival in Nairn, the Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams. He had driven up with filmmaker Robert Glassford, who brought a gigantic tent capable of sleeping eight. After taking in a film, they drove about looking for a quiet spot to pitch their canvas. Nothing. Deciding to bite the bullet and pay for a spot in a campsite, they then discovered that Robert, a brilliant but erratic talent, had forgotten to bring the tent-poles.

Fortunately Mark Cousins himself came to their rescue and offered them space in a camper van, and the following night they actually spent in the cinema itself, a ballroom equipped with beanbags in lieu of conventional seating. This sounded considerably more comfortable and practical than my own occasional fantasies of living full-time in a cinema, which usually involve burrowing into the popcorn like a rat and spending the night there, or else climbing into the screen like Buster Keaton on SHERLOCK, JR (or Mia Farrow in THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO) and discretely bedding down in the background of a scene. That big crane shot of all the wounded soldiers in GONE WITH THE WIND — I could lie down there and nobody would see me. I wouldn’t be bothering anyone. WHY CAN’T I?

Of the Film Fest experience itself, Jamie reported: “It was wonderful,” with a sort of magical glow about his face.

Grabbing seats in the auditorium, we found ourselves next to John Reid, who had brought his camera along. He gracefully supplied the snaps for this post. Confusion set in as we joined him, as Fiona initially¬†thought he was the boyfriend of a friend of ours’, then thought he was the boyfriend of a different friend, before we realised that he is in fact the identical twin of the second boyfriend. I was in a state of pre-Connery anticipation and unable to help much.

The show began with Mark C informing us that it was the day before Sir Sean’s birthday, so we welcomed him to the stage with what I believe they call a “rousing chorus” of Happy Birthday To You. Some slight confusion at the end as to whether to sing “Happy Birthday Dear Se-an,” or “Happy Birthday SIR Se-an,” or possibly “Happy Birthday Sean Connery,” which scans better but just sounds funny.

Sir S. was in fine fettle, particularly relaxed and amusing in front of an Edinburgh audience and talking to Mark, whom he knows quite well. He spoke of his long-term relationship with director Sidney Lumet “nothing sexual, though,” and the fact that he has stayed friends with probably more directors than actors. THE HILL was filed with ROBIN AND MARIAN and THE NAME OF THE ROSE as films which did not reach a wide audience upon release but which have enjoyed a long afterlife with intense admiration from devoted fans. “This film was made before half of you were probably — oh, there’s some old buggers here too.”

(The use of the B word, a Scots favourite which isn’t even considered particularly obscene here, reminded me of Connery’s work in CUBA, and his response to Brooke Adams’ angry “I see,” — “Well I’m buggered if I do!” That’s one of the best lovers’ quarrels ever filmed.)

While Mark sometimes prodded and guided The Great Man’s memory, Sir Sean clearly had vivid recall of the heat of the Spanish location, with the suffering that entailed for the cast, and the way Oswald Morris’s cinematography transformed it into a convincing North Africa, blowing out the sky into a white scream of nothingness. Of the stunning images, Connery also added, “It’s in black and white. Ask for half your money back now.”

Spoken like a True Scot.

Photos by John P. Reid.

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17 Responses to “OK, Connery!”

  1. Arthur S. Says:

    Sean Connery was an excellent actor. A really original star. His work in ”Marnie” should rank among his best work and Connery said once(in an interview with…Mark Cousins) that it was one of the few films where he personally read the script rather than having it gisted for him by a reader. He was pretty interested in working with Hitchcock.

    His work with Lumet and also with Lester is fantastic as well and he’s unforgettable in both ”The Man Who Would Be King” and ”Time Bandits”.

  2. Arthur S. Says:

    By the way the photgraphs are excellent.

    Oh and I thought it was obvious enough not to be mentioned but he was the best James Bond.

  3. I trust they’re showing The Offence, which is a career high point for both Connery and Lumet (who’s the liveliest 82 year-old I’ve ever met.)

  4. Yep, The Offence is screening. Lumet makes sensational use of drab and seemingly lifeless British council estate locations: places British filmmakers would likely dismiss as “uncinematic”, or render televisual with unimaginative framing.

  5. The Offence is the first part of On Dangerous Ground ratcheted up several degrees. It’s the meeting of the perfect sadits with the perfect masochist — neither aware of what makes themselves tick.

    If you get the chance, ask Connery what it was like working with Gus on Finding Forrester.

  6. Uncertain if I’ll get the chance to quiz SC in future — but I’ll try!

  7. Speaking of Edinburgh. :)

    “The most sparsely populated county in Wales is where you will find Britain’s happiest place, say researchers.

    Powys tops the list of 273 districts, with Edinburgh apparently the most miserable place in Britain.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7584321.stm

  8. dear god stuck in the country without tentpoles, probably pidgeon sized midges, creapy cinema, this is n’t a weekend away but a potential pitch for a horror film….

  9. Well, the cinema was really a ballroom. Sleeping in a ballroom doesn’t sound too bad. The spirit of the blitz, and all that.

    Yes, Edinburghers are quite miserable folk, often. Which is odd, considering the attractive surroundings on offer. Even if you live in a dump like us, you can see stunning beauty around every corner.

  10. “I may be laying the gutter but I’m looking at the stars.”

    Well of course he was Irish.

  11. A producer friend of mine appeared on a TV quiz show one time, and was given the quote to complete, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us…”
    He suggested, “…but some of us belong there.” That tells you a lot about the Edinburgh mindset!

  12. The morbid mood even seems to affect animals – Greyfriars Bobby was particularly melancholy (or Collie!)

  13. Well, Bobby was actually a terrier… I think it’s Disney turned him into a distaff Lassie. My costume designer worked on a recent version of the tale. There’s a Greyfriars Robbie in Lewton’s The Body Snatcher, too. Keep meaning to write about that one.

  14. I think the middle classes and comfortably off are quite cheeful. Its the drink sodden, drug taking under class who are miserable in Edinburgh living on sink estates on the perfifery (sp?) and looking onto the delights of Edinburgh. It must have actually been a properly thought out study to get such a negative result for Edinburgh. We do come out quite highly for quality of life studies though…

  15. There are certainly some incredibly poor and depressing areas here. I kind of despise the town council for not doing more.

  16. Jose Castilho Says:

    Hey David,

    How are you?
    I came across your blog by chance, and opened to check if it was you. I am here, still in Dublin, and you? How is life?

    Jose

  17. Life is good. Am I the right David Cairns? When did we meet? Forgive me, my memory for anything not a movie is terrible.

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