Where did Sean Connery – our biggest Hollywood star – get that famous voice. The tones that have melted millions of women the world over. The most – and worst – imitated accent.
Certainly not Edinburgh, the city of his birth. It’s most definitely not the voice of a working-class milkman. The genuine Edinburgh twang has an insouciant quality, that rise at the end of a sentence that ends in a question, but not a question.
Neither is it the voice of a Scotsman who went to Eton then Tony Blair’s old school Fettes. The back story that James Bond author Ian Fleming gave his famous spy to accommodate casting Sean in the role that defined him. The upmarket public school boy Scot is altogether more refined, more mellow.
No. Sean’s voice is all his own. At its best, a deep rich drawl that can carry the threat of violence and then seduction. A man not to be trifled with. His hallmark, used for every role from James Bond to a Russian submariner to Indiana Jones’ dad. It helps that he is uncommonly handsome.
And something the non-Scots ear would ever pick up – almost effeminate in quieter moments. Listen to him when he is making a point, trying to get his story over. His voice lightens. You need to be local to pick it up. But it is definitely effeminate.
He is a fantastic man. I killed one of the great scoops he gave me over dinner. I also got him within an ace of writing his autobiography with a friend of mine. His publishers picked another man, the chemistry wasn’t there, it never got done.
The story. It was the week of the Dunblane shooting. Sean was out dining with venerable banker Sir Angus Grossart. The pair joined our table, both in good sorts. Sean banged the table: “They need to ban handguns in this country right now or we’ll end up like America”. Jeeso. 007. The spy naked without his Walther PPK. The man who nailed the man with the golden gun and bevy of Bond beauties. Now he wants the government to act decisively after the Dunblane tragedy.
I would have had him up Downing Street with a million signatures and a grateful Prime Minister. Held the front page and News at Ten for weeks.
Then he warmed to the subject. “And we send the Army into Pilton, line the drug pushers up against the wall and shoot them all”. Aha.
He wanted to do his autobiography and whittled the potential collaborators down to two. A well-known author and a friend of mine James Dalrymple, a spectacular features writer who graced The Independent and The Sunday Times. Same background as Sean. Working class, red Clydeside in Jim’s case, a quick fisted genius whose talent took him to the top. A man’s man. They got on like a house on fire.
Wasn’t to be. And neither was the book. Sean phoned me later apologetically. Jim phoned me ecstatic to have spent time with a hero.
I last saw him in a week they ran one of his old movies Zardos. He played the hero dressed most of the film in a pair of pink grundies. “A yes. Shzardosh. That was an interesting wardrobe fitting”. The twinkle suggested it was a good memory.
So today he turns 90. Our greatest living Scot? Yes of course, Sir Alex Ferguson up there with him. Men who knew how to keep their guard up. Ask Sean’s caddies if he plays golf for fun. Of course he does – most of all he plays to win.
If you haven’t heard the Petula Clark story. It’s not true, but it’s bloody funny. Tell you over a drink some time.
Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, and a Director of Trinity Mirror publications. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. Based in Scotland, he is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives, and a media adviser.