Original James Bond, Sean Connery: From Thika, Kenya to Hollywood stardom!

He checked into a newly opened Kenyan hotel which had no life. Guests were hired and entire bill passed to Sean Connery!

Never Say, Never Again: Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle at Fourteen Falls in Thika Kenya shooting Tarzan‘s Greatest Adventure. The Falls, once a famous picnic site, has never been marketed as a place Connery shot the film before gaining fame as James Bond.

By Undercover Reporter


He never knew he would leave Thika, Kenya to the stardom of Hollywood playing James Bond, the suave and cold-hearted Commander 007.

Sean Connery, the original James Bond, was acting as a villain in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, the 1960 film shot in Kenya and Shepperton studios, London.

Connery, 90, died in the Bahamas “after a long illness bravely borne.”

After shooting Tarzan-the story of a beautiful American pilot pursuing a band of evil mercenary diamond hunters in a village- went to audition as James Bond, a character in the books of British novelist Ian Fleming. Connery bagged the role because Dana Broccoli, wife of director Albert Broccoli, thought his rugged looks had fitting sex appeal.

Connery returned to Kenya in 1973 for the Kenya Open Golf tournament at Muthaiga Golf Club, Nairobi. He was then the biggest, and until his death the most enduring face of James Bond movie franchise in which he preferred his Martinis ‘shaken but not stirred.’

Sean Connery who polished coffins and delivered milk for a living was in Kenya as a very loaded celebrity

You Only Live Twice: ‘After the Kenya Open, I will be holidaying here and if I see something that might fit into my forthcoming movies,’ Sean Connery, a handicap seven golfer, told journalist Kul Bhushan at the Muthaiga Golf Club (above) with son Nyay in 1973. Bhushan later opened Kul Graphics. Connery’s holiday was to have hilarious behind the scene shenanigans. {Photo credit: Natwar Chudasama/Coastweek}

The Readers’ Digest later recalled how Connery checked into a newly opened hotel without guests during low season. Knowing who Sean Connery was (he had been paid Sh100 million for Diamonds are Forever), the management hired guests to fill the rooms, act happy, go for swims, drink excessively at the bar and have second helpings at the buffet table. The entire bill was footed by Sean Connery!

Oh! you can’t forget the Bond Girls, those feline femme fatales with pun names like Pussy Galore

Quantum of Solace: Kenya Cinema was where urbanites met for movie dates. If a woman turned up, it meant chancing a kiss inside the dark movie hall when James Bond was saying: ‘You can shoot me, I have very slow threshold for death.’

The son of a factory worker and domestic cleaner, who polished coffins and delivered milk in his native Ireland, was in Kenya as a very loaded celebrity having acted in six of seven Bond films: Dr No, From Russian with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever-whose stunt and casino scenes, exotic locations, bombshell blondes, memorable villains and sardonic wit, accounts for their eternal box office success.

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Oh! you can’t forget the Bond Girls, feline femme fatales with pun names: Honey Ryder. Pussy Galore. Plenty O’toole. Holly Goodhead.

‘I am Bond, James Bond,’ was one of the most famous movie lines

Diamonds are Forever: Ursula Andress as Honey Rider in Dr No in 1962. Her emerging from ocean waters is one of the most famous Bond movie scenes which cemented the Bond Girl as an integral part of the plot.

 In fact, Kenyans of a certain generation were weaned on the cinematic magic of Connery, his sarcastic one-liners and the usual, “I am Bond, James Bond,” one of the most famous movie lines which he used in his last appearance as Bond in Never Say, Never Again.

That was in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s when films enjoyed their golden age in Kenya. Besides walk-in movies in open fields, urbanites met outside Kenya Cinema and the 20th Century in Nairobi for movie dates. Coffee and ‘chicken in a basket’ would follow later at Wimpy-the Java of the time-before cutting drinks at Cactus Bar!

Now Nairobi movie halls like Embassy, Globe and Nairobi Cinemas were long turned into churches!

Goldfinger: Sean Connery and Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger. Bond films were formulaic. They ended with a woman in a hotel room from where he phoned headquarters with excuses of unavailability. Goldfinger cost $3 million (Sh300 million). It raked in $125 million (Sh13 billion).

It was the age of the four-head cleaner video machine and buying when not borrowing tapes to watch movies at home most weekends. Now all these have been replace by DvDs, the Home Theatre and those stalls where young men in high school moustache ‘burn movies.’ Nairobi movie halls like Odeon, Cameo Embassy, Globe and Nairobi Cinemas were thus long turned into churches!

Connery could never have been actor. He had been offered £25 (Sh3, 500) a week to play for Manchester United

Shaken, not stirred: Sean Connery, though known for Bond films also won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Untouchables.

Yet, Connery could never have been actor. He had been offered £25 (Sh3, 500) a week to play for Manchester United when he was odd-jobbing at a theatre in 1953. Realizing football was short-lived, he changed careers to acting. “It was one of my more intelligent moves.”  The twice married father of one son was right: His net worth stood at $350 million (Sh38 billion).

Other actors who played Bond fell short, but Roger Moore came close with The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy

Thunderball: Sean Connery had been offered £25 (Sh3, 500) a week to play for Manchester United. But realizing he was only 23 with retirement at 30, he changed his mind.

Other actors who played Bond fell short. But Roger Moore came close with Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only, Moonraker and Octopussy.

George Lazenby played only one Bond: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service-which ruined his career.

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Then came Timothy Dalton (Living Daylights and License to Kill), Pierce Brosnan (Golden Eye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day) and the most unlikely of Bonds-Daniel Craig: Quantum of Solace, Skyfall and Spectre-which Bond buffs hardly consider part of vintage Bond films.

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