Sean Connery Earns AFI's Highest Honor

by | November 11, 2005 | Comments

Thanks to ComingSoon.net for sharing a press release from the American Film Institute: Sir Sean Connery has been selected by the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Board of Trustees to receive the 34th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film, it was announced today by Sir Howard Stringer, chair of the AFI Board of Trustees.

The award will be presented to Connery at a gala tribute in Los Angeles on June 8, 2006.

"Sir Sean Connery is an international film icon," said Stringer. "Though best remembered for creating one of the great film heroes of all time, his talents transcend typecasting, and his body of work not only stands the test of time, but illuminates a career more extraordinary than James Bond himself. Sir Sean is an artist of the highest order, and AFI is honored to present him with its 34th Life Achievement Award."

"In Sir Sean, AFI has found a perfect honoree for its Life Achievement Award," added Bonnie Hammer, President, USA Network and SCI FI Channel. "A celebration of his outstanding work guarantees a tribute as entertaining as it is deserved."

USA Network will broadcast the 34th AFI Life Achievement Award tribute in June 2006. Bob Gazzale, who served as executive producer and writer of AFI’s Tributes to George Lucas, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro, will continue in these roles.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Sean Connery grew up in a two-room flat, working odd jobs from a young age to earn extra money for his family. After three years in the navy he played football (soccer) semi-professionally, but it was his hobby of weightlifting that pushed him into the spotlight. Connery represented Scotland in the Mr. Universe pageant and shortly thereafter began to model. He finally caught the acting bug and entered the theater, touring with "South Pacific."

Connery first hit the big screen in "Lilacs in the Spring," in 1954. He arrived to screens in America with "Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure" and "Darby O’ Gill and the Little People," both in 1959.

With a bit part in the 1962 WWII epic "The Longest Day," he could have been lost amongst the film’s star-studded cast, but of course he wasn’t, and ‘James Bond’ was found. Harry Saltzman may have recognized Connery’s refined disposition, but it was Cubby Broccoli that glanced out the window and noticed this man slinking down a street in London, "like a panther." It was then that he knew he had found Bond. And, though Ian Fleming‘s image of James Bond may not resemble Sean Connery, to the world he soon would be the iconic Bond of the big screen.

Cast as Agent 007 in "Dr. No," Connery inaugurated one of the longest-running series in film history. He starred as Bond in "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," "Diamonds are Forever" and "Never Say Never Again." His salary from "Diamonds are Forever" went to kick-start the Scottish International Education Trust, which helps many young Scottish students fund their education. The trust also funds a drama chair at Glasgow’s Strathclyde University.

Connery later starred in Alfred Hitchcock‘s "Marnie," as well as in such films as "Woman of Straw," "The Hill," "The Red Tent," "Murder on the Orient Express," "The Wind and the Lion," "The Man Who Would be King," "Robin and Marian," "A Bridge Too Far," "Outland," "Zardoz," "Five Days One Summer," "Meteor," "The Name of the Rose," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "The Russia House," "The Hunt for Red October," "Medicine Man," "Rising Sun," "Just Cause," "First Knight" and "The Avengers."

Connery headlined opposite Nicolas Cage in the 1996 summer blockbuster hit "The Rock," and provided the voice and personality for the animated dragon in "Dragonheart." He also led an all-star cast in Miramax’s "Playing by Heart," working alongside Gena Rowlands, Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson and Dennis Quaid. Following, Connery produced Twentieth Century Fox’s thriller "Entrapment," in which he starred opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones and then produced and starred in "Finding Forrester" which was directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starred newcomer Rob Brown. Connery next starred in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," which was released in July 2003 by Twentieth Century Fox.

In addition to receiving both the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and the Golden Globe Award in 1987 for his performance in "The Untouchables," Connery has received numerous other accolades. They include, among others, the Legion d’Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (the highest honors given in France), and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Best Actor award for "The Name of the Rose" in 1987, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award — special BAFTA silver mask presented by H.R.H. Princess Anne to a British actor or actress who has made an outstanding contribution to world cinema — presented in 1990.

In 1995 he was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field" given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at its annual Golden Globe Awards. In 1997, Connery was honored with a Gala Tribute by the Film Society of Lincoln Center for his lifetime career and, in April 1998, BAFTA honored him with their highest award, The British Academy Fellowship. In 1999, Connery was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient and in 2000 he was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Connery’s proudest moment, and in his mind, his greatest honor to date, came when he received the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1991.

The highest honor given for a career in film, the AFI Life Achievement Award was established by the AFI Board of Trustees on February 26, 1973. It is presented to a single honoree each year based on the following criteria as mandated through a resolution passed by the AFI Board of Trustees:

"The recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art; whose accomplishment has been acknowledged by scholars, critics, professional peers and the general public; and whose work has stood the test of time."

In 1993, the trustees extended the criteria to encompass "individuals with active careers and work of significance yet to be accomplished."

Sir Sean Connery joins an esteemed group of individuals who have been chosen for this distinguished honor since its inception in 1973.

1973 John Ford
1974 James Cagney
1975 Orson Welles
1976 William Wyler
1977 Bette Davis
1978 Henry Fonda
1979 Alfred Hitchcock
1980 James Stewart
1981 Fred Astaire
1982 Frank Capra
1983 John Huston
1984 Lillian Gish
1985 Gene Kelly
1986 Billy Wilder
1987 Barbara Stanwyck
1988 Jack Lemmon
1989 Gregory Peck
1990 Sir David Lean
1991 Kirk Douglas
1992 Sidney Poitier
1993 Elizabeth Taylor
1994 Jack Nicholson
1995 Steven Spielberg
1996 Clint Eastwood
1997 Martin Scorsese
1998 Robert Wise
1999 Dustin Hoffman
2000 Harrison Ford
2001 Barbra Streisand
2002 Tom Hanks
2003 Robert De Niro
2004 Meryl Streep
2005 George Lucas

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