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Former James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery dies aged 90

The original 007 is best known for portraying Ian Flemming's fictional British spy but also starred in Highlander and won an Oscar for The Untouchables.

Former James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery dies aged 90

Scottish movie legend Sir Sean Connery, who shot to international stardom as British secret agent James Bond and went on to dominate the silver screen for four decades, has died aged 90.

Connery was raised in near poverty in the slums of Edinburgh and worked as a coffin polisher, milkman and lifeguard before his bodybuilding hobby helped launch an acting career that made him one of the world's biggest stars.

The original Bond

He will be remembered first as British agent 007, the character created by novelist Ian Fleming and immortalized by Connery in films starting with "“Dr. No" in 1962.

As Bond, his debonair manner and wry humour in foiling flamboyant villains and cavorting with beautiful women belied a darker, violent edge, and he crafted a depth of character that set the standard for those who followed him in the role.

He would introduce himself in the movies with the signature line, "Bond - James Bond." But Connery was unhappy being defined by the role and once said he "hated that damned James Bond".

Tall and handsome, Connery played a series of noteworthy roles besides Bond and won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a tough Chicago cop in “"The Untouchables" (1987).

Connery was an ardent supporter of Scotland's independence and had the words "Scotland Forever" tattooed on his arm while serving in the Royal Navy. When he was knighted at the age of 69 by Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 2000 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, he wore full Scottish dress including the green-and-black plaid kilt of his mother's MacLeod clan.

"Fed up dealing with idiots"

Some noteworthy non-Bond films included director Alfred Hitchcock's "Marnie" (1964), "The Wind and the Lion" (1975) with Candice Bergen, director John Huston's "The Man Who Would be

King" (1975) with Michael Caine, director Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989) and the Cold War tale "The Hunt for Red October" (1990).

Fans of alternative cinema will always remember him starring as the "Brutal Exterminator" Zed in John Boorman's mind-bending fantasy epic "Zardoz" (1974), where a heavily moustachioed Connery spent much of the movie running around in a skimpy red loin-cloth, thigh-high leather boots and a pony tail.

Connery retired from movies after disputes with the director of his final outing, the forgettable "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in 2003.

"I get fed up dealing with idiots," he said.

The return of 007

The Bond franchise was still going strong more than five decades after Connery started it. The lavishly produced movies, packed with high-tech gadgetry and spectacular effects, broke box office records and grossed hundreds of millions of dollars.

After the smashing success of "Dr. No," more Bond movies followed for Connery in quick succession: "From Russia with Love" (1963), “"Goldfinger" (1964), “"Thunderball" (1965) and "“You Only Live Twice" (1967).

Australian actor George Lazenby succeeded him as Bond in “"On Her Majesty's Secret Service" in 1969. But without Connery it lacked what the public wanted and he was lured back in 1971 for "“Diamonds Are Forever" with temptations that included a slice of the profits, which he said would go to a Scottish educational trust. He insisted it would be his last time as Bond.

Twelve years later, at age 53, Connery was back as 007 in "“Never Say Never Again" (1983), an independent production that enraged his old mentor, producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli.

"He defined an era and a style"

Some of the biggest names of the silver screen have made their tributes to Connery since news of his death was first released on Saturday morning. The current Bond, Daniel Craig, gave a statement calling the first Bond "one of the greats of cinema"

“Sir Sean Connery will be remembered as Bond and so much more. He defined an era and a style. The wit and charm he portrayed on screen could be measured in mega watts; he helped create the modern blockbuster."

Dame Shirley Bassey, who sang the title song from the 1964 film Goldfinger, paid tribute to the film legend, saying: "I'm incredibly saddened to hear of Sean's passing. My thoughts are with his family. He was a wonderful person, a true gentleman and we will be forever connected by Bond."