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Sir Sean Connery ‘told to lose Scots accent’

Sir Sean Connery, pictured around the time he starred in Rakoff's production. Picture: TSPL

Sir Sean Connery, pictured around the time he starred in Rakoff's production. Picture: TSPL

  • by ANGUS HOWARTH
 

HE has one of the most recognisable voices in the world, which has left women swooning for decades.

But now it has been revealed that Oscar winner Sean Connery was warned at the start of his acting career that his trademark Edinburgh accent was too “off-putting” for him to ever make it big.

Acclaimed director and producer Alvin Rakoff gave Connery his big acting break in the 1950s as washed-up boxer Harlan McClintock in BBC drama Requiem for a Heavyweight.

Rakoff recalled the incident for the first time yesterday.

Now 87, he admitted that he almost passed over him for the role because Connery was “never destined for bigger things” as long as he held on to his Scottish accent.

The director said: “I first met Sean Connery as a jobbing actor in his mid-20s. He had the looks and was a very likeable young man who would do anything for you, but I couldn’t see him as a star in the making.

“He’d been a walk-on for me and others in many live TV dramas in the mid-1950s, but we steered clear of giving him roles with much dialogue because of his accent.

“It was a thick Scottish brogue and we felt it wouldn’t work well with the productions we were making. In fact, we thought it would be off-putting and distracting, and difficult for viewers to understand.

“How wrong we all were.”

Rakoff met Connery in the early 1950s, shortly after he moved from his native Canada to work for the BBC. Impressed by the actor’s presence and charisma he started using him for walk-ons in live TV productions.

But it was only when he found himself without an actor to play the lead in the British adaptation of teleplay Requiem for a Boxer that he considered him for a bigger role.

Rakoff recalled the day at the launch of his first novel, The Seven Einsteins.

He said: “In 1957 I was commissioned by the BBC to make a British adaptation of Requiem for a Boxer, which had proven a huge hit on American TV with Jack Palance in the main role.

“Palance was set to fly to the UK to reprise his role but he pulled out at the last minute and I had one weekend to find a replacement.

“Connery ultimately shone in the part, and it opened the door to bigger and better things, including Hollywood, but I didn’t even think about casting him until my wife at the time, Jacqueline Hill, suggested it. At first I thought she had to be kidding. Sean had the build and was very popular with the ladies, but I thought his trademark Scottish hiss would ruin the drama.

“It was only after a read-through with him, where he toned down the Scottish accent, that I realised he actually had the acting chops to make the part his own, and be a star.”

At the launch of his autobiography, Being A Scot, at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2008 Connery, 83, himself revealed that he was urged as a young actor by his friend Robert Henderson to drop his Edinburgh lilt.

Sir Sean said: “He told me the first thing I would have to do is get rid of the accent, because it’s too pronounced. For example, in South Pacific, Millicent Martin thought I was Polish.”

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Rakoff has directed more than 100 TV plays, as well as a dozen feature films and numerous stage productions.

His novel The Seven Einsteins is about a secret government plot to clone a clutch of Albert Einsteins, and Rakoff is currently in talks to turn it into a movie.

 

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