Join Frank, Tom, and the esteemed Mac McSharry as we bring Podcasting Them Softly’s For Your Ears Only and 3 for 3 full circle! We discuss three “undercard” films of Sean Connery’s at length, discuss his contribution to film, along with some of our other non-Bond films that didn’t make our respective selections! Upcoming podcasts from the three of us include Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as James Bond in DIE ANOTHER DAY and then a brand new 3 for 3 where we discuss our three favorite character actors.
What is there to say about Sean Connery other than he was a legend, an iconic totem who terraformed the landscape of cinema throughout his career and left us with a rogues gallery of tough guys, adventurers, action heroes and memorable starring roles to revisit. Here are my top ten favourite performances from Sean!
10. Draco in Rob Cohen’s Dragonheart
It’s only his voice here, but he voices a great majestic dragon and gets to banter with Dennis Quaid for the whole film, their chemistry is terrific. It’s one of the few times he did voiceover work which is odd because he’s got the pipes for it and would have done very well extensively. His pronunciation of “look to the stars” has always stuck in my mind since seeing this wonderful fantasy film as a kid.
9. Marshall William T. O’Niel in Peter Hyams’ Outland
This is a fairly standard western that just happens to be set in space, where plays the lone lawman standing up to corporate corruption on his own. There’s something so elemental about the sight of uniformed Sean, shotgun in hand dishing out justice on one of Jupiter’s moons, and he rocks the strong, silent, lethal avenger role here nicely.
8. Allan Quatermain in Stephen Norrington’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alright so this film doesn’t have the best reputation but I really enjoy it, so there. Sean is terrific as the gruff literary figure and blusters his way through several delightfully preposterous action set pieces with a world weary swash and buckle that sells the material. Who cares if he himself has stated in interviews he had no idea what he was even filming because the script was all over the place, he looks damned dashing in the costume flinging around six guns, guzzling from a flask and making impossible shots from a highly stylized long rifle.
7. Henry Jones in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
He makes the perfect dysfunctional father to Harrison Ford’s Indy here and their relationship is exactly what you’d expect from such an extreme lifestyle. My personal favourite moment is when he literally crashes an enemy plane from the ground by scaring up a flock of seagulls to obscure its visibility using his umbrella, and looks damned pleased with himself about it after too.
6. Marko Ramius in John McTiernan’s The Hunt For Red October
Some thought it odd to cast a Scot as a Russian submarine captain but he does such brilliant job as a morally shrouded man of fierce conviction and brutal resolve that we don’t even care about accents or ethnicity, just authenticity and nuance in performance.
5. Jim Malone in Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables
The toughest Irish cop in prohibition era Chicago, Malone is a true bruiser tasked with training Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his rogue unit, and he doesn’t fuck around either. “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.” His delivery of those lines is light, breezy but laced with lethality that has you believing every word.
4. John Connor in Philip Kaufman’s Rising Sun
This is an underrated performance in an even more underrated film and if you’re doing a Connery retrospective right now after he’s passed, it’s a must. There’s a murder among the elite Japanese community of LA, and Connor is a culturally adept guru who knows how to navigate such waters. It’s a terrific piece of acting with meaty dialogue, great character work and chemistry alongside Wesley Snipes.
3. Ramirez in Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander
I can’t imagine the fun he must have had playing this character, but it radiates off of him in every frame anyway. A supernatural Spaniard warrior tasked with training immortal Scottish McLeod (Christopher Lambert), he’s arch, tongue in cheek, lovable, adorned in eye shadow that would make Jack Sparrow blush and just has this wonderful, charming way about him that almost has you wishing he’d get his own spinoff franchise.
2. James Bond/007 in various James Bond films
Its Bond, baby. While I can’t call Sean my favourite Bond in cinema, he was technically the first actor to hold that martini, brandish that Walther PPK, fill out that expensive suit and kick ass for MI6, and he does so with style, flourish, sex appeal and magnetism in spades. My favourite outing of him as Bond? 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which might be an weird choice but hear me out: he was already an older dude by this time or old in terms of playing a lithe super spy, but man he was a trooper and did a fantastic job in his final Bond adventure alongside the likes of Rowan Atkinson, a sultry Kim Basinger and a sassy Barbara Carrera.
1. John Mason in Michael Bay’s The Rock
The other British super spy in his career, I love his work as Mason because there’s a lot more depth than 007 and we get this world weary, sardonic and almost very sad energy from a guy who has been locked up unjustly for like three decades. All he wants to do is see his grown up daughter one time but he’s recruited to basically save the entire city of San Francisco, which he does in his own sneaky, brutal and often quite funny way. Mason is a terrific character and much more than just a spy or action hero, Sean gives him a deep pathos and soulful gaze that makes this, at least for me, his best acting work.
Some actors were just born to play villains, they just had that aura of menace, animalistic charm and the kind of personality that lent itself to baddies. That can definitely be said of Billy Drago, a reptilian character actor with a slinky, measured voice and a gaze that could pierce walls. Of the hundred or so credits he racked up over his career I’d say about three to five were not antagonists, he made a living and legendary work out of embodying badasses and troublesome dudes. He’s passed on now but these are my top ten of his performances!
10. Drake in Seven Mummies
This is a pitiful From Dusk Dawn rip-off that doesn’t even have one mummy in it, never mind seven. However, Billy hams it up spectacularly as the maniacal ghost of an evil sheriff, decked out with supernatural powers, cackling like a madman and having a ball.
9. John Bly in The Adventures Of Brisco County Jr
He takes centre stage as the main villain in this cult SciFi western series as Bly, a deadly, treacherous outlaw gang leader who proves to be quite the adversary to Bruce Campbell’s hero.
8. Edward Anthony Heller in Freeway
A frightening, bible quoting mass murderer, Heller prowls the urban highways in a big black Lincoln looking for victims to maim and authorities to fire his rocket launcher at while hard boiled detective James Russo races to find and stop him. This is one of those villains who is heard for awhile before being seen, and Drago’s evil zealot’s fervour in delivering fire and brimstone passages before brutally killing people is something else.
7. Barbas The Demon of Fear in Charmed
Charmed was a dope show from what I saw, and benefited greatly from Billy’s intermittent presence as a spooky, otherworldly entity who controls the very essence of fear. Clad in black and scenery chewing like nobody’s business, it’s one of his most memorable TV guest arcs.
6. Asmodeus in Demon Hunter
Another demon! This time instead of fear it’s sex, and although in classic mythology the physical manifestation of this guy isn’t exactly Billy’s type, he rocks the charisma here, hanging on every hissed syllable and seductive boob grab. This is a terrific little TV B movie produced by the legendary Stephen J. Cannell and starring one half of the Boondock Saints, Sean Patrick Flanery as a sort of Constantine like badass.
5. Charles Thibodeaux in Dark Moon Rising
Finally a good guy!! This is a low budget but fun werewolf flick set in the New Mexico desert. Billy plays an ex homicide detective gone rogue, hunting down the vicious beast that murdered his wife years before. There’s a mournful, nothing to lose attitude to his character here, even in more heroic roles he always inflected the work with a trademark edgy darkness.
4. Ramon Cota in Delta Force 2
Billy played villains opposite Chuck Norris a few times but none were as terrifying and over the top, WTF crazy as Cota. Columbia’s nastiest drug lord, he’s got a fucking gas chamber in his living room that he uses to dispatch enemies, disloyal cohorts and basically anyone he doesn’t like the sight of, and he watches it go down too.
3. Frank Nitti in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables
Slick, evil enforcer to Robert DeNiro’s Al Capone, Frank is a straight up psychopath who laughs in the face of Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) after killing one of his best friends and taunts him like a true monster. It’s a supremely evil turn that outshines every other villain on scene including DeNiro’s cultured Capone.
2. Orel Peattie in The X Files
He’s an antagonist here but one with an understandable perspective and tragic backstory. Orel is a Gypsy with mysterious voodoo powers who has targeted a Doctor (James Morrison) that he deems responsible for the death of his daughter years before. Both these characters are hurt, Orel lashes out by casting creepy spells on the guy and one can sense the seething hatred and sorrow in Billy’s excellent performance.
1. Danny Bench in Cyborg 2: The Glass Shadow
Man this sequel is just so much better than the shitty first one with Jean Claude Van Damme. Bench is a psychotic renegade bounty hunter employed by a corrupt corporation to hunt down their asset, a rogue cyborg (Angelina Jolie) and the army man (Elias Koteas) she’s run away with. He’s a scary, imposing villain with ties to Asian occult, an arsenal of savage weapons and a bad case of the crazy.