Before Bond and fame, Sean Connery spent his early 20s lifting weights and working odd jobs — including as a nude model for a reknowned Scottish art school.
The actor’s death at age 90 was announced by family on Saturday; numerous obits have paid tribute to his career as James Bond and other roles, and to his humble beginnings in Scotland.
“You used to do nude modeling as a young man, is that true?” Jay Leno asked Connery in a 1999 interview.
When the audience whooping simmered down, Connery raised one eyebrow wryly acknowledged this was true.
“At the Edinbugh College of Art, to make ends meet if you know what I mean,” he quipped.
“There was three of us, actually,” he told Leno.
“There was an old guy who’d done it for years and years, and a quite an attractive young woman and myself. And we were the three models.”
The class was “mostly women,” Connery told Leno.
“We used to get six and eight pence an hour for standing stationary and with 15 minutes off,” he said.
At least one of the student works has since surfaced, a portrait painted in 1951, ten years before he would be cast in his first of seven Bond movies, Dr. No.
The oil painting shows a buff, standing Connery at age 21, as viewed from behind; it was discovered nine years ago among the old canvases of an elderly British artist.
Connery was bodybuilding at the time, and two years later entered the Mr. Universe pageant in London, placing third, People magazine noted on Saturday.
While there competing, a fellow bodybuilder told him that auditions were being held for the show “South Pacific.”
He fibbed about having acting experience to get the role, he later confessed.
“I’d no experience whatever, and hadn’t even been on a stage before, but it turned out to be one of my more intelligent moves,” he said in a 1965 Playboy interview, Huffington Post noted Saturday.
In calling Connery “one of the greatest actors of all time” on Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger noted their shared bodybuilding roots — and their shared path from pageant to cinema.
“He provided endless entertainment for all of us & inspiration for me,” Schwarzenegger tweeted.
“I’m not just saying that because he was a bodybuilder who placed in the Mr. Universe contest! He was an icon.”