The man who turned Sean Connery into James Bond
How Dr. No director Terence Young transformed an obscure Scottish actor into Hollywood's most famous spy.
Leading up to the release of No Time to Die on Oct. 8, EW is celebrating 25 Days of Bond with stories on all things 007. We're beginning the series here, with the first James Bond and the man who directed him — read on below, and check back each day for updates.
Ian Fleming may have invented James Bond while Sean Connery defined the character in the eyes of '60s cinemagoers. But the man with the real golden touch in the early days of the James Bond movie franchise was filmmaker Terence Young, who directed three of the first four 007 adventures, including 1962's series-inaugurating Dr. No. Along the way, he established Bond as an iconic screen character by imbuing Connery's agent with many of filmmaker's own attributes and habits. "The style that is associated with James Bond comes from Terence's style," longtime James Bond series producer Michael G. Wilson said in the 2000 documentary Terence Young: Bond Vivant. "The clothes and restaurants and the food and the wine and all those kind of things are Terence Young. He brought that flair."
Young was born in 1915 in Shanghai, China, and studied history at Cambridge University. He first broke into the British film industry as a screenwriter during the '30s and, after serving as a tank commander in World War II, began directing. Young's early successes included the 1948 drama Corridor of Movies, whose cast included future The Man with the Golden Gun actor Christopher Lee in his first movie role and also Lois Maxwell, later to become famous playing Miss Moneypenny in the Bond movies. Young's relationship with Connery dated back to the director's 1957 thriller Action of the Tiger, in which the Scottish actor had a supporting role. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1982, the filmmaker would describe Action of the Tiger as "a terrible film, very badly directed, very badly acted — it was not a good picture. But Sean was impressive in it, and when it was all over, he came to me and said, in a very strong Scottish accent, 'Sir, am I going to be a success?' I said, 'Not after this picture, you're not. But, I asked him, 'Can you swim?' He looked rather blank and said, yes, he could swim — what's that got to do with it? I said, 'Well, you'd better keep swimming until I can get you a proper job and make up for what I did this time.' And four years later, we came up with Dr. No."
Dr. No was produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli. The latter had worked with Young on the 1953 war film The Red Beret and recruited the director to bring Fleming's book to the big screen. Before shooting began, Young went to work on Connery, buying him suits and, when pre-production began in Jamaica, helping teach the actor how to play golf.
"I think the most important element in the whole series, apart from Fleming himself... was Terence Young," Connery himself would recall in an interview with Mark Cousins. "I think he was the greatest influence. Terence had really identified very much with being the grand seignior. He took me on the trip to get our clothes and everything and it was an eye-opener. The budget on the clothes was astronomical in relation to the film but he was right, Terence, because there was a look about it. We had shoes handmade at Lobb's (British company John Lobb Bootmaker), and no cufflinks, a special fold-back button, and I used the Windsor knot, very small Windsor knot. Equally, we shared a similar sense of humor."
"I was a [Royal] Guards Officer during the war, and I thought I knew how Bond should behave," Young told Rolling Stone. "So I took Sean to my shirtmaker, my tailor and my shoemaker, and we filled him out."
In Dr. No, actress Ursula Andress makes one of movie history's most memorable entrances as her character Honey Ryder emerges from the sea dressed in a skimpy-for-the-times bikini. The actress would recall that Young certainly acted like a man who had a license to spend during the film's shoot. "[Whenever] he made money, he spent it right away," the actress said in Terence Young: Bond Vivant. "Whatever he got, he spend it, spend it, spend it. He was a bon vivant. We had champagne all the time. Dom Perignon. Caviar…. I still have a shirt of his. He gave me one because I had to stand there for hours, so he gave me his custom-made Italian shirt, a pink one I remember."
Dr. No was made for just over $1 million and grossed 16 that times around the world. Young swiftly went into production on the second Bond adventure, 1963's From Russia with Love. The movie was even more successful than its predecessor and featured an early highlight of the franchise with the fierce climactic fight between Connery's 007 and Robert Shaw's Red Grant on the Orient Express. Young would come to regard the film as the best of the Bond films he directed and the best of the early 007 films period. "He was very proud of From Russia With Love, which he should be," says Mark A. Altman, co-author of Nobody Does It Better: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History. "The direction is very sparse, it's stylish without being over the top, it's very gritty and real, particularly for the era. The way that Terence Young staged the fight onboard the Orient Express is so good, but so is everything about that movie. And one of the things people don't realize is, they were putting these Bond movies out one a year. They were doing these every year and doing them better than virtually any franchise in film history."
Young yielded the Bond franchise director's chair on 1964's Goldfinger to Guy Hamilton, preferring instead to make the Audrey Hamilton-starring Wait Until Dark. He returned to spy-land for the fourth 007 film Thunderball, a massive hit whose $63 million domestic box office gross would remain a series record for over a decade until it was finally beaten by 1979's Roger Moore-starring Moonraker.
Young continued to make movies over the next couple of decades, directing three Charles Bronson vehicles in the early '70s and 1981's financially disastrous war movie Inchon, before passing away from a heart attack in 1994. But to connoisseurs of the James Bond franchise he will always be the man who put the series on the map by putting so much of himself into it.
"It's absolutely his legacy," says Mark A. Altman. "There are a lot of people who deserve a lot of credit for having made the Bond franchise. But you can't underestimate Terence Young."