Sean Connery swapped James Bond for treading boards as he directed a play

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We’re all familiar with him as 007 – suave dinner jacket, martini in one hand and a glint in the eye.

But prepared to be shaken and stirred, as newly-unearthed images reveal a different side to Sir Sean Connery: that of thespian and director.

The photographs, uncovered by the Mail, show Connery – with a moustache and a glass of wine instead of James Bond’s favourite tipple – as he tried his hand at directing a play in the 1960s.

Instead of the spy’s dinner jackets, he wears a polo neck complete with a natty checked jacket.

The photographs, uncovered by the Mail, show Sean Connery (pictured) – with a moustache and a glass of wine instead of James Bond’s favourite tipple – as he tried his hand at directing a play in the 1960s

The photographs, uncovered by the Mail, show Sean Connery (pictured) – with a moustache and a glass of wine instead of James Bond’s favourite tipple – as he tried his hand at directing a play in the 1960s

Taken in the relatively early days of his film career, the pictures show the Scotsman presiding over rehearsals for Ben Jonson’s Volpone at London’s Garrick Theatre in 1967 – five years after he first landed the role of 007.

Our exclusive pictures show Connery, who died aged 90 last weekend, with two actors familiar to millions: Rising Damp star Leonard Rossiter and Leo McKern, perhaps best known for classic TV series Rumpole of the Bailey. The third is former Doctor Who actress Maureen O’Brien, who starred in the series for a short period in the 1960s.

Connery with Ursula Andress for Dr. No in 1962. Connery, the first James Bond, enjoyed six official outings as the spy, beginning with Dr No in 1962 and ending with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971

Connery with Ursula Andress for Dr. No in 1962. Connery, the first James Bond, enjoyed six official outings as the spy, beginning with Dr No in 1962 and ending with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971

Photos show the late actor astride a chair during a run-through for the Jacobean satire as McKern acts out his lines on his knees as the greedy Venetian aristocrat Volpone. Rossiter played the role of merchant Corvino and Miss O’Brien his wife Celia.

In the play, Volpone – which means ‘sly fox’ in Italian – watches his greedy neighbours swarm around him in an attempt to inherit his fortune after he pretends to be mortally ill.

Connery was the mastermind behind the play’s transfer from the Oxford Playhouse to the Garrick having watched it with his then wife Diane Cilento. 

He and theatre producer Peter Bridge financed the move. Speaking about her time on set with Connery, Miss O’Brien, now 77, told the Mail: ‘For the publicity photos, at one point I had to sit on Connery’s knee.

Connery was the mastermind behind the play’s transfer from the Oxford Playhouse to the Garrick having watched it with his then wife Diane Cilento

Connery was the mastermind behind the play’s transfer from the Oxford Playhouse to the Garrick having watched it with his then wife Diane Cilento 

‘It was the early days of the mini-skirt before tights had become de rigueur so I was in stockings.

‘Sean Connery noticed that my stocking tops and suspenders were on clear view.

‘He very sweetly and kindly pointed this out to me and helped to rearrange my tiny skirt.’

Connery started out in theatre in 1953, landing a part as one of the Seabees chorus boys in the musical South Pacific before later taking on the role of Marine Corporal Hamilton Steeves and then Lieutenant Buzz Adams.

He auditioned after taking part in a bodybuilding competition in London. The star performed on stage across the UK, in Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution, in The Bacchae at the Oxford Playhouse and in Eugene O’Neill’s production of Anna Christie.

Connery, the first James Bond, enjoyed six official outings as the spy, beginning with Dr No in 1962 and ending with Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. 

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