The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, February 18, 1995            TAG: 9502180032
TYPE: Interview 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  129 lines



That is the question these days for 007.

``I threw the blasted thing in the waste can,'' Sean Connery was saying, the burr of his Scottish accent warming the conversation into a cozy fireside chat. ``There I was in the Florida Everglades, running around alligators in temperatures up to 100 degrees, and I was supposed to worry about a hairpiece, too? Not bloody likely.''

Connery, the once and - for most fans - forever James Bond, was talking about the filming of ``Just Cause,'' the thriller currently in theaters. He plays a Harvard professor who heads South to solve an 8-year-old murder case that is apparently being covered up by local cop Laurence Fishburne.

Replete with the requisite surprise twists of the genre, ``Just Cause'' is the 61st movie for Sean Connery and he's still one of the biggest stars in the world. At age 60, People magazine dubbed him ``The Sexiest Man Alive.''

``A dubious distinction,'' he said, his lips almost, but not quite, turning up into a smile. ``I suppose it's better than being the sexiest man dead.''

Now, approaching 65 in just a few months, he points out that ``at last, I'll be able to get my pension.'' He is amused when he's shown a magazine article claiming that Paul Newman has been declared the sexiest 70-year-old in the world.

``I don't know about that,'' he mused, deadpan. ``I haven't danced with Paul lately.''

Dressed in a green pullover sweater, casual slacks and tennis shoes, Connery would clearly rather be golfing. After the requisite interviews, he was planning to wing his way back to Madrid, and a prolonged visit to the golf courses near his home there. (He also has homes in the Caribbean and Hollywood.)

It's a rest well-earned. He's made three movies in a row - all to be released this year. Within months, ``First Knight'' opens, in which he plays King Arthur. Later this year, he'll be the voice of a ferocious dragon in ``Dragonheart.'' That movie, filmed in Czechoslovakia, ``will rival `Jurassic Park' in look and special effects,'' Connery claimed.

``I always seem to do things in threes,'' he said. ``Three movies in a row - nonstop work.''

The multimillionaire grew up in a poor industrial district of Scotland during the Depression. By age 7, he had taken a job delivering milk before school, and by 13 he had quit school. He served in the British Navy from 1947 to 1950 and was discharged because of ulcers. He worked as a lifeguard, bricklayer, plasterer, coffin polisher and movie usher. His hobby was weightlifting.

In 1950, he represented Scotland in the Mr. Universe competition in London. Those muscles got him his first show business job, as a shirtless sailor in the chorus of the stage musical ``South Pacific.''

A number of unlikely roles preceded movie stardom, including the villain in ``Tarzan's Greatest Adventure'' (1959) and even a Disney gig in ``Darby O'Gill and the Little People'' (1959).

It was Bond, James Bond, that made him a legend, a status he came to resent. His battle to escape the James Bond image has been well-recorded, including a famous suit filed against the producers over money. In fact, he's successfully sued the Hollywood powers-that-be several times.

``I was one of the first actors to stand up and call them to task,'' he said, with no bluster. ``I have some resentment for people that make an agreement and then don't keep it. I hired my own bookkeepers to keep a watch on everything. Hollywood bookkeeping can be very suspect.''

Today, he talks about the bonded blend with more levity than he once could muster. ``I never objected to playing James Bond, I just didn't want to do JUST that,'' he said. ``Those films, and that image, became overwhelming. That's when I wanted to branch out.

``You have to remember that no one thought those films would be successful. With `Dr. No,' the first one, the budget was pretty low. I probably wouldn't have gotten the part if they had known the series would be that successful. Ian Fleming, the author, didn't want me. I think he wanted the songwriter, Hoagy Carmichael, for the part. It didn't take off until `From Russia, With Love,' which I think was my favorite one. Then, with `Goldfinger,' it became a phenomenon. No one could have thought that I, or anyone, would be sitting here talking with you, in 1995, about James Bond.''

With Pierce Brosnan currently before the cameras in London as the new James Bond, the original 007 thinks there is renewed hope for Bond. ``With the Cold War over, they've got to rethink it entirely,'' he said. ``The most important thing is that it has to have humor. I always laughed at it a little. The trouble with Timothy Dalton in the role was that they made him take it too seriously. I think Pierce is a good choice. I think he may be fine in it.''

As for rumors that he may someday play James Bond's father in a film, he said, ``They haven't called me about it. If the script was good, I'd consider it, but it would have to be an awfully good script.''

After all, his unlikely return to the part, in 1983, was in a film titled ``Never Say Never Again.''

``The problem with the series was,'' he said, ``that they kept getting more and more obsessed with gimmickery - machines and such. By the time we made `Thunderball,' the machines had almost taken over. Now, the stakes are higher. With `True Lies,' and films like that, they've gone further than Bond ever went with special effects and gadgets. It's impossible for Bond to still compete on that level. The answer is to return the humor.''

He admits that a wig was considered for ``Just Cause,'' ``but the makeup man wasn't particularly gifted and the temperature was too high.''

Arne Glimcher, the high-profile Manhattan art dealer who has turned movie director for ``Just Cause,'' said, ``We tried some tests with the hairpiece. It did make Sean look younger, but he's a good looking guy anyway. He doesn't need the hair. When Sean comes on the set, he takes the light. It's like Moses parting the Red Sea.''

Laurence Fisburne admits he and Connery differed greatly in acting styles. ``Sean likes to come in, hit it and go home,'' Fishburne said. ``He prepares everything before he comes to the set. I'm a method actor. I like to come in and mess with it.''

``But Sean is quite a guy,'' Fishburne added. ``It looks like he's doing nothing, and then you look at the screen, and he's stolen the scene.''

Connery is known not to tolerate delays on a set. Asked about rumors of trouble with Richard Gere during the filming of ``First Knight,'' he answered flatly, ``nothing that couldn't be settled.''

He's anxious to make the plane to Madrid, but we just have to ask one thing.

Does James Bond REALLY demand that his martinis be shaken, not stirred?

``I like martinis quite a lot - and it doesn't make any difference,'' Connery said.

``But, actually, I prefer good Scottish whisky.'' ILLUSTRATION: TOP: Sean Connery plays a professor hired to solve an old murder

in "Just Cause."

ABOVE LEFT: Connery with Lois Maxwell in "Dr. No," the first James

Bond movie.

ABOVE RIGHT: Bonded again in "You Only Live Twicw." Say, that hat

looks familiar.

by CNB