ART & CULTURE
For years, Nice was the centre of life for film star Sean Connery, who became world-famous as THE James Bond actor and died last weekend at the age of ninety. The leading lady of his life, the Franco-Moroccan painter Micheline Roquebrune, came from the Côte d'Azur and they were happily married for almost 45 years. His granddaughters by marriage, the journalists Eve-Anna and Stéphanie Renouvin, were also born and raised in the region. Here, Rolf Liffers gives you a review of the Scot's life.
Since the 1970s, the Connerys in Nice had a dream villa with a view over the whole Baie des Anges. In the neighbouring department of the Var, the Scot had economic ambitions. In the eighties he and others bought a huge estate near Faience to build a sophisticated golf course. However, the project, which included a castle and 266 hectares of land, was apparently ruined and then abandoned on short notice.
Two of the most famous 007 films were shot in Antibes and Monaco respectively. 1983 "Never say never" with Kim Basinger and the "villain" Klaus-Maria Brandauer. It was Connery's seventh and last appearance under the name "Bond, James Bond". In the same year, "Octopussy" was made, in which his film successor Roger Moore appeared for the first time as "His Majesty's Spy". No trace of competition. Some may still remember a much-printed souvenir photo showing the two zero-zero-seveners drinking cognac and smoking cigars together in harmony in front of Chef Roger Vergé's Moulin de Mougins.
A welcome guest in Cannes
Yet Connery had no real idea of the Côte d'Azur until 1965, when he took part in the Cannes International Film Festival for the first time (and repeatedly thereafter). According to his own statement, he had only known the French Riviera up to then "through Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, and it seems to me that it has changed a lot since then... That year he was not yet standing on the red carpet at the Croisette as a cinema spy, but as a stubborn soldier of Joe Roberts in Sidney Lumet's "The Lost Man - There is no way back".
Micheline Roquebrune and Sean Connery - that must have been love at first sight! The two golf freaks met at a tournament in Marrakech in 1970. But it took a while before he got the point, especially since the heartbreaker had been married since 1962 to the (2011 deceased) Australian actress Diane Cilento, whom he had met at a BBC show, and despite various affairs, they lived together seemingly harmoniously. Later it turned out that there had been a lot of arguments between the two of them. The whole bond cult had gotten on her nerves considerably. And he is said to have become violent on several occasions, which he firmly denied. The marriage, which was divorced in 1973, produced Jason Connery, born in 1963 and living in London, who also became an actor, but did not get along with his father and was rumoured to have been disinherited.
Micheline, who was one year older, is said to have realised immediately that she had met the man of her dreams and that her first encounter ("A Crazy Night of Love") could not remain without consequences. He, however, only contacted her again six months later ("She was the joy of life in person"), because he simply could not forget her. They met in Marbella, where Sean had a house, and got married in 1975 in Gibraltar. The relationship remained childless. However, the artist brought three children from two previous marriages - Micha, Stéphane and Oliver, with whom she had lived in South Africa for a while.
His wife was with him when he died in his sleep
Micheline Roquebrune, who also successfully wrote various Broadway plays such as "Art", was deeply shocked last Sunday by the death of her husband. However, because of his advanced and extremely debilitating dementia, she was not entirely unprepared for the blow of fate. In the end, he was no longer able to express himself. "It was no longer a life for him." After all, he "slipped away peacefully" in his sleep, which is what he wanted. "I was with him all the time."
Even Eve-Anna, his granddaughter by marriage, was not really surprised. She had been warned by her uncle. "You prepare for it, but you are never ready," she said in Nice, where she still lives. In fact, age had caught up with her grandpa. "He was tired, had breathing difficulties." Now suddenly "come the memories of how my sister and I used to take him to Marbella for ice cream when we were children, for example."
The two girls used to spend a month with him every summer in Spain. Now she regrets not having seen "Sean-Sean", as she lovingly calls him, for four years. Sure: "There was Facetime, there was WhatsApp - but that's just not the same!
"He was famous, he was wise, he was funny.
"He was famous, he was wise, he was funny. And when we annoyed him with our noise, he did not scold us, but sought refuge in his little house at the end of the garden." The whole family was proud of him. "But we never bragged about it. We never said anything, especially not at school."
In the future, the siblings want to "care more". This means the grandmother. "She is devastated. They loved each other like crazy. They had merged with each other", is how Eve-Anna describes the relationship, touched. Sean-Sean will soon be cremated on the island of New Providence, his adopted home. There will also be a memorial service in Scotland. "But first we have to get out of lockdown."
Words from the mayor of Cannes
David Lisnard, Mayor of Cannes, was deeply moved by the death of the screen hero with the dishwasher career, who he greatly admired and who came from a precarious background. "He visited our city regularly and was able to celebrate his first success as a British spy here. With him the world had lost "a virile icon of cinema, a man of natural elegance and cross-channel charm". "We are not only thinking of James Bond", but also of his great mimetic achievements in other films. He cited " The Name of the Rose", "The Incorruptible", "No Spring for Marnie" and "Hunt for Red October".
Harrison Ford (78), Connery's "son" from "Indiana Jones", also mourns the sudden passing of this "man of men" on Tuesday. Like today, he remembers the shooting of the third part of the adventure saga: "My God, we had fun!" It had been a real pleasure to drive Connery in the sidecar of a Russian motorbike over bumpy, winding mountain roads. "Indiana inventor" George Lucas expressed his "gratitude for the great good fortune to have worked with Connery.
Connery's villa "Roc fleuri" in Nice
The six-storey killer villa "Roc fleuri" in Nice, with all the chicanery of a thousand square metres of living space, where the Connerys had retired, had long been Sean's "hiding place" from unwanted social fuss. Not long ago, the luxury property with its 5,000 square metres of garden had changed hands for 15 million euros. The Oscar-winning world star, whose fairy-tale career had begun as a milkman, nude model and bodybuilder, had renounced the large property as a pensioner because he preferred to stay in his house in Nassau. Currently, the property at Cap de Nice is for sale again. But now for 30 million... A cardboard stick for people who "hatefully sold their Wirecard shares and now, with the dough, don't know where to go", as the cynic Harald Schmidt remarks.
There are all kinds of anecdotes surrounding the shooting of the 007 films of Antibes. Against the historical backdrop of Fort Carré, "Bond" and the young Kim Basinger had to try to escape their pursuers with a breakneck leap on the back of their thoroughbred Arab. Of course, they were doubled by stuntmen, one of whom promptly broke his leg. The boat of villain Brandauer is still anchored at the Quai des Milliardaires in the neighbouring port of Vauban. At that time it had belonged to Adnan Kashoggi and was called Nabila. Then as "Trump princess" it belonged to Donald Trump. Today the yacht is called "Kingdom" and belongs to a Saudi prince.
The heart a Scott
At heart, Sean Connery has remained Scottish all his life. David Lisnard alluded to this when he said on Saturday that the patriot was also the "political conscience" of his country, whose independence he had always advocated. During the many visits to the festival city, the now-deceased legend had been "appreciated as a man who was good to himself and free". Let us close with Lisnard's words: "Goodbye, gentleman.