Mr. Connery’s magnetism did not fade as he grew older. In 1989, when he was 59 years old and had long since discarded his James Bond toupee, People magazine anointed him the “Sexiest Man Alive.” His response was to growl that not many men are sexy when they’re dead.
“The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), directed by John Huston, in which Mr. Connery played a British soldier who sets out to loot a country and is mistaken for a god, was among the highlights of his second act. When Mr. Huston had first tried to finance a movie based on Rudyard Kipling’s short story of the same name 20 years earlier, he intended the role of Danny Dravot, the exuberant rogue who fatally begins to believe in his own grandeur, for Clark Gable, the undisputed king of Hollywood during the 1930s and ’40s. (The role of his companion Peachy Carnehan, played by Michael Caine, was originally intended for Humphrey Bogart.) Mr. Connery was, Pauline Kael of The New Yorker wrote, “a far better Danny than Gable would ever have been.”
She continued: “With the glorious exceptions of Brando and Olivier, there’s no screen actor I’d rather watch than Sean Connery. His vitality may make him the most richly masculine of all English-speaking actors.” Few actors, she added, “are as un-self-consciously silly as Connery is willing to be — as he enjoys being.”
If he enjoyed being silly on the screen, Mr. Connery was darker and more complex when the arc lights were turned off. Always afraid of being cheated, he audited the books of almost all of his movies and sued anyone he thought was taking advantage of him, from his business manager to the producers of the Bond films.
In 1978 Mr. Connery and Mr. Caine filed suit against Allied Artists, the distributor of “The Man Who Would Be King,” over the way their share of the movie’s receipts was calculated. (The case was settled out of court.) He was still at it in 2002, suing the producer Peter Guber and Mandalay Pictures for backing out of “End Game,” a C.I.A. thriller in which Mr. Connery was to star. He later dropped the suit.
The smoldering resentment that fueled his many lawsuits, which he carried with him from his childhood, was also one of the keys to his success as an actor.