London   -  Legendary actor Sean Connery, best known for playing fictional spy James Bond, has died at the age of 90, prompting an outpouring of tributes for one of Britain’s best-loved screen heroes. The star’s son Jason Connery told the BBC that his father died peacefully in his sleep overnight while in the Bahamas, having been “unwell for some time”. “We are all working at understanding this huge event as it only happened so recently,” he added, calling his father’s passing “a sad loss for all people around the world who enjoyed the wonderful gift he had as an actor.” Connery, who became Sir Sean in 2000, won numerous awards during his decades-spanning career encompassing an array of big-screen hits, including an Oscar, three Golden Globes and two Bafta awards.   But it is his smooth, Scottish-accented portrayal of the suave spy 007 that earned him lasting worldwide fame and adoration. The first actor to utter the unforgettable “Bond, James Bond”, Connery made six official films as novelist Ian Fleming’s creation, giving what many still consider as the definitive portrayal.

“He was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond,” said the movie franchise’s producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. “He revolutionised the world with his gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent.”  The pair added Connery was “undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series and we shall be forever grateful to him.”

The Scottish actor was on a number of occasions voted by fans as the best actor to have played Bond, beating out current 007 Daniel Craig and Roger Moore. A message on a Twitter account maintained for the late Moore, who died in 2017, called the news of his passing “infinitely sad”.

It added: “He and Roger were friends for many decades and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP.”

Hollywood star Hugh Jackman said: “I grew up idolizing #SeanConnery. A legend on screen, and off. Rest In Peace.”

Pinewood Studios in Britain, where the 007 movies are filmed, said Connery was the “unforgettable embodiment of superspy James Bond” and that he would “forever be cherished” there.

 The release of the latest instalment of the franchise -- “No Time to Die” -- which has been delayed several times by the coronavirus pandemic, is now due next April.

Aside from his success in the Bond films, Connery excelled in other cinema performances, claiming his sole Oscar in 1988 for best supporting actor for his role as an Irish cop in “The Untouchables”.

He also starred in “The Hunt for Red October”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “The Rock”.

               

              

                  - ‘Patriotic and proud Scot’ - 

                  

               

                  Connery, born in Edinburgh in 1930, enlisted in the Royal Navy aged 16 but was discharged three years later on medical grounds after suffering a stomach ulcer.

                  He was then a bricklayer, lifeguard, and coffin polisher, among other manual jobs, before kickstarting his acting career after a bodybuilding hobby led him to enter the Mr Universe competition.

                  There, a fellow competitor urged him to audition for acting parts and he soon started landing small roles.

                  His big break came by starring as Bond in 1962’s “Dr. No”, the franchise’s first film.

                  He went to play Bond in “From Russia With Love” (1963), “Goldfinger” (1964), “Thunderball” (1965), “You Only Live Twice” (1967) and “Diamonds Are Forever” (1971).

                  He made a comeback as the British spy in the unofficial 1983 film “Never Say Never Again”.

                  Later in the decade Connery won a new generation of fans with his compelling performance as the father of Harrison Ford’s hero character in “Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade”.

                  He was knighted by the Queen in 2000 for services to film drama, and celebrated his 90th birthday in August.

                  Off-screen, Connery was a fiercely proud Scot and a financial backer of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which advocates for independence for Scotland from the UK.

                  Its First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised him as “a global legend but, first and foremost, a patriotic and proud Scot”. 

                  “Our nation today mourns one of her best loved sons,” she said.

                  Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond called Connery “the world’s greatest Scot” and that his signature voice, spirit and passion had endured even though “his health was failing” in recent years.

                  “I will miss him. Scotland will miss him. The world will miss him,” he added.