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Sean Connery at 80

Daniel Read and Emily Dugan shake up 80 stirring facts to mark the actor's birthday this week

1. His first bed was the bottom drawer of the family wardrobe.

2. James Bond casters initially wanted a well-established British actor for the role, but with the coffers empty they plumped for the little-known Connery.

3. He writes poetry (but won't let anyone see it).

4. He left school at the age of 12 – three years after taking up smoking.

5. His brief spell in the Navy ended in two tattoos, one saying "Scotland Forever" and the other "Mum and Dad".

6. As an oversized teenager he acquired the nickname "Big Tam".

7. His fanaticism for football was so great he deliberately failed his grammar school exam because they played rugby.

8. He once worked as a nude model for art students.

9. His first name is Thomas.

10. In 1953 he entered Mr Universe, coming third in the tall men category.

11. His first acting role was in the male chorus of South Pacific at the Drury Lane Theatre in London.

12. Sean's silky soccer skills got him a trial with Manchester United. Luckily he stuck with acting.

13. He claims he will not return to Scotland until it is fully independent.

14. Sean used to practise dialogue with a portable tape recorder.

15. Bond creator Ian Fleming did not at first approve of Sean in the role. He soon changed his mind.

16. Connery shares his birthday with US film director Tim Burton.

17. He passed on the role of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings allegedly because he had difficulty understanding the novels.

18. When he starred in Requiem for a Heavyweight in 1957, casters struggled to find anyone willing to face him in the ring, thanks to his Navy-learnt boxing prowess.

19. He is a sun-chaser, swapping his home in Spain for the Bahamas.

20. Connery was on the board of directors for The Independent.

21. After joining the Navy at 16, he had to leave three years later because ulcers made him unfit to serve.

22. He got his first job at nine, delivering milk via horse and cart.

23. Sean's first foray into Hollywood was in the 1958 film Another Time, Another Place.

24. United Artists was so sceptical of his Bond that it premiered Dr No in the Midwest to avoid attracting scorn.

25. Both he and his son, Jason, have played Robin Hood.

26. He finally broke the James Bond mould in 1975 by starring in The Man Who Would Be King.

27. After Terry Gilliam wrote that the part of King Agamemnon in Time Bandits would look "exactly like Sean Connery", Sean found out and asked to be in the film.

28. He delivered milk to Fettes College in Edinburgh, the same school attended by a young James Bond in a novel depicting his expulsion from Eton.

29. He regards the American Bill of Rights as one of the greatest political documents.

30. Stanley Baker was his first acting idol.

31. He is a member of the Scottish National Party.

32. His first wife, Diane Cilento, alleged he beat her during their marriage. He agreed in a 1987 interview that it was acceptable to "shlap" women.

33. The role of the ill-fated Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables finally won him an Oscar.

34. His son Jason keeps his father's Oscar at his home in New York.

35. Connery's wife, Micheline Roquebrune, is French, but he cannot speak the language.

36. He supports Celtic football club.

37. He was voted Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine.

38. He started losing his hair at 21.

39. His star sign is Virgo.

40. His "Oirish" accent in The Untouchables won him Empire magazine's accolade of the Worst Accent in Film History.

41. He has survived cancer in his vocal chords and his kidney.

42. Connery grew up in a tenement in Edinburgh with no hot water or electricity.

43. As 007, his hair was always a wig.

44. After receiving £250,000 for two days' work on Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, he gave it to charity.

45. Steven Seagal broke Sean's wrist during a martial arts lesson.

46. His knighthood in July 2000 was reportedly delayed because of his staunch nationalism.

47. He is bored of Bond films and thinks Quentin Tarantino should direct them.

48. He had planned to make a film of Shakespeare's Macbeth but was beaten to it by Roman Polanski in 1971.

49. In 2004 he spent a year writing his autobiography, despite previously saying he would never attempt to.

50. Legend has it he was pulled over for speeding by a police officer named James Bond.

51. His mother was a cleaner; his father a lorry driver.

52. He is an obsessive golfer.

53. Of the six actors to play the role of Bond, Connery is the only one to serve in the Navy like Bond himself.

54. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (2003) was a "nightmare" that partly led to his retirement, he claimed.

55. In 1999 he implored the Scottish Parliament to enact a total ban on handguns.

56. He admits to being fond of a drink.

57. His childhood home was close to a brewery, whose pungent fumes caused upset stomachs and fainting.

58. George Bernard Shaw is one of his favourite authors.

59. He was considered for the part of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965).

60. Empire magazine voted him 14th in its "Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time".

61. Connery took dancing lessons for 11 years.

62. Sean once claimed he hated the character of Bond.

63. A plan for the Edinburgh Filmhouse to be renamed "The Sean Connery Filmhouse" was rejected in 2005.

64. The renowned ladies' man cannot recall who he lost his virginity to.

65. In the novel Scorpius, Connery was said to be one of James Bond's favourite actors.

66. He once had a relationship with Julie Hamilton, the step-daughter of former Labour leader Michael Foot.

67. Connery has campaigned for the World Food Programme.

68. His younger brother Neil, a plasterer, has also acted.

69. Several films feature characters doing impressions of Connery, including Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting and Mel Gibson in What Women Want.

70. After befriending actress Lana Turner – then girlfriend of American gangster Johnny Stompanato – he had to go into hiding from the mob.

71. Creepy crawlies meant he hated acting in Medicine Man, which was shot in the rainforest.

72. As a child he used to fish in the Union Canal using his mum's old nylon stockings.

73. He believes he should have won an Oscar for The Man Who Would Be King.

74. He turned down $5.5m to play 007 in Live and Let Die.

75. The film title for Never Say Never Again (1983) was suggested by his wife. Sean had considered his Bond days over.

76. After the Navy he trained as a French polisher, working on the finishes for pianos and coffins.

77. His favourite Bond film is Thunderball.

78. Sean was the most popular British film actor in the Orange Movie Survey.

79. He was offered a role in Rob Roy.

80. In 1993 he appeared on US TV to deny news agency reports that he was dead.