Sean Connery’s ‘From Russia With Love’ Co-Star Tragically Died Before the Film Finished Shooting

The James Bond movies provide plenty of action, intrigue, and shaken martinis for movie fans. For the actors and crew, the movies sometimes bring accidents and injuries on the set. The second film in the franchise, From Russia With Love, avoided on-set mishaps, but one of Sean Connery’s co-stars died tragically before the movie wrapped.

Pedro Armendáriz (left) and Sean Connery on the set of 'From Russia With Love.' Connery and Armendáriz shared several scenes, but Armendáriz never saw them as he died tragically before filming wrapped.
Pedro Armendariz (left) and Sean Connery in ‘From Russia With Love’ | Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

How many James Bond movies did Sean Connery make? 

When author Ian Fleming and producers Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman decided to bring James Bond to the big screen, Connery received the nod to don the tux. The way he walked caught the producers’ attention, but his attire and attitude during an audition came across as unprofessional.

Any misgivings the producers had about Connery didn’t cost him the part. He starred in five straight Bond movies in the 1960s: Dr. No (1962), From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and You Only Live Twice (1967). He also starred in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever (after insulting George Lazenby’s Bond single Bond performance) and returned in the unofficial Bond movie Never Say Never Again (a Thunderball remake) in 1983. That’s five straight outings, six total in the official franchise, and seven times playing Bond on the big screen.

Connery achieved success and recognition with James Bond performances. To many, he ranks as the best actor in the franchise, and his movies remain some of the best. But tragedy surrounded From Russia With Love. One of Connery’s primary co-stars died tragically before the film finished shooting, and it might have been connected to a John Wayne flop.

Connery’s ‘From Russia With Love’ co-star died before the film finished shooting

Connery’s Bond finds himself in Istanbul early in From Russia With Love as he begins his hunt for a code-breaking machine. Mexican actor Pedro Armendáriz stars as Kerim Bey, his intelligence contact. It’s a key role, and one Armendáriz plays well, but he didn’t live to see himself on the screen.

Armendáriz acted in the panned 1956 John Wayne movie The Conquerer. Wayne, his sons, and dozens of people who worked on the movie allegedly developed cancer from the radioactive fallout of nuclear tests near the on-location shooting. 

As Express reports, Armendáriz had from inoperable neck cancer when From Russia With Love filming commenced. Producers scheduled as many of his scenes as possible early in the production, but Armendáriz’s symptoms made it impossible for him to finish filming. As he sought treatment in a hospital, Armendáriz died by suicide in June 1963, just four months before the world premiere. It was his final role on the big screen.

Armendáriz’s tragic death cast a pall on From Russia With Love. Still, in the end, the film caused James Bond author Ian Fleming to change the character forever. 

Connery was so good in ‘From Russia With Love’ that Ian Fleming changed Bond’s heritage

Connery didn’t necessarily make the best impression on James Bond producers, and he regretted his James Bond role even though it made him a star. Fleming wasn’t a Connery fan until he saw him in From Russia With Love.

The author wasn’t pleased to have a working-class Scotsman playing a high-class English spy. The author and actor didn’t meet until filming on Dr. No was well underway, and Fleming insulted his acting abilities.

Everything changed when Fleming saw Connery’s performance in From Russia With Love. The author was so impressed that he paid homage to Connery by adding Scottish ancestry for James Bond in every subsequent novel he wrote.

Fleming’s switch to adding Scottish heritage remained a staple for years. Skyfall, the third of Daniel Craig’s five Bond movies, climaxes with a shootout at his family’s estate in Scotland.

What was the last Connery film he made before he died? 

Related

Sean Connery’s James Bond Movies Ranked

Connery left the Bond franchise behind in the early 1970s and retired from the role after 1983’s Never Say Never Again

Some of his career highlights include The Man Who Would Be King, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Rock.

Connery’s final film flew under the radar. He voiced the title character in the 2012 Scottish animated movie Sir Billi. His final on-screen appearance in a feature film came in 2003’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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