Toupee or not toupee!
That is the question these days for 007.
"I threw the blasted thing in the waste can," Sean Connery was saying, the burr of his Scottish accent warming the conversation into a cozy fireside chat. "There I was in the Florida Everglades, running around alligators in temperatures up to 100 degrees, and I was supposed to worry about a hairpiece, too? Not bloody likely."
Mr. Connery, the once and -- for most fans -- forever James Bond, was talking about the filming of "Just Cause," the thriller currently in theaters. He plays a Harvard professor who heads South to solve an 8-year-old murder case that is apparently being covered up by local policeman Laurence Fishburne.
Replete with the requisite surprise twists of the genre, "Just Cause" is the 61st movie for Sean Connery, and he's still one of the biggest stars in the world. At age 60, People magazine dubbed him "The Sexiest Man Alive."
"A dubious distinction," he said, his lips almost, but not quite, turning up into a smile. "I suppose it's better than being the sexiest man dead."
Now, approaching 65 in just a few months, he points out that "at last, I'll be able to get my pension."
Dressed in a green pullover sweater, casual slacks and tennis shoes, Mr. Connery would clearly rather be golfing.
After the requisite interviews, he was planning to wing his way back to Madrid and a prolonged visit to the golf courses near his home there. (He also has homes in the Caribbean and Hollywood.)
It's a rest well-earned. He's made three movies in a row -- all to be released this year. Within months, "First Knight" opens, in which he plays King Arthur. Later this year, he'll be the voice of a ferocious dragon in "Dragonheart." That movie, filmed in Czechoslovakia, "will rival 'Jurassic Park' in look and special effects," Mr. Connery claimed.
"I always seem to do things in threes," he said. "Three movies in a row -- nonstop work."
It was Bond, James Bond, that made him a legend, a status he came to resent. His battle to escape the James Bond image has been well-recorded, including a famous suit filed against the producers over money. In fact, he's successfully sued the Hollywood powers-that-be several times.
"I was one of the first actors to stand up and call them to task," he said, with no bluster. "I have some resentment for people that make an agreement and then don't keep it. I hired my own bookkeepers to keep a watch on everything. Hollywood bookkeeping can be very suspect."
Today, he talks about Bond with more levity than he once could muster. "I never objected to playing James Bond, I just didn't want to do just that," he said. "Those films, and that image, became overwhelming. That's when I wanted to branch out."
He admits that a wig was considered for "Just Cause," "but the makeup man wasn't particularly gifted and the temperature was too high."
Arne Glimcher, the high-profile Manhattan art dealer who has turned movie director for "Just Cause," said: "We tried some tests with the hairpiece. It did make Sean look younger, but he's a good-looking guy anyway. He doesn't need the hair. When Sean comes on the set, he takes the light. It's like Moses parting the Red Sea."
Laurence Fishburne admits he and Mr. Connery differed greatly in acting styles. "Sean likes to come in, hit it, and go home," Mr. Fishburne said. "He prepares everything before he comes to the set. I'm a method actor. I like to come in and mess with it.
"But Sean is quite a guy," Mr. Fishburne added. "It looks like he's doing nothing, and then you look at the screen, and he's stolen the scene."
Mr. Connery is known not to tolerate delays on a set. Asked about rumors of trouble with Richard Gere during the filming of "First Knight," he answered flatly, "nothing that couldn't be settled."