That Was the Week that Was
By Alan Jones
Six Days, Seven NightsSEAN Connery’s performance in The Avengers is quite unique – Scotland’s best-loved and most re- spected actor plays an out-and-out villain for the first time. It’s the latest role in a long career peppered with public adoration, critical acclaim, an Oscar and a Golden Globe for The Untouchables, a BAFTA for The Name of the Rose, and numerous cultural honours.
His nasty side is exposed as Sir August de Wynter in producer Jerry Weintraub’s screen version of the cult ’60s TV show, a megalomaniac businessman whose ability to manipulate the world’s weather and bring London to a standstill with mammoth snow drifts makes him the most powerful man on Earth. That’s De Wynter not Weintraub.
On location at Shepperton Studios last Summer, 67-year-old Connery explained, “August controls the world’s weather because he’s absolutely captivated by it. He’s got a sister called June, another called April, and it all takes place in that wonderful world of The Avengers.”
Connery’s main reason for agreeing to take on the de Wynter role is because of his long friendship with producer Weintraub. “I knew him in Hollywood about 15 years ago and we’ve crossed paths a few times. We’ve also played quite a lot of golf together. He’s more of an old school producer, a real first class professional, not like some of the Mickey Mouse crowd we have. You know, who are executive producers because the lead actor knew their brother or something, but are really incompetent.
“I read the script and I knew that Ralph Fiennes was playing John Steed and Uma Thurman was playing Emma Peel. That made a major difference about whether I would do it or not. No matter how good or bad your villain is, the piece won’t work unless those two do. They’re perfect and even better than I imagined they’d be when I read it. But once I got into what I wanted to do with Sir August, make him much more operatic and more eccentric in a richer vein, then I agreed to do the picture.
“Our scriptwriter Don Macpherson came down to my home in Spain and we went through the whole thing. One of the conditions I made was that my scenes had a comparable visual impact to what was already in the piece. It meant going to locations like Blenheim Palace for the big organ, Syon House in Greenwich and Stowe Castle for this magnificent ballroom sequence because I wanted my scenes to have that sort of grandeur. I mean, we have even built Trafalgar Square at Shepperton Studios. The Avengers is that big a production.”

Picture copyright: Warner Brothers
Read the full interview in the September issue of Film Review

"We have even built Trafalgar Square at Shepperton Studios. The Avengers is that big a production.”

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