When most of us think about James Bond, we think about the one and only, Sean Connery. Sean Connery probably still remains the most physically imposing of all the James Bond actors. A former boxer and nightclub bouncer who mixed in rough circles in his earlier years, the Scottish actor didn’t just look the part. He was the part.
Something left him a bit off though as he had needed a few drinks on set to get through filming the iconic opening casino scene and iconic line “Bond, James Bond” in his first film, Dr No, but even after he became a major star he was still human, and shared one of our most primal fears.
Sean shared that he was absolutely horrified when he heard about plans for a central scene in the fourth film in the franchise. Director Terence Young later admitted that some shots of Connery’s terror were actually very real.
Much of the 1965 film takes place in the Bahamas as Bond is sent in to retrieve two warheads stolen by Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). The eyepatch-toting villain famously keeps sharks in his swimming pool, as you do. When Bond first visits, Largo boasts they are Golden Grotto sharks named after a local reef and “the most dangerous and savage” sharks in the world.
In real life this isn’t actually true, no such breed exists. On-screen, the secret agent simply replies, “Charming”, but when it came to filming his close encounter with the toothy pets, Connery lost his cool. The danger was very real and then far too close for comfort when two major things went wrong.
Connery had initially refused to shoot the scene at all and shouted “Not bloody likely” when he first read the script.
The actor only agreed to go ahead and get in the pool with the sharks if certain safety measures were put into place. On the day of the filming, the two most important ones both completely failed.
Production designer Ken Adam later confessed: “What I didn’t tell Sean was that I could only get so much Plexiglass.” There was, in fact, still a gap left.
Connery and the stunt supervisor were both still in the water when one of the supposedly dead ‘stunt sharks’ not only surged back to life but also found a way through the badly-made safety glass.
At the end of the scene on screen, Bond pulls himself out of the pool closely pursued by a shark. As he was filming, he suddenly realized the deadly predator was, in fact, very much alive and closing in. The actor swam frantically to the edge of the pool and hurled himself out.
Per Express, Special effects coordinator John Stears later revealed the shark was unexpectedly still alive and had begun to thrash. Even worse, there was space for the live ones on the other side of the supposedly protective glass to get through.
Sharks will attack an injured one and a horrifying feeding frenzy erupted, as Stears screamed, “Get me out of here.”