Written By: Eliza Berman

The link between the actor Sean Connery and the character James Bond has proved to be an indelible one, no matter what Connery himself thought of that fact. The Scottish actor, who passed away on October 31, told Playboy in a 1965 interview that although the role had treated him well he was “fed up to here with the whole Bond bit.” He found the fact that fans identified him with the secret agent “a bit of a bore,” and lamented the lack of recognition for his other roles.

Still, as the first man to play Bond on screen, the association stuck. And when LIFE Magazine featured Connery on its cover in 1966, he posed naturally as his famous alter ego, in a tattered, drenched wetsuit unzipped to his navel. The photograph accompanied a review, inside the magazine, of Thunderball, Connery’s fourth installment in the franchise and, according to LIFE, the “wildest 007 movie yet.”

LIFE’s reviewer, echoing some of the movie’s other critics, censured the film for being “just like the three James Bond movies that preceded it.” It’s an analysis that mirrors the feelings of ennui Connery spouted to Playboy but that doesn’t mean the fans didn’t flock to theaters to see more of the same: The movie was the most successful Bond flick yet.

Connery would, of course, go on to play a diverse array of roles in the 40 years to come. And if anyone pitied him for being temporarily pigeonholed, they needn’t have. “I have always moved around and kept my eyes open and been prepared to raise my middle finger at the world,” he told Playboy. “I always will.”

For more of our favorite Sean Connery photos from the LIFE Picture Collection, see the gallery below.

From the Movie “Another Time, Another Place”

Actors Sean Connery and Lana Turner in scene from movie “Another Time, Another Place,” 1958 (Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIFE Picture Collection)

Actor Sean Connery (L) starring in scene from motion picture ‘The Hill’.

Actor Sean Connery starring in scene from the film “The Hill,” 1965 (Al Fenn/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot

Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot laughing on set of the film “Shalako,” 1968 (Bill Ray/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery

Sean Connery on set of the film “Shalako,” 1968 (Bill Ray/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery on set of the film "Shalako," 1968 (Bill Ray/LIFE Picture Collection)

Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery

Sean Connery on set of the film “Shalako,” 1968 (Bill Ray/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot

Sean Connery and Brigitte Bardot on set of the film “Shalako,” 1968 (Bill Ray/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery

Portrait of Sean Connery, 1982 (DMI/LIFE Picture Collection)

Sean Connery with Singer Diana Ross, 1997

Sean Connery with singer Diana Ross, 1997 (DMI/LIFE Picture Collection)

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