‘The hero of our times’

Sean Connery was one of the actors who inspired Andy Garcia to become a performer. Then Garcia got to work with his idol in the classic 1987 mob thriller The Untouchables.

Garcia described the full-circle moment and “destiny” of collaborating with Connery, who died Saturday at the age of 90, in a tribute to late Oscar-winning actor published Monday in The Hollywood Reporter.

“One of the main reasons why I was inspired to become an actor was because of Sean Connery. Growing up in the ’60s in Miami Beach, his early work made such an impression: Dr. No and Goldfinger in the Bond series. He was the hero of our times,” Garcia tells THR.

“I was a young man, and I was really enamored with Sean. I would go to the theater and sit and watch two and three screenings in a row when one of his movies came out. I’d spend the whole day in there. Start with the matinee, come home to dinner and then take in the evening show. I didn’t know that I wanted to be an actor at the time, but I was enthralled with what I was seeing. I would say Sean along with Steve McQueen and James Coburn and Peter Sellers in the comedic world [inspired me].”

Garcia, who began acting Florida International University, was relatively unknown when he was cast by director Brian De Palma cast in his David Mamet-scripted adaptation of Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley’s 1957 novel of the same name (which was previously adapted in a 1959-63 TV series). Garcia played George Stone, a police academy trainee recruited by Ness (Kevin Costner) and veteran street cop (Connery) to help bring down Chicago kingpin Al Capone (Robert De Niro). Connery won Best Supporting Actor for his performance, the only time he was nominated for an Academy Award.

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“It was destiny that I got to work with him in The Untouchables,” Garcia tells THR. “God works in mysterious ways. It was a great privilege for me. It was one of those things you think that someone will put a hand on your shoulder and say, ‘Wake up. It’s all been a dream.’”

Garcia shared a couple anecdotes from the film’s production, including how a real-life moment involving Connery prodding with him a clipboard made it into the movie, and how the iconic Scotsman taunted him while waiting for production to wrap so that he could go golfing.

“His sense of humor was so quick, and you could be the butt of his humor very easily. And he would take it as well as he could give it. I would riff with him and try to hold my ground. And that was my relationship with him in the movie as well. I had to always come back with something. He wanted you to come back. He didn’t want you to lay down. I made him laugh, and he treated me very warmly. He loved kids. He loved the fact that my kids were around on the set, and he would play with them. That showed the warmth of his character.

“Sean took his work very seriously. He was a consummate actor, and he was highly prepared, so he set the bar very high. As soon as he walked into the room, he was ready, and you had to be ready around him. You had to show up ready to go. He had this masterful touch, imaginative, a sense of interpretation that he had with all of his parts going back to the early Bond.”

Garcia’s commemoration comes after he posted multiple tributes on Instagram, including behind-the-scenes photos from The Untouchables, and two days after fellow co-star Costner issued a statement hailing Connery as “a crafted actor who was enormously proud of his body of work.”

“Although he was a very no-nonsense person, he was incredibly inclusive with me professionally and personally,” Costner wrote. “He was the biggest star that I ever worked with and I will be forever grateful to be linked with him on film. Sean Connery was a man’s man who had an amazing career.”

Costner’s statement echoed sentiments he made to Yahoo Entertainment during a 2014 Role Recall interview.

“I remember telling Sean I thought he’d win the Academy Award,” Costner told us. “And I say that simply because No. 1, he was a great actor. And No. 2, usually you’re going to put a character actor in his part, the Irish beat cop. And you didn’t. You put, to my mind, the biggest star I ever worked with, Sean Connery, in that role.

“And he just owned that supporting part and I think what was a big memory for me was to see him get the Oscar.”  

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