Sean Connery on form as EIFF The Man Who Would Be King screening marks 80th year
Edinburgh International Film Festival Blog
This article is from 2010.
Yet another early start on Sunday, but I’d learnt my lessons from the morning after the Opening Gala, and hadn’t over-indulged at the Ghillie Dhu ceilidh the night before. Thus, I was fighting fit to attend Der Räuber (The Robber) at the Cameo, a well-paced and distant film about an Austrian marathon runner who spices up his life by pulling off the occasional bank heist.
After that, it was a case of biding one’s time and holding back the excitement of seeing Shir Sean Connery in the flesh at that evening’s special screening of The Man Who Would Be King, at the Festival Theatre. Coinciding with the year of his 80th birthday, the 1975 Kipling adaptation stars Sir Sean and Sir Michael Caine (who couldn’t attend but sent birthday wishes) as two enterprising British soldiers who set off to conquer a remote country and come home with wealth and glory, aided by their faithful Sherpa Billy Fish, played by Saeed Jaffrey, who also made an appearance at the screening. Jaffrey, who required assistance getting to the stage, still showed evidence of many years of theatrical training, with a fine, booming voice that seemed incongruous with the frail frame from which it issued. Speaking of the film, he said that director John Huston had ‘wanted first to make this film in 1956, and if he had done it then... There’s a lovely Persian expression: “It is better that it is late, because it is better correct.” If John Huston had made the film in 1956, he would have had Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, pretending to be British soldiers, and some Mexican actor playing the ghurka! Twenty years later, he got it exactly right: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and me!’
Sean himself was also on fine form, quipping, ‘Is his skateboard ready?’ as Jaffrey was helped offstage. He made just a single, sly allusion to his politics, and had fun clowning around when former EIFF Managing Director Ginnie Atkinson took to the stage to say a few words. Talking of the Festival Theatre’s new position as ‘civic cinema’ and her decision to leave EIFF in January, she said, ‘It’s a perfect year, as I’m on my horse, ready to ride over the horizon... Sean’s probably coming too, that’s good!’ Sean, keeping a perfectly straight face when she turned to him for assurance, waited til her back was turned again and mimed clubbing her with his microphone. ‘Now I know what it’s like to be in a double act!’ she said in response to the riotous laughter that followed Sean’s antics.
The film is a classic, featuring a small turn by Christopher Plummer as Kipling himself, and Shakira Caine (still at Michael’s side after meeting him a few years before filming) as a native princess whom Sean chooses as his bride. Certain audience members commented that, with its wooden floors and plush seats, the venue felt like a cinema from the 1970s – a fitting choice, then, for Huston’s ‘late, but correct’ masterpiece. Still, is it just me who would like to have had a look at that Gable/Bogart combo?