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The Bond Between Pa and Son Connery : Cable movie: Ian Fleming’s life was not so far from his creation, James Bond. Playing the author is Jason Connery, son of film’s popular OO7.

Most actors shy away from gimmick casting. But Jason Connery, son of Sean Connery, decided to fight for a role that will inevitably invite comparisons with his famous dad.

In “The Secret Life of Ian Fleming,” a TNT cable movie that recently completed production in England, Jason plays the title role. Fleming is the novelist who created James Bond, the character that brought fame to Sean Connery 27 years ago.

“Now I can say to the press, ‘Compare me!’ ” announces Connery, 26, who has been acting for eight years and has yet to silence critics. “I realize that I’m always going to be compared to my father. There are innuendoes all the time. Should I spend my whole life justifying myself?”

Despite the obvious publicity benefits of casting Connery, he was not a shoo-in to play Fleming. In fact, when director Ferdinand Fairfax saw Connery’s name on a lengthy list of possible leading men, he said, “Oh, please! Give me a break. I don’t want to be slaughtered. It would be just such a gimmick.”

Standing in the middle of a military vehicle testing ground, where the day’s filming is taking place, Fairfax says, “We canvassed the field for every potential leading man between the ages of 22 and 30. Jason came in and gave a really spectacular reading. I had just arrived from the States, and I said to myself, ‘I must be feeling jet-lagged.’ So I got him in again. He did a wonderful screen test, and I refused to believe it. If ever anybody got a role on his own merits, it was Jason.”

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Once production started, Fairfax noticed similarities between the two Connerys.

“Sometimes you can hear his father’s speech patterns,” the director says. “Jason has this very slight burr--a slurring of the Ss. He’s like his father was when he made his first few movies before he started doing the Bonds. They didn’t take him seriously. Jason can’t escape his name, but it shouldn’t be allowed to cloud how good he is.”

The two-hour movie, which will air on TNT and will have a feature release abroad, examines Fleming’s life up until the age of 29, when he began writing the 007 books.

Fleming came from a wealthy, upper-class, English background--a life filled with fast cars and fast women. In the scene unfolding now, Fleming is testing a gizmo that his buddy, Quincy, (who became Q in the Bond books) invented to make a car go faster. Quincy has arranged a race between Fleming’s green Bentley and an accommodating red Laconda.

With the camera rolling, Fleming ambles over to meet the Laconda driver and spies a pair of black, over-the-knee, high-heeled boots protruding from under the car’s engine. Addressing the boots, he asks jovially, “Well, what shall we wager?”

A beautiful young lady slides out from under the car, takes one look at the tall, good-looking blond and suggests, “If you beat me, you can sleep with me.”

“Sounds good to me,” Fleming says cheerfully. He slips on his racing goggles and wanders back to his Bentley, a showpiece automobile if there ever was one. The film company had to insure it for 1 million ($1.6 million).

“Fleming’s life is quite compatible with the Bond stories,” Connery says. “Of course, some of the elements in his books were fantasy, but he very much lived many of the things Bond did. I never met him because he died when I was a year old, but my parents met him, and I read a lot about him.

“He was the second son, which meant that he wasn’t heir to any money. His older brother was very good at games and intellectual matters. His father was a war hero who died. Ian was the black sheep of the family. People assumed that because he had a famous father and he was wealthy, he must have everything. For a long time he tried to live up to the image. He finally came into his own at 26 when he went into naval intelligence and people took him on his own merits.”

Connery acknowledges similarities between his own life and Fleming’s.

“Yes, I have a father with a large persona in the public eye,” he says. “But with his father not being there, it was almost worse for Fleming. The image of his father as a knight in shining armor became gigantic. My father is wonderful at being a father. I’m not intimidated by him. However, I do want him to be proud of me.”

Before accepting the Fleming role, Connery sought his father’s permission. He recalls, “I rang Dad and told him, ‘There’s this really good script about Ian Fleming. How do you feel about my playing him?’ He had no objection.”

Although father and son have spent considerable time together, Connery grew up primarily with his mother, actress Diane Cilento, after the marriage ended when he was 8.

“She had a farm in Wiltshire,” he recalls, “and I was involved with milking the cow and feeding the sheep. Before I tried acting, I wanted to be a farmer.

“One of my school reports said I had the attention span of a grasshopper. But if I like something, I really work at it.”

His big acting break came four years ago in a Showtime series, “Robin Hood.” He also appeared in “The First Olympics--Athens 1896,” “The Lords of Discipline” and “The Boy Who Had Everything.” “La Veneziana,” a film he made in Venice with Laura Antonelli, was the “top-grossing film in Czechoslovakia in 1988,” he reports with a snicker.

Although “The Secret Life of Ian Fleming” may turn Connery into a romantic lead, it will not provide him with many action credentials.

“What I love about this film is that I never hold a gun and I never hit anyone--except a Russian countess, and she deserved it,” he says.

“We’re not making a Bond film,” Fairfax insists. “We do have a scene where Fleming leads a raid on a German-occupied part of Norway, with his men landing in miniature submarines and scaling impossible heights. But this is a portrait of a man who escapes the shackles of his tremendously oppressed and cloistered upper-class life. It’s not about hardware.”

Nor is it about car crashes or big special effects. As producer Aida Young points out, “We haven’t got the Bond budget, dear.”


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