June 21, 2010 / 1:12 PM / in 7 years

Tearful Connery acts up to Edinburgh audience

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - Nearing his 80th birthday, Scottish actor Sean Connery celebrated one of his favorite roles as a renegade ex-British army trooper at a gala performance of the 1975 movie The Man Who Would be King at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The film starring Connery, Michael Caine, Canadian actor Christopher Plummer and Indian-born star Saeed Jaffrey played to loud applause from packed ranks in the 1,500-seat Festival Theater on Sunday night. Connery has been the festival’s patron since 1992.

“There are very few movies made about friendship, and it’s so important and this was about friendship,” Connery said with a catch in his throat.

“I hadn’t realized the impact it was going to have on me,” he said tearfully of the audience’s reception.

The film, a late gem by American director John Huston from a short story by Rudyard Kipling, is the tale of two rascally ex-soldiers who set out into the fastness of northern Afghanistan to make themselves kings -- and a fortune.

In the end, it all goes disastrously wrong -- perhaps a prescient comment for today’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Looking nostalgically backwards, Connery -- who turns 80 on August 25 -- said “it’s great to be back.”

Relaxed and dressed in a colorful open-necked shirt and light grey slacks, he said “more than 60 years ago I was standing on this stage.” He and three students were extras in a long-forgotten performance. “It was a great romp and great fun.”

London-born Caine, who played Peachy Carnehan opposite Connery’s Daniel Dravot in The Man Who Would be King, was unable to attend, but said in a message: “Happy 80th birthday; it couldn’t have happened to a greater chum.”

Saeed Jaffrey, now a frail 81 who played Gurkha soldier Billy Fish in the gala movie, was helped gently across the stage by Connery.

“Hello, God bless you. It was a good thing doing this film in Morocco with you and Michael Caine,” Jaffrey said.

Connery, has played dozens of parts over the years, including the defining role for British super-agent James Bond in the 007 films, earlier unveiled a plaque inscribed “Oscar Winning Actor, International Film Star” high on a new tenement wall in the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh where he was born and raised.

He walked informally around the street to greetings from local people of “Hallo, Tam” -- his full name is Thomas Sean Connery.

He was accompanied by his wife Micheline, of whom he said: “She’s my anchor, she’s my compass and I love the lass.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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