From the impeccably stylish James Bond to the rumpled, boozy Barley Blair, Sean Connery has now run the gamut of the spying breed.
In "The Russia House," the Scottish actor switches from the glossy make-believe of Ian Fleming to the sardonic reality of John le Carre. It's another of the latter-day performances that have won him an Academy Award ("The Untouchables") and box-office glory ("The Hunt for Red October").Connery recently analyzed his two spies:
"This is an over-simplification, but the character in the Bond films was very much fully realized. In fact, he did not change from page one to the end. What he did was change the situation himself through his own character. He was, you know, the complete machine for whatever was necessary at the time."
Barley Blair in "The Russia House," he said, "is like an unmade bed, with no direction. He is certainly not a successful figure, not heroic material by any means."
Whereas Bond worked for Her Majesty's Secret Service, Blair is an outsider, a publisher who does business in the Soviet Union. After he drunkenly expounds on freedom at a dinner with intellectuals, a Russian scientist sends him a book manuscript outlining the failures of Russian defense. British intelligence intercepts the package, and Blair is conscripted as a spy.