Licence to trip
AS JAMES Bond he was the epitome of cool sophistication, with passions extending to scantily clad women, fast cars and martinis - shaken not stirred of course.
Now Scotland on Sunday can reveal that Bond actor Sir Sean Connery was also open to new experiences as his fame began to grow. In a startling disclosure in a new book by his first wife, Connery is described as taking the mind-altering drug LSD after consulting an eminent Scottish psychiatrist.
Connery, then 25, was prescribed the drug, which in the early 1960s was not a controlled substance, to help cure emotional "blocking".
The Edinburgh-born actor decided to seek medical help after starring in 1964's Goldfinger because, despite his growing worldwide success, he was suffering from feelings of insecurity.
Details of the bizarre episode are contained in a new biography - My Nine Lives - by ex-spouse Diane Cilento, then 23, who says an "insecure" Connery sought the help of radical psychiatrist RD Laing to spiritually "unblock him".
In extracts from her book, published yesterday in Australia, Cilento says: "Goldfinger was the most successful Bond film yet. But, paradoxically, the more successful Bond became, the more insecure Sean felt. He was convinced that he would never feel safe until he had £1m in the bank."
It was around this time, Cilento says, that she met the "iconoclastic" Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, who was writing an "astonishingly astute" book called The Politics of Experience.
"In it he describes a radical new method of helping patients through times of stress without endless hours on the couch," Cilento recalls. "I talked to him about Sean, and then I talked to Sean about Laing. They were fascinated to meet each other, though Laing laid down stringent rules for the consultation.
"He demanded a great deal of money, complete privacy, a limo to transport him to and from the meeting and a bottle of the best single malt Scotch at each session."
Cilento writes that following her husband's initial shock at the sum of money: "I knew Sean was pleased at the arrangement. He knew no one could ask for that much loot without being sure of his skills."
What followed next was pure Hollywood. "On the first encounter, Laing gave Sean a tab of pure LSD, taking about a tenth of that amount himself.
"It was his standard procedure with patients he felt were emotionally blocked."
The results however appeared to be unpredictable. "No-one was privy to what happened over the next six hours," Cilento says, "but I believe that, with his enormous reserve and armouring, Sean resisted the drug. As a result, he had to go to bed for several days to recover."
Cilento believes Connery's encounter with LSD kickstarted his memories of a difficult childhood.
"This initial trip opened a Pandora's box," she says. "Suddenly, Sean began to remember challenging childhood scenes with his mother or father. Buried anger, victories or defeats came tumbling out without warning. "I recall him suddenly telling me how he used to hide sweets, comics and chocolates, which he'd nicked, under the coverlet when he pushed his baby brother Neil's pram around the shops with his mother [Effie].
"One day she flipped back the blanket and uncovered the stolen goodies. After a public belting in the street, Effie dragged him back to the shop by his ear, forcing him to apologise to the shopkeeper and replace the lot."
Connery has come under harsh criticism in recent years for becoming a tax exile, living in Spain and the US rather than his native land. Cilento's book reveals that Laing encouraged Connery's unease with his homeland and states that the psychiatrist referred to the "boredom" Scotland instilled and what he called the "Celtic constriction".
Cilento said: "Sean also started to think a great deal about why so many Scots leave their native land. He spent much time trying to tease out this knotty problem with Laing."
My Nine Lives also deals with one of the most controversial incidents in the actor's life - claims that he assaulted Cilento during their marriage.
Cilento recounts the incident in detail, although she doesn't directly name Connery as the attacker. "It was late when I climbed the stairs to our room," she writes. "I can't remember if I had a key or if the door was unlocked. I was a bit drunk.
"Once inside, in the darkness, I felt a blow to my face and was knocked to the floor. I remember screaming, and I think we were shouting. I got to my feet and tried to fight back, but another blow sent me flying.
"I managed to get through the bathroom door and locked myself in. I spent the night sprawled on the bathroom floor, covered with towels, whimpering."
She fled the next morning, leaving Connery sleeping, to avoid media questions. When she next spoke to her husband, the incident was never mentioned. She only raised it years later when Connery told a magazine interviewer that there was "nothing wrong" with hitting a women in certain circumstances. He has always denied making the remarks, saying the interviewer took his comments out of context.
My Nine Lives also gives Cilento's perspective on being the "wife" of James Bond, saying she hated all the attention.
Cilento writes: "After the initial surprise, to discover that everyone is crowding in, wanting to touch, wanting to worship, it becomes frightening. You never feel safe, knowing that some stalker might do something crazy."
Cilento, herself an actress, met Connery in 1957 when she was pregnant and married to another man. For the next decade and a half, their relationship survived the break-up of Cilento's first marriage, the clash of two movie careers and finally the spotlight on Connery's life as the alter ego of James Bond. The two parted in 1973 with Cilento going on to marry playwright Anthony Shaffer in 1985. He died in 2001 and the 72-year-old now runs a theatre near her new home home at Port Douglas in Queensland. Connery remarried in 1975 to French-Tunisian Micheline Roquebrune.
Seventy-five-year-old Connery, who recently announced his retirement from acting, was yesterday unavailable for comment.
THE ALTERNATIVE MEDIC
THROUGHOUT his career, Scot RD Laing courted controversy. As a practising psychiatrist, he wrote extensively on mental illness and particularly the experience of psychosis.
He is noted for his views, influenced by existential philosophy, on the causes and treatment of mental illness and was renowned in his field for going against the orthodoxy of the time - as seen by his LSD encounter with Sean Connery.
Born in the Govanhill district of Glasgow, Laing went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow. He spent several years as an army psychiatrist. In 1953, Laing left the army and worked at Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow. During the late 1950s he went on to study at the Tavistock Clinic in London.
In 1965 he started a psychiatric community project at Kingsley Hall in London, where patients and therapists lived together. Laing was troubled by his own personal problems, suffering both from episodic alcoholism and clinical depression. He died in 1989, age 61, of a heart attack while playing tennis.
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