No, Sean Connery didn’t turn down an offer from Steve Jobs

Over the weekend, the first (and arguably best) actor to play James Bond in a movie, Sean Connery, passed away at the age of 90.

Almost immediately, a story began doing the rounds online about the time, in 1998, when Connery told Steve Jobs that he flat-out refused to participate in an Apple ad. Why? Because Jobs was “a computer salesman” and Connery was “f*cking James Bond.”

It’s a great story. It’s also totally untrue.

The alleged incident

The story, which spread like wildfire on social media, goes like this: Sometime in late 1998, Steve Jobs pitched Sean Connery in participating in an Apple ad. In response, Connery wrote Jobs a highly critical letter, saying that, “I do not sell my soul for Apple or any other company.” Connery (or, rather, the hoaxer) went on that, “I have no interest in ‘changing the world’ as you suggest.” He concludes (at least, according to the letter):

“I can think of no quicker way to destroy my career than to appear in one of your crass adverts. Please do not contact me again.”

It’s not clear who created the hoax. But it was debunked by several Steve Jobs authorities — including Steven Levy, who reported extensively on Jobs throughout his career.

Steve Jobs and Sean Connery.
The name’s news. Fake news.
Photo: Source unknown.

The story, like all hoaxes, has a faint air of plausibility to it. Connery could be pretty blunt at times. And Jobs was also known, on occasion, to contact celebrities in person to try and get them to appear in Apple ads. (When Robin Williams’ agent said that the late comedian didn’t do ads, Jobs phoned Williams personally. Williams’ wife refused to put her husband on the phone because of how persuasive Jobs could be.)

But it’s not true — and not just because receiving a typewriter-written message in 1998 would have been pretty anachronistic. Connery, for his part, appeared in multiple ads during his career. (Here he is advertising Citroen cars and, here, advertising Suntory Crest whisky in Japan.)

Steve Jobs and Sean Connery: A 2020 story

As far as I’m aware, the closest Apple came to being connected with anything like this was when it paid $15 million to have its PowerBook promoted in the spy movie Mission: Impossible. That’s a pretty tangential connection to this, but, hey, it involves Apple and a movie super spy.

This isn’t the first bit of Steve Jobs fake news that’s done the rounds online. Every now and then, I see people sharing the supposed last words of Steve Jobs as he commented on wealth and a life of “little joy.” Also not true.

What is true is that this Sean Connery story highlights, once again, how easy it is for untruths to spread easily online before people do the proper fact-checking. Forget this incident supposedly having happened in 1998. This is absolutely a 2020 story through-and-through.

(For what it’s worth, Connery was way more than just the James Bond actor. From 1975’s The Man Who Would Be King to 1965’s The Hill to 1986’s The Name of the Rose and so on, Connery left behind an amazing body of work. RIP.)