If Sean Connery’s red outfit from Zardoz—something I left few words about on this blog in honour of Sean Connery’s 83rd birthday—is the most absurd getup Sean Connery has worn on screen, his black bear suit from The Avengers—a 1998 film starring Uma Thurman and current Bond-series M Ralph Fiennes and based on the 1960s British television series—is a solid runner-up. Sean Connery plays the film’s villain, Sir August De Wynter, who in one scene leads a gathering of villainous and colourful teddy bears.
Costume designer Anthony Powell dressed the people in De Wynter’s evil organisation in teddy bear costumes to mask their identities, including the security guards. They only know who their leader is, who is able to remove his mask. The audience knows its Sean Connery under the mask due to his familiar brogue, so it’s not much of a reveal when he removes his mask. For each person the bear suits is a different colour, such as red, yellow, green, brown, purple, orange, baby blue and pink. The bright colours make the villains look like cute, silly and powerless gummy bears, while De Wynter’s black bear suit gives him a slight menacing edge over the rest of the gang. The black bear suit makes him look the most villainous of all the teddy bears. But it still is difficult for any person to look threatening while dressed as a bear or any other animal in either a cartoonish or realistic-looking suit.
The bear suit is made up of a body with a separate, easily removable head. Most of the bears’ faces have friendly looks with centred pupils in round eyes but with various mouth expressions. Some are happily smiling, some have an endearing frown, and others have a straight mouth that gives them a confused look. The eyes of De Wynter’s bear have more menacingly placed pupils than the others, with the the right pupil looking up and the left pupil inwards of the centre.
With the bear’s head off, the body of the bear suit resembles the shape of a highly muscular physique with large shoulders framing Sean Connery’s much smaller head. This helps make him look slightly more intimidating, but not by much because he is still wearing most of a bear suit.
All of the bear suits at the table are the same overall style, though De Wynter’s suit has different paws. While most of the suits have full paw-gloves with matching-coloured pads on the palm of the hands and black claws on the back of the hands, De Wynter’s suit is open at the paw to allow dexterity and does not cover his ice blue painted hands. It also has white claws for a sharper look.
The idea to dress De Wynter and the others in his organisation in teddy bear suits may have come from the original Avengers television series. The first episode of the second series titled “Mr Teddy Bear” features an assassin known as Mr Teddy Bear who uses an animatronic teddy bear to communicate with Dr. Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman who would later play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. This episode also features Michael Collins, the voice of Auric Goldfinger, as George the Technician.
There is a more wearable alternative to the teddy bear suit. Motoluxe invented a very warm double-breasted coat during the days of unheated motoring that becaume known as the “Teddy Bear Coat” because its luscious deep-pile alpaca fabric resembled that of a teddy bear’s fabric and turned its wearer into something of a bear. While a proper, luxurious Teddy Bear coat would be a more appropriate garment for a serious villain than a cute teddy bear costume, it wouldn’t have the ridiculous element that was always present in The Avengers television series.
The Motoluxe brand had been dormant since the 1960s until Mason & Sons recently revived it, so it would not have been an option for the 1998 film, and thus Sean Connery had to settle with a proper teddy bear suit. Mason & Sons now produces the Motoluxe Teddy Bear Coat and makes it from the same deep-pile alpaca wool that Steiff teddy bears are made of. Now with Motoluxe under control by the same people who operate Anthony Sinclair, the maker of Sean Connery’s James Bond suits, the Motoluxe coat would have been an even more appropriate choice. While the Motoluxe Teddy Bear Coat in black would not mask one’s identity, it certainly has a villainous look.
Sean Connery never had the opportunity to dress up as an animal in his James Bond films like Roger Moore did. In Octopussy, Roger Moore both operated an alligator submarine and hid himself inside a gorilla suit. But Connery’s time to wear an amusing animal costume finally came with The Avengers. Then again, Sean Connery was wearing a bear suit underneath his clothes all along and revealed it in a number of scenes throughout his Bond films. Perhaps in Bond 25 we will once again see a James Bond dressed as a more exotic creature than James Bond himself.