'The Next Man': Remembering when Sean Connery played a Saudi Arabian minister

The late James Bond actor’s 1976 film received a mixed response at the time

FILE - This March 4, 1992 file photo shows actor Sean Connery during a news conference in Hamburg, Germany.  Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family.(AP Photo/Christian Eggers, File)
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He might be known as one of Scotland's most celebrated actors, but Sean Connery didn't just keep his varied roles to home turf.

In fact, the award-winning star portrayed a character from the region in a film often eclipsed by some of his more revered roles.

Connery took on the role of a Saudi Arabian national, and government minister, in the 1976 film The Next Man (also known as The Arab Conspiracy).

The first 007 played fictional Saudi Arabian minister of state, Khalil Abdul-Muhsen, in the political thriller, which was set during the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973-1974.

In the film, Abdul-Muhsen proposes to the UN that his country will recognise Israel and support Israeli membership to Opec as a non-producing member. After announcing his radical plan, chaos ensues at the UN as Arab nations stage a mass walk-out.

With a plan to protect developing countries from the threat of communism during the Cold War, Abdul-Muhsen’s idealism makes him the target of assassination attempts, not only by terrorist groups, but also by the cool, female assassin Nicole Scott (Cornelia Sharpe) who grows close to the minister.

However, while fans have lauded Connery's performance following his death last week, the film did not please the Saudi Arabian government at the time.

The plot led Saudi's government to send producer, Martin Bregman – who also produced the classics Scarface, Carlito's Way and Dog Day Afternoon – an official protest at the depiction of events in the film.

The 1973 oil crisis began in October 1973, when the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo targeted at nations perceived as supporting Israel during the Arab-Israeli war.

The nations targeted, included Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa. By March 1974, the price of oil had risen nearly 300 per cent from $3 per barrel to nearly $12 globally.

In the film, which was described by late film critic Roger Ebert as having an “impenetrable plot that nevertheless has its moments”, Connery chose not to attempt a Middle Eastern accent.

The decision made the role one in a long line of international character roles in which he used his famous Scottish brogue to play an Irishman (The Untouchables), a Russian (The Hunt for Red October), a Norwegian (The Red Tent), a Scandinavian (The Terrorists), an Egyptian (Highlander) and a Moroccan (The Wind and the Lion).