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For Jerry Bruckheimer, landing Sean Connery for The Rock was almost as complicated as planning an escape from Alcatraz. The producer had his heart set on the legendary actor to play the character John Mason, the only man to ever escape from the notorious prison. But before signing on, Connery had many questions and suggestions.
“I think we went through every single line in the script, every character, every plot movement, changed things, rewrote things until we finally got to a place where he said he’d do the movie,” Bruckheimer tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was a long process and I learned a lot, just with his knowledge of good movie making, good storytelling, development terrific characters.”
The 1996 film saw a rogue Marine (Ed Harris) take control of Alcatraz after seizing a stockpile of rockets armed with deadly nerve gas. Connery’s Mason teams up with chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) to save the day.
The Rock was directed by Michael Bay, who was hot off his 1995 debut feature, Bad Boys, but was hardly a big name. Connery used his clout to help keep the film moving when Disney execs wanted to cut the budget because production was going over by a few days.
“Sean just shut them down. ‘You should be giving [Bay] more money! Have you seen the footage of this movie? He’s doing a phenomenal job. Don’t you want a great movie?'” Bruckheimer recalls the actor saying. “He just laid into them. They left with their tails between their legs.”
Connery had a reputation for using four-letter words, but Bruckheimer best remembers him for his professionalism.
“He would come to the set about an hour early before the crew call. He’d have his breakfast. He’d go over the scene,” says Bruckheimer.
Connery also cared about small details, bringing it to Bruckheimer’s attention when money was going to waste.
“He walked onto the set one day and he pulled me over and said, ‘Jerry, see that crane over there?’ I said, ‘Yes, Sean.’ He said, ‘You know, that’s been here for three days and nobody’s using it. Do you have any idea what that’s costing you a day?’ “
The Rock went on to earn $335 million globally, becoming fourth-highest grossing movie of the year. It helped solidify Bay as a major filmmaker. And it was a nice feather in Bruckheimer’s cap as a producer.
Still, Bruckheimer has one regret: that he never again worked with Connery, who died Saturday at age 90.
“He’s everything you could ask for as a partner in a movie,” says Bruckheimer. “Especially a movie star of his caliber.”
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