Action movie audiences have a love/hate relationship with Michael Bay. On the one hand, he’s directed some of the most loud and obnoxious action vehicles ever made, but on the other, he’s crafted some masterful classics that are still fun to watch even after a hundred repeat viewings.
The Rock was one of Bay’s best flicks, thanks largely to a stellar cast featuring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris, plus a dynamite script and (of course) huge explosions. The action was crazy, the Alcatraz setting was excellent, and the doomsday scenario all-too-possible. Here’s the most fascinating things audiences probably didn’t know about The Rock.
10 An Unlikely Premiere
Since The Rock was filmed predominantly on Alcatraz Island, it was only fitting that it play a prominent role in the premiere once production had finished. For the sake of a little fun, the prison’s recreation yard was used as the ideal spot for the film’s first premiere showing.
Alcatraz is one of the most iconic shooting locations in movie history, and has been used to film not only The Rock, but the Clint Eastwood classic Escape From Alcatraz (1979), Point Blank (1967), and Murder In The First (1995).
9 An Antagonist With Real Influences
Ed Harris portrayed the noble yet angry and fed-up General Hummel, who was actually based on a real person – at least in part. According to producer Don Simpson, the memoirs of Colonel David H. Hackworth played a major influence when he came up with the Hummel character.
Hackworth was extremely upset at the U.S. handling of the Vietnam War and the soldiers that fought in it. Simpson also took inspiration from a 60 Minutes interview detailing the disavowing of covert ops soldiers on foreign missions and the anger it would create in the United States’ most elite officers.
8 Connery Had Bay’s Back
Sean Connery was notorious for sticking his nose in the production process and pointing out inefficiencies in the shooting process, but that was a testament to the dedication towards his craft. When push came to shove, Connery would go to bat for his crew – something director Michael Bay could attest to.
Tensions began flaring between studio execs and Bay over the way the shooting process was being handled, and he was called into a meeting which Sean Connery asked to be a part of. Once they both arrived, Connery stood up for Bay and put the execs in their place by telling them what a good job he was doing.
7 An Accidental Obituary
Producer Don Simpson died during the film’s production due to a massive cocktail of illicit and illegal drugs in his system. Along with Jerry Bruckheimer, Simpson was one part of a titanic duo that created some of the most memorable and successful films in Hollywood.
To prevent Michael Bay from losing focus during the production process, the cast and crew purposely kept the news of Simpson’s death a secret. It worked for a time until Nicolas Cage accidentally spilled the beans in typically cringey fashion.
6 Michael Biehn’s Typecasting
Action movie star Michael Biehn is best known to audiences for a string of films where he plays a military man or another kind of action hero. His portrayal of a Navy S.E.A.L. in The Rock is a direct parallel of his performance in the 1990 action flick Navy S.E.A.L.s., not to mention others.
Biehn played future war soldier Kyle Reese in The Terminator (1984), a Colonial Marine corporal in Aliens (1986), and – of course – a Navy S.E.A.L. in the underrated 1989 sci-fi classic The Abyss.
5 A Ruined Stunt
Former Navy S.E.A.L. and Hollywood action movie consultant Harry Humphries showed up on set one day during filming to witness a man on fire while being suspended in the air. Without missing a beat, Humphries’ training took over and he grabbed the nearest fire extinguisher to put him out.
Unfortunately, Humphries didn’t realize that a stunt was in the process of being filmed, and he had just ruined the take without realizing it. Director Michael Bay yelled out from the sidelines “It’s the movies, man!”
4 Frightened Onlookers
Some of the scenes shot took place in real locales for maximum effect, regardless of what innocent bystanders were watching from the sidelines. The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco was used to stage one exciting scene where FBI director Womack is tossed off a balcony and left to dangle.
This led to a series of frightened onlookers who didn’t realize a film was being shot, and instead thought that something nefarious was taking place. They phoned into the hotel (and most likely the police) to blow the whistle.
3 A Challenge Taken
Nicolas Cage epitomized the need for people to ignore their naysayers and shoot for their dreams, regardless of what they may be. According to legend, many people working within Hollywood told the actor that he didn’t have what it took to pull off a role in a big budget action blockbuster.
Rather than relent and accept their criticism as fact, Cage viewed their remarks as a challenge and decided to go for it. His success in The Rock might have been the necessary catalyst to go for broke in Con Air, which debuted one year later.
2 Connery’s Odd Demands
Most big-shot Hollywood actors demand everything from 24/7 limo service to an obscene cut of the film’s proceeds, but Sean Connery had other considerations in mind. He hated the idea of traveling by ferry every day and night to get to and from the shooting location on Alcatraz, so he made a different kind of demand.
Connery wanted a cabin built for him on Alcatraz that he could stay in overnight and be ready to film the next morning. It was an odd request from many A-list actors who would have preferred a five-star hotel instead of a makeshift cabin. In the end, the studio relented and gave him what he wanted.
1 Cage’s Character Input
Nicolas Cage portrayed the goofy but lovable Stanley Goodspeed in The Rock, and he was responsible for injecting the character with many of his trademark mannerisms. Originally, Goodspeed was supposed to have some varied character dialogue, but Cage wanted to play him more like a straight arrow.
He was the one who convinced Michael Bay to allow his character to refrain from using profanity throughout the film in favor of far less menacing language. It was another nod to his unlikely hero persona that ended up making the final act so exciting to watch.
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