Michael Bay has helmed fourteen movies over the last quarter of a century, and still hasn’t managed to top his second directorial effort. The Rock is easily one of the best action blockbusters of the 1990s and arguably one of the finest ever made, taking the high concept pitch of a hostage situation on Alcatraz and turning it into a high octane thrill ride that never takes itself too seriously.
A perfect storm of talent, The Rock saw action cinema’s newest wunderkind behind the camera and marked the final collaboration between powerhouse producing duo Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, as the latter passed away four months before it hit theaters. Two of the finest writers in the industry were also involved as Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino both performed uncredited rewrites on the script, while the ensemble was perfectly cast from top to bottom.
Recently minted Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage headlined his first action movie, while Sean Connery brought every ounce of his charisma and star power to the role of wrongfully imprisoned convict John Mason, with the central duo’s bickering dynamic generating serious chemistry and providing plenty of major laughs.
Bay recently shared a moving tribute to mark Connery’s passing at the age of 90, and it sounded like he was in awe as a young and relatively unproven director working with a genuine Hollywood icon.
“He was a legend. We all have a few teachers in our careers. The ones that imprint something special on your being. Teachers that you haven’t seen in 20 years, but you still remember their wisdom like yesterday. Sean Connery was one of those for me. I was young, dumb, doing my second movie, The Rock. I had heard he was notoriously tough on directors. I was terrified when I gave him my first direction, ‘Uh, Sean can you please do that less charming’. He said, Sure, boy’. ‘Boy’ was the nickname he gave me.”
The filmmaker also shared an anecdote about how Connery used nothing but his sheer presence to keep the studio executives off his back about production running a couple of days behind schedule.
“Sean driving and I’m alone filming him. He slams the brakes, my head hits the window. He says, ‘You okay?’. I say, ‘No, the Disney folks are here to kick my butt for being two days over schedule’. Sean, with that sly look, says, ‘You want me to help?’. Having lunch with the Disney execs in a third-grade classroom, sitting at tiny tables and chairs. We looked like giants. I announce that Mr. Connery would like to visit and say hi. Sean comes in, sits down across from the open-mouthed executives. In classic Sean Connery style, he belts out in his Scottish brogue, ‘This boy is doing a good job, and you’re living in your Disney f*cking ivory tower and we need more f*cking money’. Without missing a beat, they responded. ‘Okay. How much?’. He did it because he loved movies. He loved excellence and doing the best he could. His work ethic was bar none, the best I’ve ever experienced.”
A lot of fans will be revisiting The Rock over the coming days to celebrate Sean Connery‘s legacy, and there are few better tributes to the latter stages of the actor’s career than one of the most purely entertaining movies he ever starred in.