Sean Connery's The Rock is streaming on DIRECTV.
Before Dwayne Johnson came along, The Rock was just a goofy action movie starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. For Millenials of a certain age, the words “The Rock” probably still invoke memories of Nicolas Cage fondling little green balls instead of the WWE. For those Millenials—and anyone else with a penchant for ’80s and ’90s action movies—there’s good news: The Rock is streaming right now on DIRECTV!
The Rock is a 1996 action thriller directed by the king of Transformers, Michael Bay, from a screenplay by David Weisberg, Douglas Cook, and Mark Rosner. The movie stars living meme Nicolas Cage as Stanley Goodspeed—remember, three people wrote this movie—an F.B.I. biochemist and an expecting father. Joining him is screen legend Sean Connery as ex-British intelligence agent John Patrick Mason the only man to ever escape from the infamous Alcatraz prison.
Ed Harris rounds out the leads as Marine General Francis Xavier Hummel—three people!—as one of those “actually, this guy has the right idea so we better have him kill some people so the audience knows he’s the bad guy” type villains that became popular years later in the Marvel era. See Thanos, Killmonger, The Flagsmashers, etc. Several well-known actors join Sean Connery onscreen, including William Forsyth, David Morse, Terminator‘s Michael Biehn, John C. McGinley of Scrubs fame, Bokeem Woodbine, and Mallrat‘s Claire Forlani.
The movie revolves around Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage breaking into Alcatraz, an island prison notorious for being inescapably nicknamed “the rock,” to stop Ed Harris from killing a bunch of hostages and sending rockets loaded with VX gas—the aforementioned little green balls—flying toward San Francisco. Harris’s general Hummel has a good reason for his indefensible actions, however.
Hummel wants $100 million dollars to compensate the families of marines who died during covert missions and were never acknowledged due to the secretive nature of their assignments. In other words, much like Thanos, good idea, horrible execution. Luckily Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage are successful, and everyone in San Francisco avoids having to eat nerve gas for lunch.
As it turns out, the three writers credited on IMDb for writing The Rock weren’t the only writers on the project. Due to a WGA rule stating that a writer has to contribute 50 percent of the final script to get credit, Jonathan Hensleigh, Aaron Sorkin, and even Quentin Tarantino received no official credit for the work they did on the script for The Rock. So six writers and we still got a character with the last name Goodspeed. Insert Captain Picard facepalm GIF here.
In addition to the above-named ghostwriters, Sean Connery requested a screenwriting team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais be brought in to change all of his dialogue. This was done presumably to make sure all of Connery’s lines sounded good when filtered through the actor’s distinct Scottish accent. As it turned out, the writing pair apparently worked on more than just Sean’s dialogue and ended up altering a majority of the film’s speaking lines.
Michael Bay butted heads with Disney execs during filming to the point where Sean Connery, fresh from the golf course and attired as such, insisted on joining Bay during one particular meeting. As Bay tells the story on the film’s DVD commentary, the suits at Disney were so shocked to see Connery enter the room behind him that their jaws dropped. Bay’s account goes on to say that Sean Connery stood up for the director and insisted that Disney leave him alone and let him keep making the movie however he wanted to.
The Rock was shot on location in Alcatraz, which at the time was under the purview of the National Park Service and couldn’t be shut down for filming. As a result, Michael Bay’s team had to be prepared to film around groups of sight-seeing tourists. Another downside of filming on an actual island was having to travel back and forth to the mainland every day, something Sean Connery was not too keen on doing. As a result, the James Bond actor demanded a cabin be built on Alcatraz island for him to live in while he shot the movie.
The Rock was shot for $75 million and grossed a total of $335 million globally, making it the fourth highest-grossing film of 1996. The Sean Connery starring action vehicle was generally well-liked by critics though derided for being a big, dumb action spectacular with nothing to challenge viewers intellectually. Audiences, on the other hand, ate it up, green balls and all.
Today, The Rock represents a specific time in the late ’90s when gimmicky action tentpoles like Armaggedon and Speed hadn’t yet been replaced by superhero blockbusters like Avengers or toy properties like Bay’s own Transformers. A time before action movies got serious and brutal, like The Raid and John Wick. If you’re looking for something to transport you back to the days of Blockbuster Video, Sean Connery’s toupee, and Nicolas Cage when he wasn’t quite so “Nicolas Cage,” you can’t do much better than The Rock.