When Sean Connery passed away in 2020, the world lost one of its most venerated movie stars. The actor’s career stretched from the 1950s to the modern era, from black and white film to the dawn of CGI. He was James Bond. He was a Highlander. He was Indiana Jones’ disapproving father. And apparently, he was apparently the most intimidating person in the world on set. That is according to legendary action film director Michael Bay, who worked with Connery on the 1996 thriller The Rock. In a recent interview with Collider, which covered the entirety of the filmmaker’s mega-successful career and his repeated insistence that he is 32 years old, Bay revealed that when he first met Connery while filming The Rock, he was absolutely terrified by him. So terrified, in fact, that he had to pull out a magic trick to get on Sean Connery’s good side.
Let us break that down. On one hand, it is not all that surprising that Sean Connery was a scary person to be around. After all, in his youth, Connery had been a champion bodybuilder and he reportedly once beat up an actual, real-life mobster on the set of one of his films. So even if he did not have his legendary gravitas and experience, he would have been kind of unnerving to be around. At this point in his career, Michael Bay had only directed one movie, the successful action thriller Bad Boys, which had helped Will Smith and Martin Lawrence transition from TV to film superstardom. As Bay put it, “Sean’s done 75 movies. I’ve done, this was my second.” He found himself scared to give the actor direction while filming, which was probably not helped by Sean Connery apparently solely referring to Michael Bay as “Boy” on set.
However, in one of Sean Connery’s first scenes in The Rock, in which he is being interrogated while strapped to a chair, Bay finally managed to get on his good side. In another layer of the fascinatingly bro-y onion that is Michael Bay, he revealed in the interview that he used to want to be a magician and had some rudimentary tricks. He managed to parlay his inner David Copperfield into amusing Connery enough to actually get along with him. Here is how Bay put it:
So it looks like, there’s a scene where he takes a quarter, it flips on the table, and that’s the thing that he gets out of his handcuffs. He kind of hits his chair and he dents it, and he gets out of his handcuffs. So I was spinning this quarter, I’m down there, I’m doing it myself. Sean Connery’s looking at me and he’s got this wry smile. He was a tough love guy, but he liked me.
The Rock would be the only time Michael Bay worked with Sean Connery (and with co-star Nicolas Cage, himself just beginning his journey to action star). The director seems to have deep respect and fondness for the late star, praising his professionalism and work ethic. The Rock would be the stepping stone in Bay’s career from the relatively low-budget Bad Boys to the mega-budget, explosion-heavy likes of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor that would define both his style and action films of the millennium. Presumably, it is a good thing that little quarter trick managed to give him to boost of confidence to send Bruce Willis into space. Bay’s most recent film Ambulance stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González.