Michael Bay was 30 when he worked with Sean Connery on The Rock. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced 1996 actioner starred Nicolas Cage as a FBI biochemist who teams up with Connery’s incarcerated British spy (think Bond in his golden years) to stop Ed Harris’ disgruntled US Marine General from destroying San Francisco with poison gas from his make-shift base on Alcatraz.
Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Bay, now 55, recalls how nerve-wracking it was to work with the iconic actor who died, at age 90, in his sleep at his home in the Bahamas on Saturday (Oct 31) after being diagnosed with dementia in the later years of his life.
The Rock was Bay’s second movie — after his 1995 debut Bad Boys — and Connery had made, well, many, many, many movies. “He was a legend. We all have a few teachers in our careers,” Bay wrote. “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.”
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He taught me so much. Sean the legend. To me, and so many others. My very first line of direction I was actually afraid to ask...“Sean can you please say that less charming”. He said, “sure boy”. That’s what he called me the whole movie, ‘boy’. I was just a kid, directing him in ‘The Rock’. Sean, you taught me more then you will ever know. To this day, you gruffly taking me under your wing Is still in everything I do. Rest In Peace my friend. @seanconnery_official @seanconnerydaily
“I was young-dumb, doing my second movie, The Rock,” Bay added. “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.”
Bay said, “Sean was notoriously thrifty and practical. I will never forget that first day he was on set, I shot a coin that helps [Connery’s character] Mason escape. We used a fake quarter from a Hollywood magic shop, triple in size, attached to a rod that I spun in front of the lens. I was laying down on the floor below Sean’s chair, spinning the quarter. I felt so stupid. This man had done 75 movies, and I didn’t think he was going to let me get this silly film school shot. And then I looked up at him. I will never forget the amazing James Bond smile he gave me in approval. He taught me so much about acting and the craft.”
The future Transformers helmer recalled another anecdote about Connery that happened while they were filming a car chase. Bay said “Sean driving and I’m alone filming him. He slams the brakes; my head hits the window. He says, ‘You OK?’ 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?
"Cut to: 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***ing Ivory Tower and we need more f***ing money!!’ Without missing a beat, they responded. “OK. How much?”
Bay concluded, “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.”
For more behind-the-scenes stories from The Rock, listen to the audio commentary on the movie’s Blu-ray. That is, if you can still find it.
Photo: TPG News/Click Photos