Con Air was part of a series of mid-1990’s blockbuster action flicks that carried the flag for old school machismo, big explosions, and sappy love subplots. Nicholas Cage hit his stride in the film just one year after making it big in Michael Bay’s breakout action hit The Rock. He’d also pump out the enormously successful John Woo action epic Face/Off during the same month as Con Air.
To many fans, Con Air is an action movie underdog that doesn’t get as much respect or attention as it deserves. Here are some intriguing facts about the making of this one-of-a-kind blockbuster epic, and the legacy it still has among the action genre to this day.
10 An Important Date In The Film
The film takes place on July 14th, which is a direct reference to Bastille Day which occurred on July 14th, 1789. That was the day when the people of Paris made a move on a prison containing dissidents and political rivals who were sent there without being charged with a crime.
According to history, the people who stormed the fortress seized weapons from its own armory and helped bring about the release of the prisoners, as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which is based on the American Declaration of Independence.
9 Nicholas Cage’s Accent
In order to pass himself off as a southern man, Nicholas Cage traveled to Alabama and hung out to get an ear for the lingo and the accent so that he could provide a better performance. It’s one example of an actor going the distance to research his role.
Unfortunately, Cage’s accent isn’t perfect, and in many scenes, it actually seems to hamper the believability of the performance. Regardless, kudos should be given to the actor for wanting his character to buck any preconceived notions, just like the greats of old.
8 Script Problems
Director Simon West must have struggled during the production of Con Air given the rumors of a constantly-changing script. This kind of thing can throw a production into chaos, such as what happened on the infamous set of David Fincher’s Alien 3 just five years prior to Con Air.
Actor John Malkovich was less than impressed with the rewrites as they kept messing with his character and preventing him from nailing down a consistent performance. For an actor of his stature, this must have been excruciating.
7 Sweet Home Alabama
During the scene when the prisoners are blasting the song “Sweet Home Alabama” on board the plane, one character remarks about the definition of irony relating to a “bunch of idiots” dancing around to a song made famous by a plane crash that killed the band.
In reality, this isn’t accurate as several members managed to make it out of the wreck alive. Only three were killed along with other passengers who were also on the plane. However, the line in the film does sound more snappy and comedic than having to explain the intricacies of the accident.
6 John Cusack Hated The Film
According to legend, actor John Cusack who played the eccentric FBI agent Vince Larkin hated his role and tried to downplay it wherever he could. For a long time he refused to talk about the film in interviews, but not for the reasons one might think.
In a 2007 interview with The Guardian, Cusack stated that it was either Con Air or the romantic comedies and typical Cusack roles that would not have allowed him to pursue projects he wanted. He was especially sour about the nature of Hollywood’s push for tentpole summer blockbusters at the expense of good traditional storytelling.
5 Casting Cyrus “The Virus”
A number of high profile actors were considered for the role of principal antagonist Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom before the role eventually landed in the lap of John Malkovich. Some of the more interesting names on the ticket were Kevin Bacon, Michael Douglas, Rutger Hauer, Michael Keaton, and John Travolta.
Eventually, Malkovich would get the role and deliver an interesting take on the traditional super-genius bad guy character. However, it would have been quite interesting to see Jack Nicholson win the part and pad his list of unforgettable movie quotes.
4 A Song That Went Nowhere
LeAnn Rimes scored a hit with the highly memorable “How Do I Live,” which was written by Diane Warren for the film. It has since gone on to become one of the most recognized romantic love ballads in music history, but its association with Con Air is very much an afterthought.
That might have something to do with the song being nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar as well as a Razzie for Worst Original Song. As ironic as this standoff might seem, the fact that the song failed to win either award is even more bizarre.
3 Postponed Demolition
Few fans know that the end scene where the plane crashes into the casino was actually real. The owners of the Sands Hotel were persuaded by the filmmakers to postpone its demolition in 1996 by just a few weeks in order to coincide with filming.
When the day came, the team had only one opportunity to get the shot, and the fates seemed to be in alignment. The crash worked without a hitch and the Sands Hotel owners had a nice little story to tell to their grandchildren.
2 An Unlikely Director
Simon West is the director responsible for such big-screen action movies such as 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the 2012 sequel The Expendables 2, and he got his start with his first big-budget job – Con Air. His background before that is, shall we say, a little more colorful.
Among the director’s first works was none other than the music video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” which is now a cemented-and-lacquered part of pop culture thanks to the internet “Rickroll” phenomenon.
1 A Sad Dedication
In a tragic development during the shooting, a welder named Philip Swartz ended up dying when the cargo plane he was working on fell down and crushed him. Swartz was rushed to a nearby clinic but was pronounced dead on arrival, and the incident was ruled an industrial accident.
The incident was a reminder of the dangers of working on a film set, and how anything can and does happen both with actors who do their own stunts, as well as the crew working diligently behind the scenes.
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