Celebrating 20 Years of Con Air

Plot: Just-paroled army ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is headed back to his wife (Monica Potter), but must fly home aboard a prison transport flight dubbed “Jailbird” with some of the worst criminals living. Along with Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames) and Baby-O (Mykelti Williamson), genius serial killer Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) unleashes a violent escape plot in mid-flight. Secretly working with U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack), Poe tries to foil Grissom’s plan.

Everyone knows that Con Air is one of my favourite movies; I saw it 5 times when it hit theatres 20 years ago and I still watch it regularly. When I first watched that teaser trailer with the epic guitar theme tune the movie immediately caught my attention. It was part of what I call Nic Cage’s Action Trilogy with The Rock and Face/Off also among his finest hours.

To celebrate its anniversary I’ve been looking into some trivia about the movie; some of which I didn’t know about before.

The movie was inspired by a newspaper article about a plane that transports convicts and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg always wanted Cusack for the U.S. Marshal and Buscemi for the serial killer Garland Green.

The Las Vegas set climax was filmed at the Sands Hotel immediately prior to its demolition in late 1996. When the production team heard about the city’s intentions to raze the historic landmark, they immediately scheduled a multiple camera setup to take advantage of the rare event, which is what you actually see in the movie. Obviously they only had one take but nailed it first time.

Apparently John Cusack dislikes this film so much that he refuses to be interviewed about it which is a shame considering he’s barely been in anything watchable since.

John Malkovich was also unhappy during production because the script was being rewritten virtually every day and he had no idea how his character was going to turn out. Thankfully he became one of the most iconic bad guys in action movie history.

There were some interesting casting ideas before Nic Cage got the role of Cameron Poe with practically every action star in the business considered. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren, Johnny Depp, William Baldwin, Stephen Baldwin, Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise were all considered for the part.

Cyrus Grissom was also very nearly played by Gary Oldman who was the first choice to play the villain. Tim Robbins, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Michael Madsen, John Travolta, Kevin Bacon, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, George Clooney, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Douglas, Rutger Hauer, Peter Weller, James Gandolfini, Tom Sizemore, Ron Perlman, Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke were also considered. As much as I love Malkovich in the role you can imagine how awesome Oldman would have been…

Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen and Matthew Broderick were considered for the part of Vince Larkin. I totally could have pictured RDJ in the role now that i think about it.

Kid Rock allegedly wrote his hit “American Badass” on Cage’s character in the movie. I always did like that song…

The line spoken by Sally Can’t Dance at the end where he/she says “Oh, men in uniform” still isn’t on any of the North American DVD/Blu-ray releases for reasons I’ve never understood. 

According to Mental Floss Bruckheimer said one version of the script had the plane crashing into the White House. “I said the guys would really rather crash into Las Vegas” Bruckheimer said. We’d already seen the White House destroyed in Independence Day so I think Vegas was a better choice. 

Despite some of the CGI not holding up that well Con Air is still a classic action flick which has always had its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. It never took itself seriously, had some spectacular set-pieces and has an awesome cast of actors who give it their all. It also has one of the greatest action movie scores of all-time. Happy 20th Birthday Baby-O!


Source: IMDB/Mental Floss