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14 Turbulent Behind-The-Scenes Stories From ‘Con Air’

November 6, 2020 29.6k views14 items

There is no shortage of memorable moments from 1997's high-flying blockbuster Con Air, but some of the most interesting facts about the movie happened behind the scenes. Nicolas Cage as an honorably discharged Army Ranger with a slow, Southern drawl feels irreplaceable - but did you know that some other A-list action stars were also up for the role, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Seagal?

One of Con Air's best scenes, when the Jailbird crash lands into a Las Vegas casino, actually used the real Sands Hotel and Casino, which was set for demolition. Even the film's soundtrack has an all-time oddity. The song "How Do I Live" was actually recorded by two separate artists and released at the same time, creating a Billboard duel that the music industry had never experienced before.

Check out this list of unbelievable Con Air behind-the-scenes stories and, as the movie's tagline says, "Buckle up!"

  • The Plane Crashed Into The Real-Life Sands Casino

    Big-budget productions like Con Air often involve building huge, elaborate sets, only to blow them up. Fortunately for director Simon West and his crew, the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was already scheduled for demolition - so the filmmakers seized the opportunity.

    Yes, in Con Air's action-packed conclusion, the production team actually crashed a plane into the front lobby of the real-life Sands.

    Months after filming, on November 26, 1996, the remainder of the historic hotel was demolished by controlled detonation on live TV.

  • The Film Was Inspired By The Real Prisoner Transport System

    The main conceit of Con Air - that a bunch of convicts are moved together on a high-security airplane - was actually based on the real-life Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, which had just formed in 1995. 

    JPATS (or "Con Air," as it was nicknamed by the actual law enforcement officers that operated it) was created to simplify efforts previously carried out by the US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    For research, Con Air's screenwriter Scott Rosenberg hopped aboard a few flights, which he described as "unsettling, and a bit terrifying."

  • The Song 'How Do I Live' Was Nominated For A Grammy - Twice

    For an over-the-top action film like Con Air, the ballad "How Do I Live" was a rather strange song choice. Beyond the film, though, the saga of "How Do I Live" is actually much stranger.

    Originally, Touchstone hired then-15-year-old LeAnn Rimes to record the song, but later re-recorded it with the more seasoned Trisha Yearwood. Both artists ended up claiming the song and simultaneously released it on May 27, 1997.

    Fortunately for the dueling vocalists, both versions were commercial successes and shared space on the Billboard charts. When Grammy time came, both tracks were nominated in the same category. Rimes actually performed the song during the awards ceremony, but Yearwood took home the Grammy. 

  • The 'Jailbird' Was Supposed To Crash Into The White House

    In Con Air's highly destructive climax, the titular plane (AKA the Jailbird) crashes on the Las Vegas Strip and directly into the Sands Hotel and Casino, an explosive moment that certainly contributed to it winning a Razzie for Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property.

    Interestingly, the plane was originally scheduled to make its crash landing on Pennsylvania Boulevard - straight into the White House. During development, executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer ultimately decided that ending the film in Vegas felt in better keeping with the overall tone - not to mention the fact that the White House had just been destroyed a year earlier in 1996's Independence Day