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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!"

  • Nicolas Cage Did All His Own Stunts

    Several A-list Hollywood tough guys were up for the role of Poe alongside Nicolas Cage, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Steven Seagal. Perhaps that's why, when Cage landed the role, he wanted to prove that producers had made the right choice by doing all his own stunts.

    In a behind-the-scenes interview, Cage recalled what an intense and demanding experience it was: "There were explosions five feet behind me, flaming helicopters dropping right behind me, ball-bearing bullets over my head."

    If Cage's intent was to place himself among the action royalty he beat out for the role, then he definitely achieved it in Con Air.

  • John Malkovich Had A Rough Ride On Con Air

    Like Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich didn't have the role of Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom handed to him. Other actors up for the part included Ed Harris, Tim Robbins, and Gary Oldman. Ultimately, though, he may have regretted coming out on top.

    Malkovich, a former member of the prestigous Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, didn't appreciate the fact that constant last-minute script changes made it difficult for him to play the character.

    Frustrating as it may have been, it certainly didn't stop him from producing brilliant line reads like, "Make a move and the bunny gets it."

  • Utah Was Used For Most Of Filming

    Despite the fact that most of the movie takes place in the Nevada desert, Con Air was actually shot in the salt flats of Western Utah.

    Airports in Salt Lake City and Ogden (roughly 40 miles north of SLC) were used to replicate scenes set in Oakland and Carson City. As for the junkyard airstrip the convicts end up landing at to change planes, a set was created near the small town of Wendover.

    Regarding the visual aesthetics of Western Utah, director Simon West remarked that "it looked like the surface of the moon."

  • Las Vegas Locals Called The Police When They Saw Smoking Planes

    While residents of Las Vegas are no strangers to Hollywood coming into town for movie shoots, many were frightened in September 1996 when they saw a smoking plane circling around the Stratosphere Tower. Many went so far as to call the authorities.

    According to Cynthia Andersen, a spokeswoman for McCarran International Airport at the time, "We got lots of calls on this one. People were worried that something had really gone wrong."

    Of course, the smoking, circling aircraft was just one of many aerial stunts filmed around Las Vegas for Con Air, so residents eventually got used to it.