Sean Connery has turned down a lot of big roles, which is why he took the gig as Allan Quatermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. But while Alan Moore's graphic novel series was great, the same can hardly be said for the film adaptation (although some consider it a guilty pleasure comic book movie). Behind-the-scenes stories about The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen started leaking out during production of the film, and they sound portentous; in retrospect, these rumors ended up being quite prescient - as much as the film was a mess on screen, the off-screen goings-on were much worse.
From screaming matches to studio overreach to nature wreaking havoc on the production, LXG never really had a chance. If you saw this movie in theaters, there's a good chance you didn't know some things about how it came to be - otherwise, you would have seen something better.
Sean Connery and director Stephen Norrington did not get along. "Connery isn’t very pleased with how this is going,” a crew member told Entertainment Weekly. ”He’s not used to being kept waiting on a movie set. I mean, he’s 72 years old. And he’s Sean Connery.” That crew member was referring to their current situation, which saw Connery sitting in his trailer for several hours while Norrington fussed with camera angles and lighting.
And before you go assuming Connery was just being an over-demanding actor, it's worth noting more complaints came out of the crew about Norrington. "This director doesn’t know what he wants,” another crew member complained to EW. "He’ll do 10 setups when you usually only do two. Most of this movie is going to end up on the cutting-room floor - if it ever gets finished.”
The best example of director Stephen Norrington's tyranny is the time he shut down production for a full day because he felt a prop didn't look sufficiently realistic. This led to one of the many "shouting matches" between Sean Connery and Norrington, one that was even rumored to result in a physical altercation between the two, with some saying they almost came to blows, while others reported they actually did throw punches.
A stagehand told EW, "I’ve never been on a set as tense as this. Everybody just wants to go home.”
There were a lot of different stories coming out of the set, often contradictory ones about the exact way things went down between Sean Connery and Stephen Norrington. An anonymous crew worker said Norrington provoked Connery, allegedly saying, “I'm sick of it! Come on, I want you to punch me in the face.”
Connery recalls Norrington simply asking, “Do you want to hit me?” to which he responded, “Don’t tempt me.” There did seem to be some agreement that Connery threatened to have Norrington fired. In the end, it's remarkable they finished the movie together at all.
Sean Connery famously turned down the role of Gandalf in the first Lord of the Rings film as well as that of Morpheus in The Matrix. Obviously, from a financial standpoint, these moves were ill-advised at best. But when Connery read the scripts, he just couldn't understand what they were trying to do, so he passed.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was no different. Connery read the script, concluded it was another nerdy project, then accepted the role of Allan Quatermain precisely for the same reason he passed on the previous two roles. That proved to be another grand miscalculation.