Three thesps talk about working with Connery

Rob Brown on ‘Finding Forrester’

Rob Brown got his first acting gig starring opposite Sean Connery. In Gus Van Sant’s “Finding Forrester,” he plays a Bronx kid who stumbles across a reclusive old novelist — and earns himself a surly mentor in the process.

“People make him out to seem like a grumpy old man, but he’s not really like that at all,” says Brown. “He’s just a really cool guy. Our apartments were on the same floor, and he sat me down one weekend and told me about the business and how everything works, the reason being, he said, there was nobody who told him when he was coming up. He really mentored me.”

Brown remembers all of Connery’s advice — “A lot of it wasn’t about film work per se, it was about life” — and says he still hears from his co-star from time to time.

“The first thing he stressed to me was to stay in school, and he reinforced that when ‘Coach Carter’ came out. He gave me a call to make sure I was still in school.”

Brown, who’s currently a senior at Amherst, says he tries to follow Connery’s example both in life and onscreen. “In terms of any actor I’ve worked with, I learned the most from him.”

Harrison Ford on ‘Indiana Jones’

There’s nothing in the first two Indiana Jones movies to suggest Harrison Ford’s character is Scottish, but when it came to casting “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” the whip-wielding star says, “We were looking for someone who could be Indiana Jones’ father, and we wanted a person with some cojones, if you know what I mean, and apparently they grow ‘em big up there in Scotland.”

Wary of sequels, Ford says Connery’s casting helped convince him to embark upon “The Last Crusade.” “I thought the opportunity to meet Indiana Jones’ father would be a sort of reverse engineering of character development,” he says. “He just brings such manliness and a gravitas, as well as a playful aspect to him. I always consider these things comedies, and the fun of seeing Indiana respond to his father’s hectoring gave us a gold mine of comic opportunity.”

From the beginning, the filmmakers crafted the part with Connery in mind, Ford says. “Sean has a very keen interest and considerable knowledge in history,” so Henry Sr. became a historian, rather than an archaeologist like his son.

“What makes actors interesting is their capacity to take what is particular about themselves and somehow weave that into the characters they play,” Ford says. “I think he built the character on the established character of Indiana Jones, and he took full advantage of what there could be there and was just fun to work with.”

Nicolas Cage on ‘The Rock’

After “Leaving Las Vegas,” “The Rock” was a complete change of pace for Nicolas Cage. It was a risky choice for the Oscar winner — not necessarily as career decisions go, but in terms of the danger the shoot might entail. Nevertheless, Cage jumped at the opportunity to work with his idol, Sean Connery.

“It was quite simply one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had with a co-star,” he says. “That was really my first experience on an action-adventure film, and Sean explained how to be aware and how to be safe, and at the same time to take the chances that were necessary during the stunts. He taught me many things.”

Cage had been a Connery fan as long as he could remember.

“My first movie, I think, was ‘Dr. No,’ so it was a huge experience to work with him,” he says. “I have always modeled my approach and my career after Sean Connery. He was always willing to try different genres and characters while maintaining his presence as a viable star.”

One lesson in particular helps define Cage’s acting choices to this day. It was Ed Harris’ death scene in “The Rock,” and Cage couldn’t decide whether to play the frustration or shift his attention to finding the last missing rocket.

“I was going around in circles, and Sean sort of whispered in my ear, ‘Go with the priority.’ That really helped me find the precise action for that given moment, and I’ve used it ever since.”

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