Sean Connery Had Simple Advice For John Milius On His Hunt For Red October Rewrite

When Sean Connery climbed aboard Paramount's $30 million adaptation of Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October," he had all kinds of leverage. The former James Bond actor was the Academy Award-winning secret sauce for the studio's 1987 hit "The Untouchables," and had played brilliantly against type as Indiana Jones' bookish father in that franchise's critically lauded third installment. "The Presidio" aside (and "The Presidio" is always aside), Connery was Paramount's good luck charm. The film would be sold on his performance as the wily submarine captain Marko Ramius.

So if Connery wanted veteran screenwriter John Milius, who was in the midst of laying an egg for the studio called "The Flight of the Intruder," to write his dialogue for "The Hunt for Red October," Paramount had no choice but to acquiesce.

Make it about me

Connery likely knew Milius was a military buff capable of writing a maritime stemwinder, but that wasn't why he asked the "Conan the Barbarian" writer-director for his linguistic expertise. In an interview with IGN, Milius said Connery's request was far more extensive than that. "I said, 'What do you want me to do?' And he said, 'Make it about me.'"

If you've seen "The Hunt for Red October," you know that Alec Baldwin's Jack Ryan is the clear protagonist of the piece. He had to be. The studio had bought the rights to Clancy's then ongoing series of books built around the flight-averse CIA analyst, so foregrounding Ryan was crucial. Still, acceding to Connery's demands was critical to ego management. Connery had famously groused through his last two Bond movies. The star was dedicated to his craft, but if he felt at all disrespected, he could stir up trouble. Paramount wanted a strong launch for their new franchise. So Connery got his way. For the most part.

What life is there for Ahab?

Milius claims he wrote all of the "Russian stuff" in "The Hunt for Red October," including the paraphrasing of an Ahab speech from "Moby Dick," for Connery's widowed Marius:

 "It's a great speech where Ahab talks about 'What life is there for Ahab?' What has he done all of his life? He's chased leviathan on the pitiless sea. Then he recounts how little time he spent with his wife and how she walks the widow's walk in some house on Nantucket... waiting for him, and he'll never come back. This wonderful, wonderful thing, where he sort of thinks about what life might have been if he was different."

What he could not do is make the movie completely about Marius, and this is by Clancy's design. There must be some mystery to Marius' motives. Ryan, the film's foremost expert on the captain's life, has to doubt his assertion that Marius is defecting. So while Connery dominates "The Hunt for Red October," the film is about Ryan. Outside of a page-one rewrite, there was nothing Milius could do about this.