Sean Connery turned down the roles of the Architect in The Matrix films and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He would have made $450 million off that last role, so that led to him taking this movie, even though he didnt understand the script. But hey — $17 million makes things much simpler, right?
He warred with director Stephen Norrington (Death Machine, Blade), who was uncomfortable with large crews. It makes sense, as Norrington came up from working with special effects on movies like Split Second and Aliens. For what it’s worth, Norrington did not attend the premiere, and when he was asked where the director was, Connery is said to have replied, “Check the local asylum.”
Jason Flemyng, who played Dr. Jekyll in the film, told Empire, “My favorite bust-up was in Venice. The League had to walk from Captain Nemo’s boat down the street, Magnificent Seven-style. At the end of the take, Sean shouted to Norrington, ‘What? You want us to do that again?’ He replied, “For $18 million, I don’t think it’s too much to ask you to walk down a road.” To which Connery’s reply was unprintable.”
Since this film, Norrington has been attached to several projects but hasn’t made another film, claiming that he would never direct again.
Interestingly enough, Larry Cohen and Martin Poll filed a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox, claiming the company had intentionally plagiarized their script Cast of Characters, which the two had pitched to Fox several times. But wait — isn’t this movie based on the Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill comic book?
Cohen and Poll claimed that the studio bought the rights as a smoke screen, as both their script and the final movie shared public domain characters who did not appear in the comic book series.
The case was settled out of court, a decision Alan Moore told the New York Times was upsetting, as he had “been denied the chance to exonerate himself.” No wonder the guy hates the movies made from his comic books so much.
In 1899, Fantomas (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) and his army have broken into the Bank of England to steal da Vinci’s blueprints of Venice and kidnap several scientists. To figure out what is happening, Allan Quatermain (Connery) is brought back to for a new team of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, along with Captain Nemo, vampire Mina Harker (Peta Wilson from the TV version of La Femme Nikita), invisible man Rodney Skinner (the production couldn’t get the rights to the original story, so they made up their own invisible person), Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend, Queen of the Damned), Tom Sawyer and the twin form of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.
Whereas the comic showed the league battling Martians and Fu Manchu, instead of the revelation that M — yes, like the Bond films — is also Fantomas and Sherlock Holmes’ archenemy Professor James Moriarty. Like they say, this is loosely based on the source material.
David Hemmings shows up as Ishmael, which is a nice cameo. The effects are big and bold, while the movie sets up a sequel at the end. That never happened — this is another one of those “even though the movie made $179.3 million on a $78 million budget” movies that still isn’t a success. Hollywood math.
The character of Campion Bond, British Intelligence Director — and the ancestor of James Bond — was supposed to appear and be played by Sir Roger Moore. The character was dropped before filming began to be saved for a possible sequel, which was never made.
Despite only a few references to Tom Sawyer in the comic books, the character was added to appeal to young Americans, which upset many fans of the comic, as well as Moore and O’Neill. That said, Mark Twain wrote two little-known sequels to Tom Sawyer, is Jules Verne-like one called Tom Sawyer Abroad and another where he becomes Tom Sawyer, Detective.
O’Neill would later say that he believed this movie failed because it was not respectful of the source material, such as how Allan Quatermain was changed so much and that Mina Murray was marginalized by becoming a vampire.
The Wold Newton family — a literary concept derived from a form of crossover fiction developed by the American science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer — is a great concept. The comic takes full advantage of this. The movie ended a director’s career and retired Connery from anything other than voice-over work.