In the early 90s, movie stars didn’t come much bigger than seasoned leading man Sean Connery and hot new up-and-comer Wesley Snipes – so teaming them up in an adaptation of a best-selling Michael Crichton novel must have seemed like box office gold in the making.
The film in question was 1993’s Rising Sun, and while it didn’t wind up being the biggest or best film on the resume of anyone involved, it was still an engaging thriller and an interesting (and troubling) look at relations between America and Japan at the time.
Here are 10 things about Rising Sun which you might not have known.
10. It’s based on a novel by the author of Jurassic Park
Rising Sun is a big screen adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, which was published just one year before the movie came out. Crichton’s name carried a lot of weight at the time thanks to Jurassic Park.
Other 90s movies based on Crichton novels include Disclosure, Sphere, Congo and The 13th Warrior.
9. It was directed by the co-creator of Indiana Jones
Most of us think of Indiana Jones as the creation of writer and producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg – but there was another key figure who doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves in creating the classic character. That person is Rising Sun’s director, Philip Kaufman, who worked with Lucas on the story for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There is of course another Indiana Jones connection in Rising Sun, as leading man Sean Connery portrayed Indy’s father, Henry Jones Sr, in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
8. The film was widely accused of racism
Like the novel it is based on, Rising Sun is in part a murder-mystery, but also an exploration of the corporate relationship between the United States and Japan. It presents a less-than flattering take on Japanese business practices, implying these are a threat to America.
Because of this, both the novel and the movie were widely criticised for promoting racist attitudes toward Japan.
7. The casting of the African-American Wesley Snipes was considered controversial
Allegations of racism surrounding the film are not necessarily helped by reports that there were also disagreements behind the scenes over the casting of Wesley Snipes. The African-American actor was cast in the role of Lt. Webster Smith, a white character in the novel.
Many involved in the film felt this was inappropriate, in part because the LAPD Asian Crimes Investigation Unit had no black officers at that time. There were also concerns that introducing a black character only served to highlight racial tensions between black people and the Japanese.
6. The film is a reunion for Reservoir Dogs actors Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi
Rising Sun co-stars Harvey Keitel as Lt. Tom Graham, and Steve Buscemi as Willy Wilhelm. This was the second time the actors appeared in the same movie together, having the previous year co-starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The following year they would both be seen in Tarantino’s second film, Pulp Fiction.
Keitel and Buscemi have only once more appeared in the same film: 2015 Adam Sandler comedy The Ridiculous 6.
5. Rising Sun’s own Japanese actors had problems with the film’s depiction of Japan
As Rising Sun took such a critical stance on Japan, it’s not too surprising that some of the Japanese actors who appear in the film had their qualms about the material.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa admitted, “there [are] things in this film that I would like to have changed,” whilst Mako said the film offered only “a superficial glimpse” of Japanese culture.
4. Sean Connery’s character shares his name with The Terminator series
Sean Connery takes the lead in Rising Sun as a western cop with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Japanese culture. Reportedly Michael Crichton wrote the character with Connery in mind – but the author also gave his protagonist a curiously familiar name.
Connery’s character is named Captain John Connor. This leads us to suspect Crichton must have been one of the few in the early 90s to have missed Terminator 2, in which Edward Furlong plays the future resistance leader of the same name.
3. Sean Connery was also a producer on the film
As well as being a legendary star of the screen with 94 acting credits to his name, Sean Connery was also an occasional producer – and Rising Sun was one of those occasions.
The 1993 film is one of only nine films on which Connery held executive producer credit as well as the lead role, the others including Medicine Man, The Rock and Entrapment.
2. It opened the same week as The Fugitive (and was buried by it)
Rising Sun opened in US cinemas on 30 July 1993. Less than a week later, another big name thriller hit screens: The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Although Rising Sun was an R-rated movie and The Fugitive was a PG-13, both were broadly aimed at the same audience.
This proved to be a bit of a kiss of death for Rising Sun, which took far less money at the box office: ultimately the film earned $107.2 million worldwide, whilst The Fugitive made almost $369 million.
1. Wesley Snipes called Sean Connery his ‘Grand Master’ after he passed
On the sad news of Sean Connery’s passing, Wesley Snipes paid tribute to his Rising Sun co-star by evoking the language of Japanese culture which so heavily informed the film they made together.
Snipes wrote, “Grand Master Sean, Sempai , As a boy I marveled [sic] at your strength. As a male, coveted your cool, As a man, matured with your wisdom… Long Live the Master skills man. The actors ACTOR.”