On June 3, 1996 the stars and crew of "The Rock" visited Alcatraz Island for the world premiere screening of the movie.

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Blondes on every arm at "Rock" premiere

Patricia Arquette was the only bottle blonde not smiling at the world premiere of "The Rock" June 3 on Alcatraz Island.

Dolled up in baby blue eye shadow and a brown satin suit, she stood quietly by her husband Nicolas Cage, the star of the film, while he was interviewed again and again, looking positively uninterested in all the hullabaloo.

The rest of the blondes -- they came by the dozen as dates of the film's lesser stars and filmmakers -- looked like they'd spent all week practicing the smiles they flashed continuously through the red carpet reception line of television crews and reporters.

On the island were two dozen camera crews from local TV stations, CNN, "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra." Cable network E! Entertainment Television was broadcasting live as celebrities disembarked the Red and White fleet ferry and came ashore to be lead on the same tour the tourists get before settling into a free-standing 66- by 99-foot tent set up in the prison's recreation yard as a movie theater, complete with lush seats, heated floors, two projectors and a 25- by 44-foot screen.

Sean Connery, Ed Harris and Cage, the stars of the action-adventure about a terrorist takeover of the island, stayed on the ferry while a parade of co-stars and hangers-on warmed up the media.

First off the boat was Mayor Willie Brown, dressed better than any of the movie stars and packing his usual checklist of one-liners. Not far behind were John Cusack ("Say Anything"), Rob Schneider ("Judge Dredd"), gossip columnist Jeanie Becker, and "Rock" supporting players William Forsythe, Tony Todd, John C. McGinley, John Spencer and Bokeem Woodbine.

Cast members were steered by their handlers toward the more prominent press, all of them stopping to chat with either Julie Brown or the unnaturally tan Jerry Penacoli who were handing the coverage for E!.

Penacoli busied himself with what his crew was doing as when he wasn't live. "You can go hand-held," he told his camera man. "I don't mind that rock 'n' roll hand-held look."

Between interviews he flipped through biographical note cards on the celebs just down the line, preparing to look on camera like he's old buddies with all of them.

As the film's major players made their way down the line, they didn't have much to say. Connery, who wasn't feeling well, simply said he was worn out and that "coming back to 'the Rock' (for this premiere) was the hardest part" of making the movie.

Nicolas Cage talked to E! and a few other TV crews, but his handlers whisked him through the rest of the line too quickly for quotes beyond saying this was the most unusual premiere he'd been to.

Ed Harris, the lead terrorist in the movie and an Academy Award nominee last year for "Apollo 13," stopped to chat a little longer, talking about his tendency toward thoughtful characters when he plays bad guys and about how "The Rock" was difficult to film with San Francisco's ever-changing weather.

"But," he said, "compared to 'The Abyss' it was a picnic."

Other stars like Cusack and Todd, and producer Jerry Bruckheimer lingered, and made their way up and down the reception line several times.

Disney coordinators (the film is a product of Hollywood Pictures, a Disney subsidiary) seemed a little disappointed in the non-cast star power. There were rumors Eddie Murphy, in town filming "Metro," might attend, but he didn't. Francis Ford Coppola, Cage's uncle, was a no-show as were other local celebs Robin Williams, Carlos Santana and Bozz Skaggs. Disney president Michael Ovitz wasn't even there.

As a bi-plane flew overhead dragging a banner with the film's marketing phrase "Get Ready to Rock" and Coast Guard boats shooed away would-be party crashers on Jet Skis and wind surfers, the crowd moved into the cell block for their tour.

After the film they returned to the cell block for a catered buffet dinner amid props and costumes from the movie, but by then all but a select few reporters had been unceremoniously shuttled back to the main land and the night drew to a close with the cast partying 'til dawn at the Tosca Cafe.

This article appeared in June 1996 in the Daily Republic, Fairfield, CA.
©1996 All Rights Reserved.

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