|Joe Johnston Director||previously directed Honey, I Shrunk the Kids|
A down on his luck pilot finds a rocket pack that lets him fly, and is drawn into a plot that may threaten the world.
Tiny Ron's character 'Lothar' is made-up to look like actor Rondo Hatton.2 More Trivia
A. 'Peevy' Peabody
[donning the Rocketeer helmet] How do I look?
2 More Quotes
Like a hood ornament.
|Paul De Meo|
|Billy Campbell||The Rocketeer|
|Jennifer Connelly||Jenny Blake|
|Timothy Dalton||Neville Sinclair|
|Alan Arkin||A. 'Peevy' Peabody|
|Paul Sorvino||Eddie Valentine|
|Terry O'Quinn||Howard Hughes|
|Robert Miranda||Spanish Johnny|
|See Full Credits|
Filmed in 1991, The Rocketeer is a 1930s superhero period piece based off of the comic series created by Dave Stevens.
In 1938 Los Angeles, Cliff Secord is walking up to his new plane as his friend and partner, Peevy Peabody, gives him a rundown on the quirks of the plane. Cliff good naturedly points out that he has flown a plane before. Before he gets in, it sticks a piece of gum on the tail of the plane for good luck, despite Peevy's protests that it's a new paint job. Peevy assures Cliff that this plane will get them to the National Air Races, and Cliff starts the plane and takes off, and begins to put the plane through its paces.
Nearby, a pair of gangsters are in a driving gun-battle with the FBI. Cliff's test flight takes him near the chase, and the gangsters spray the plane with a burst from their tommy gun, damaging it. As Cliff fights to get the plane back to the airfield, the gangsters arrive at the hanger. The gangsters have something they don't want to get caught with, so they switch it with a vacuum that was in the hanger, and drive off. By then, the FBI agents arrive and start shooting at the gangsters as they try to escape, wounding the driver. Unfortunately, the gangsters are using the same runway that Cliff is trying to land on, and the plane and the car collide, taking the landing gear off the plane, forcing Cliff to crash land, destroying the plane. The driver dives out of his car, and the car hits a gas tanker on the field.
As the feds collect their gangster and evidence, they refuse to admit that they had a part to play in the destruction of Cliff's plane, despite protests from both Cliff and Peevy that the plane was their livelihood. Blowing off Peevy and Cliff, the FBI agents question the wounded gangster, demanding to know where the package is. The gangster laughs, saying that the package was destroyed in the explosion. As the FBI digs through the wreckage of the wreckage of the truck, they find what they believe to be the remains of the package. The agents call Howard Hughes, who built the package, which turns out to be a machine called the X-3. When the military and government official he's with ask if he can rebuild the X-3, Hughes refuses to rebuild it, saying that one way or another it would only be used as a weapon. He takes his notes and plans for the X-3, and throws it in the fire. When asked what the government men will tell the President, Hughes says to tell him "the dream is over."
Back at the airstrip, Bigelow, the owner of the airstrip, is charging Cliff and Peevy for the destruction of the gas truck. To pay off their debt, Cliff agrees to do his old act to pay for the damages. Cliff and Peevy look over the old plane they will have to use to perform the act, when they discover the package the gangsters left there, the X-3. As they try to figure out what it is, Cliff accidentally turns it on, the X-3 rockets around the room until Cliff and Peevy can turn it off. Cliff realizes that it is a rocket pack, designed for a man to be strapped to.
In Hollywood, gangster Eddie Valentine is demanding answers from actor Neville Sinclair. Eddie wants to know what was so important about the package that his men tried to get. Sinclair tells him the truth: it's a rocket. Sinclair wants to know what happened to it, but only the wounded gangster knows, and he's in the hospital under police protection. Sinclair says that he'll get information on where the rocket is, and says that he'll double what he was going to play Valentine. Valentine agrees to do it for triple the price. When Eddie leaves, Sinclair calls another man, Luthor, to pay a "condolence" call for him.
Meanwhile, Cliff and Peevy have stolen a statue to test the rocket with. They strap the rocket to the statue, stake it to the ground, and activate it, proving that it can make a single man fly. Cliff wants to keep the rocket, and use it to earn enough money to buy a new plane and get them to the nationals. Peevy, less thrilled with the idea as the feds are mixed up with the rocket, reluctantly goes alone with the plan. As they load the statue back in the truck, the notice the statue's head is destroyed, and Cliff says that they need a helmet.
Afterwards, Cliff takes his girlfriend, Jenny Blake, out on a date. Jenny is an aspiring actress, and is excited because she may have a speaking-role in a new Neville Sinclair movie. She asks how the maiden voyage of the new plane went, but Cliff glosses it over, saying the landing had a few bumps. They go to the movies, which shows a newsreel showing that a Germany zeppelin, the Luxembourg, is on a good-will tour across the US, with the final stop being in Los Angeles.
At the hospital where the wounded gangster is, Luthor sneaks in via the window, blocks the door, and questions the gangster. After the gangster tells him where the rocket is, Luthor, a giant of a man, kills the gangster with his bare hands, and makes his escape.
After the movie, Cliff and Jenny go to a small diner near the diner. While they are eating there, on of the patrons, Malcolm, lets slip that Cliff's plane was destroyed in the test flight. Jenny is angry that Cliff didn't tell her, and Cliff says that she would have known if she had been at the airfield instead of at an audition for a bit part. Jenny leaves in a huff, taking a bus home. He goes home, where Peevy is still up and asks him how the date went. Cliff is intimidated that Jenny hangs out with Hollywood types all day, and that he wants her to see him as something other than a poor pilot. Peevy tells the younger man he has a good thing going with Jenny. Cliff goes to bed, but Peevy stays up the whole night working. In the morning, Cliff finds Peevy asleep in a chair and looks at his project: a helmet.
The next day. Cliff goes to where Jenny is working. It turns out she lost the part she wanted to the producer's niece, who is a horrible actress. As he watches, Cliff accidentally pushes part of the set, interrupting a scene. Because Cliff had come to see Jenny, Sinclair tells the director to kick Jenny off of the movie. Cliff tells Jenny about the rocket he and Peevy found, and Sinclair overhears. Jenny walks away from Cliff, mad that he cost her the job, and Cliff leaves. Sinclar tries to find Cliff, but loses him in the sound stages. Instead, he approaches Jenny, charming her with getting her the part back and promising to see if he get her the part she wanted, and offers to take her to dinner at the fancy South Seas Club.
At the airstrip, air races and an airshow are talking place, giving Eddie Valentine and his men cover as they search for the rocket. It is not in the plane it was supposed to be in, but they find Cliff's picture of Jenny. Peevy and Bigelow are arguing because Cliff is late and it's almost time for him to do his routine. Malcolm overhears the argument, and goes up in Cliff's plane to save his job. However, Malcolm hasn't flown in years and the old plane he goes up in malfunctions. To save Malcolm, Cliff straps on the rocket and the helmet, and flies off. The entire audience of the show sees him, including press and the Valentine gang, and Bigelow plays it off as part of the show. Cliff saves Malcolm, and then flies off, followed by press. Inexperienced, Cliff makes a rough landing in a pond, and Peevy catches up with him. The rocket has been damaged in the landing, but Cliff is confident that Peevy can fix it. Cliff and Peevy make their exit as they see cars coming up on their location. It's the Valentine gang, but they can't catch up with Peevy and Cliff. Back at the airshow, Bigelow brands the mysterious flying man as the Rocketeer, and the rescue makes headline news, much to the chagrin of the FBI and Neville Sinclair.
That night, the FBI arrives at the airfield to question Bigelow, but they find the man dead, folded in half. On his desk, they find the imprint of an address he wrote down. The address turns out to be where Cliff and Peevy live, and Luthor, after killing Bigelow, has come to find the rocket. The two men tussle with Luthor, who demands to know where the rocket is. The FBI arrives, and Luthor opens fire on them from inside the house. The FBI, believing it is Cliff and Peevy firing, fire back, shredding the house. Luthor steals the schematics Peevy has drawn up of the rocket and flees. Peevy and Cliff escape with the rocket.
Meanwhile, Sinclair has taken Jenny to the South Seas Club, which is owned by Eddie Valentine. Upon their arrive, Valentine summons Sinclair to the back, angry that Sinclair had his man in the hospital killed. Sinclair assures Eddie that he can use Jenny to get the rocket, but he will do it his way. As he leaves, Eddie tells Sinclair that if he gets caught, he will tell the feds about Sinclair. Unimpressed, Sinclair says that the feds will never believe Eddie's word over his.
Cliff and Peevy are hiding out in the attic of the diner when they find out about the death of Bigelow. Rattled, Peevy talks Cliff into giving the rocket back to the feds. However, as Cliff uses the phone to call the feds, some of Valentine's men arrive, saying they are looking for Cliff Secord, saying they have a job for him. The patrons, Peevy, and Cliff lie about his identity, saying that they don't know where Secord is. The gangsters get angry, smashing the place up. However, on a message board is Jenny's name and number, which they recognize from the photo they took from Cliff's plane. They call the number, only to find out that Jenny is with Sinclair. The gangsters mutter to themselves that they think that Sinclair might be double-crossing Valentine. The gangsters split up, leaving two men behind to watch the diner, with the others going to South Seas Club to warn Eddie. Cliff attacks one of the gangsters when he recognizes him in a picture with Jenny, and the patrons subdue the other gangster, but not before he fires a few bullets into the ceiling. Cliff, worried for Jenny, rushes back up to the attic to put the rocket back on, but it has been damaged by a bullet, and is leaking fuel. Peevy, in a quick fix, takes the piece of gum that Cliff always sticks on for luck and uses it to plug the leak. Cliff then flies off to save Jenny. Just after he leaves, a man appears and points a gun at Peevy.
Cliff arrives at the South Sea Club, where Sinclair is continuing to use his charms on Jenny. Cliff hides the rocket in the laundry room, and disguises himself as a waiter. He sneaks a note to Jenny in a bowl of soup as Sinclair manages to get her to talk about Cliff, and spills wine on her to stop her from talking about the rocket. When Jenny leaves Sinclair to clean up, Cliff finds her and talks to her. He tells her that Bigelow has been murdered, and that men are using her to find him because he's the Rocketeer. Jenny is unimpressed, not knowing who the Rocketeer is because she hasn't read the paper, and doesn't believe Cliff until he tells her that he'd go crazy if anything happened to her. The gangsters and Luthor both arrive at the club, and Jenny leaves. As Sinclair waits for Jenny, he sees the note Cliff wrote her floating in the soup. Cliff tries to sneak out, but literally runs into Luthor, which also draws the attention of Sinclair and the gangsters. Cliff is forced to use the rocket to make his escape, causing a panic as accidentally causes damage in the club. Jenny goes back into the club, and saves Cliff from Luthor by smashing him in the head with a seahorse statue. Cliff escapes via a skylight, but Sinclair catches Jenny, and knocks her out with chloroform.
Sinclair takes Jenny to his home. Jenny wakes up, and watches Sinclair emerge from a secret room through a window. Jenny then pretends to be unconscious when Sinclair comes into the room where she is being kept. Sinclair "wakes" her up with smelling salts, and tries to convince Jenny that the Valentine gang is blackmailing him. Sinclair tries to seduce Jenny, who plays along until she smashes Sinclair on the head with a vase, knocking him out. She then tries to sneak out, but accidentally draws Luthor's attention. Desperate for a hiding place, she goes into Sinclair's hidden room. where she discovers Peevy's drawing of the rocket, and takes it. She also discovers that Sinclair is a Nazi spy, but by then Sinclair and Luthor catch up to her.
Cliff returns to the diner, which is empty. The phone rings, it's Eddie Valentine, telling Cliff that they have Jenny, and that they will trade her for the rocket if he comes alone. Before he can leave the diner, however, he is arrested by the FBI. He is taken to Howard Hughes, who is talking to Peevy about the modifications he has made to the rocket and the helmet he made for it. Hughes asks for the rocket back, but Cliff won't tell him where it is. Hughes shows Cliff a film showing that Germany has been working on the rocket project as well, and that if they get the rocket, Germany is planing to use an army of flying men launch an attack on the world, including the US. Cliff pleads for the chance to use the rocket one more time to save Jenny. Hughes says no, as the Valentine gang is working for a Nazi agent to get the rocket back. Cliff makes the connection that Sinclair is the agent. The feds don't believe him. Cliff escapes to save Jenny.
Sinclair, Luthor, and the Valentine gang are waiting for Cliff as he arrives to trade the rocket for Jenny. As the trade goes down, Cliff tells Eddie that Sinclair is a Nazi agent, and Jenny supports what he is saying by telling them about Sinclairs hidden room. Valentine turns in Sinclair, saying he may be a crook, but he's not a traitor. However, Sinclair calls up a group of German soldiers, which has been brought by the zeppelin Luxembourg, having arrived in LA on the "good will" tour, which appears in the sky. Surrounded, the Valentine gang is forced to surrender. Before the gang and Cliff can be gunned down, the FBI arrives in force, and a gun battle erupts, the Valentine gang and the feds teaming up to fight the Nazi troopers. Cliff escapes with the rocket, but Sinclair takes Jenny onto the Luxembourg. The FBI wins the battle on the ground, but look on helplessly as the Luxembourg flies away. However, Cliff appears on top of a nearby building, and flies off after the zeppelin. Eddie Valentine, in FBI custody, watches Cliff as he flies away, wishing him good luck.
Cliff lands on the Luxembourg, accidentally damaging the airship's rudder. Luthor emerges from inside the ship, and the two men fight on top of the zeppelin, with Luthor strapping himself to the ship. Cliff uses the rocket to knock Luthor off the ship. The giant swings into the bridge of the ship, and accidentaly pulls the pilot out of the ship. Cliff fights his way down into the bridge, where Sinclair is holding Jenny. Cliff gives Sinclair the rocket, but not before he removes the gum that was plugging the fuel leak. Jenny, thinking that Cliff is giving them a functional rocket, knocks another German officer off of the airship through the broken window, and Cliff and Sinclair fight. In the scuffle, a flare gun is knocked loose. Jenny grabs it, and fires it at Sinclair. The flare misses, and bounces around the cabin, setting the zeppelin on fire. Sinclair escapes with the rocket, however, he is engulfed by a fireball because of the fuel leak, and lands on the Hollywood sign. Cliff and Jenny climb to the top of the zeppelin, and are confronted by Luthor. However, the Luxembourg begins to explode, and they all run. Luthor is caught in the flames, but Peevy and Howard Hughes arrive in a gyroplane, and save Cliff and Jenny with a rope ladder.
Sometime later, Cliff and Jenny listen to Peevy read a newspaper story saying that Neville Sinclair was killed by falling debris. Howard Hughes arrives, bringing a racing plane with him. He takes Cliff aside, and asks what it was like flying with the rocket. Cliff says it was the closest he'll get to heaven, except for maybe Jenny. As Hughes leaves, he throws Cliff a pack of gum, and it is revealed that the plane is a gift for Cliff. Jenny says she has a gift for Peevy, and gives him the schematics for the rocket that she recovered. Peevy excitedly goes over the plans, saying that with a few tweaks he can make a better rocket, but Cliff and Jenny aren't paying attention as they are in the midst of a kiss.
In 1986, the creator of the Rocketeer, Dave Steveson, and writers Danny Bison and Paul De Meo pitched the movie to the Walt Disney Motion Pictures group, who agreed to make it mostly for the merchandising rights. Over the next few years, Bison and De Meo would clash with studio executives over several points, including the studio's desire to have a modern setting, and the writers were fired and then re-hired multiple times while they were rewriting the script. It wasn't until the original director, forced to leave the project because of the delays, was replaced by Joe Johnson, a fan of the comic, that per-production started, and the Disney company green-lighted the script after Bison and De Meo's third major rewrite.
Casting also proved to be a point on contention between the studio and the project when Johnson and Steveson chose unknown Billy Campbell for the lead roll over actors like Dennis Quad, Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, Emilio Estevez, and Johnny Depp. Johnson and Steveson felt that Campbell was perfect for the role, and they managed to convince the studio to go along with it, despite the studio's desire for A-list actor in the lead.
However, once production began, Disney was impressed by the dailies, and the budget rose from $25 million to $40 million. Filming took place between September 1990 and January 1991, and was 50 days over schedule because of mechanical problems and weather. Special effects were done by Industrial Light & Magic, with the score being composed by James Horner.
The Rocketeer was originally envisioned as the first in a trilogy of films. However, because of clashes the writer and director and disappointing performance in the box office, Disney cancelled plans for the other two films in July 1991.
The film was released on June 26, 1991, to general favorable review among critics. It grossed $46.6 million domestically, which was a disappointment for Disney.