Nicolas Cage is an actor who boasts an eclectic number of film roles to his name.
He’s played a Marvel hero (Ghost Rider), an angel (City of Angels), a terrorist and an FBI agent in the same film (Face/Off), and even a self-loving screenwriter (and his fake twin) based on the film’s own screenwriter (Adaptation), for which he earned an Oscar nomination.
Now he’s playing a suburban dad and husband going through a mid-life crisis just as his whole town inexplicably starts murdering their kids in cold blood.
Yahoo Movies UK spoke with the legendary actor about his new movie Mom and Dad, as well as his lasting impressions of a few others from his wide-ranging film career.
Yahoo Movies UK: Mom and Dad is a rather bonkers movie, what attracted you to the script and your role?
Nicolas Cage: I was attracted to the taboo nature of the material and the irreverence of the material. I thought that it was shocking, and brave, and that it could be quite funny because of this kind of public disruption, but it was original material. I liked that it was able to combine menace and horror, it’s a personal taste of mine that I think when done right it can be very entertaining.
I had that with The Shining, the Jack Nicholson performance, and An American Werewolf in London, and I think with Mom and Dad it had that kind of flavour to it.
There’s a scene where your character has a ranting mid-life crisis monologue which felt very real. Where did you go to for that emotion?
In that scene, he’s deeply frustrated and I thought about the hokey cokey when I’m smashing the table. When I was a young kid in kindergarten they would make me sing that song and that was something that bureau of education had designed to separate the uncoordinated children from the coordinated children. I had friends who were uncoordinated and they were put upon as children, so I thought about that song, because I detest it, just to sort of rev my anger up so I could destroy the pool table with gusto and sincerity.
So let’s take a look back at some of your movies and you tell me what you think of when you hear the title: Bad Lieutenant.
It really makes me think of Werner Herzog and my experience with him. The thing about Werner as a filmmaker, he has this accent which is the same as my great-grandmother’s. My great-grandmother, she couldn’t understand this one commercial that was playing over and over again. It was a commercial called “Go See Cal”, which was for a car dealer and it would say “Go see Cal! Go see Cal!” No one liked the ads, and she didn’t either, but she thought it was saying, “Pussycat! Pussycat!”, and so I mocked her at my young age of four or five, and she took a wet rag and threw it in my face.
So every time I heard Werner’s voice it would remind me of that moment with my great-grandmother, throwing a wet rag in my face.
What’s your thoughts on City of Angels?
Yeah that movie, I feel like that movie didn’t really get the recognition that I thought it might deserve. I was deeply proud of the movie and particularly of Meg Ryan’s performance. Brad Silberling, the filmmaker, I thought was on to something. He was doing something very experimental with extreme close-ups and the falling sequences; it was almost like something you might see from an obscure filmmaker at university.
I thought he was bold and had a tremendous amount of heart.
How about Ghost Rider?
That film for me was like a tattoo which came alive; the image of me was like an iconic image of a flaming skull which to me is such a powerful, almost tattoo-like image. I felt that the film had a primitive quality to it, a fairytale quality to it, and it gave me a chance to realise some of my more Jekyll & Hyde dreams in terms of filmmaking. I love the idea of transformation.
Would you want to do a third in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
I think my Ghost Rider days are over.
What’s your lasting memory of Snake Eyes?
Oh I don’t know if I could do a movie like that or Adaptation again. I mean the degree of difficulty in terms of Snake Eyes, because we didn’t have digital back then. We’d have five minute cans of film so you’d have to do a swish pan and the film would roll and cut to another five minute take. But these would be complete takes with choreography and movement and dialogue, tons of dialogue, so if you made one mistake you’d have to go all the way back to the beginning and reshoot the whole thing.
So that first opening shot in Snake Eyes, that was a matter of rehearsing all day long and shooting at the last two or free hours of the day, and we did that for about a month, filming different five minute segments attached together. Brian de Palma called it “no-net productions” because if there was one flop, if nobody was in step or in-sync, if one person made a mistake we had to go all the way back to the beginning again. So shooting Snake Eyes took an incredible amount of focus and energy.
And finally, I have to ask about Face/Off which is pretty much iconic.
I think it’s great, I love that movie and I think it’s one of my all time best movies because it went really above and beyond. I think it’s brave; I mean that movie has so much hubris to do what it did and to think that we could pull it off. It has a face swap, a personality swap and add in all the choreography in terms of the ballet that John Wu violence.
He must have had 10 video playback screens in front of his director’s chair and he would do a shot, and he would look at each take on each camera, and I could see in his mind he was editing the movie, cutting it together in that moment and he wouldn’t move on until he had got it. It was quite something to see, the level of talent that John Wu has.
I’ve never worked with someone quite like him.
Mom and Dad is in cinemas in March 9th