Quint chats with Nicolas Cage about Bad Lieutenant, 3-D and beeeeeesssss!!!
Published at: March 23, 2010, 4:41 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I don’t think I’ve been more excited for an interview since the year began as I was to talk with Nicolas Cage late last week. Yes, I’m a fan of his stuff, but I’m particularly a fan of his work in BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS.
So, the idea that I had a chance to talk with the man for 10 minutes, even over the phone, about that particular role in that particular movie had me extremely happy. If I had the opportunity to talk with the man about Sorcerer’s Apprentice or some other flick I’d be wanting to talk about Bad Lieutenant, so being able to focus on that movie was the best possible scenario for me, personally.
I feel Cage opened up quite a bit and even went into his extremely controversial turn in THE WICKER MAN remake… and yes, we talk about bees.
Enjoy and watch out for a few Sound-O-Text clips!
Quint: How do you do, sir?
Nicolas Cage: I’m well. How are you?
Quint: I’m doing fantastic and I’m very appreciative of you talking to me about this movie in particular, because I’m such a big fan of what you and Werner [Herzog] did with it.
Nicolas Cage: Oh, thanks.
Quint: I was there at Telluride when it premiered and I’ve been singing it’s praises ever since.
Nicolas Cage: Thank you. I’m glad you liked the movie and hopefully more people will become aware of it once the DVD comes out.
Quint: The people who see it seem to love it. When it finally played here in Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse people just went nuts for it and if you have that audience, that means you have the people that will be buying the DVDs and the Blu-Rays and stuff and giving it to people as gifts and stuff and spreading the word. You got the audience that will actually push it I think.
Nicolas Cage: I’m happy to hear that.
Quint: We have to talk a little bit about creating the character of Terence. I love that you almost make him a little bit of a Universal Monster in a way because you give him a particular walk, a particular accent. I just love the whole package. Can you talk about how you worked out the character?
Nicolas Cage: Yeah I’ll talk a little bit about it, but what you just described and your usage of the words “Universal Monster” to me is profound and I hesitate to say anything too specific because I like the way you receive the character and I really like how you present him with “Universal Monster.”
I guess what I could just talk about in broad terms is… I wanted to define a physical trait and take advantage of his accident to be able to tell that story, so the sort of lopsided or crooked back, for me, harkens back to Richard III and I wanted him to have that sort of… Like you just said, that sort of almost twisted monstrous shape to him.
The range of the character was exciting for me, because clearly he was on chemicals and it was making his behavior pretty erratic, so for me I was able to push it into places that I thought were a lot of fun for an audience, because I could make... And I like to look at all characters and all movies as, like, music and, like, sounds, so I could make bigger sounds and more abstract sounds by virtue of the fact that I had the mechanism of him being on drugs, so I could go into places that behaviorally speaking may be more abstract and exciting for me and hopefully for an audience. So that was sort of the concept in terms of the approach.
As an actor I only have my body as my instrument. I don’t get to use paint brushes and paint and canvases… I don’t get to use guitars or trumpets, so the challenge for someone like me who likes to embrace abstract art, but has his instrument as his own body, is that people think you are nuts. [Laughs] They think “Well, look at that behavior. He’s crazy. This is crazy.” Well, is Picasso crazy or is the art crazy? What is it? Not that I’m Picasso, but it’s like it’s much easier to be abstract in a different art form than in film acting, because if you think about going outside the box, which is my term for what people like to call “over the top,” it’s going to be met with incredible confusion and opposition, simply by virtue of the fact that it’s film acting.
Quint: Yeah and your performance is extremely brave and the reason why a lot of people who were in this movie were particularly gravitating towards it. There’s no hesitation to it. You are swinging for the fences and I think that’s what people love. I personally loved the details that you added into the character. Just the way Terence would have his giant gun sticking out of his pants… I love that. It all added to the amazing visual craziness that Werner was able to give with the atmosphere and the tone. It became a movie that you couldn’t really predict and that’s what I personally loved about it.
Nicolas Cage: Well thanks. I’m glad that you noticed all of those elements because some thought did go into them. To Werner’s credit, he went for it right away, which I was amazed, because most people would probably say “No, don’t do that.” I felt that the gun gave a level of paranoia to the character, which is what happens when you are on a lot of drugs, and then also it gave some syncopation to the character because I could fire the gun at a certain moment that I felt would add some timpani to the scene, you know?
Quint: Have you noticed that your career is changing and morphing into this thing where you are becoming almost this pop-culture icon? I’ve been noticing it with a lot of the readers of Ain’t It Cool News. We get lots of emails in about different things and I’ve seen a trend of people gravitating a lot more towards your work I think because of the way you are embracing these different characters and going all out with each character. Do you notice that at all with your interactions with fans?
Nicolas Cage: I mean, I… I think that it all takes time and it’s like it has been thirty years and because I don’t often talk about exactly what my thoughts are on the work there is a bit of a curve to it where it has to come into focus, I think, for folks when they start to sense that there might be either a mischievous sense of humor behind it or something more… trying to find a new way of opening doors to film acting.
These are things that I’ve thought about for years and even right out of the gate I went on the Dick Cavett Show with Miles Davis and I was talking about it and Miles got it. So in a way he became a surrealist father of mine because he appreciated what I was thinking at that age when RAISING ARIZONA came out or PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, but it’s always been something of an uphill battle in terms of people I work with, like various directors to make it connect, but with them… But with audiences, there has been a core group that got it from the get go and they have been with me ever since. It does take some time. It does take some time with certain movies with the benefit of hindsight when they can see it in addition to BAD LIEUTENANT they might go “Oh, well maybe he actually did think WICKER MAN was funny…” (laughs)
Nicolas Cage: You don’t karate chop Leelee Sobieski in the throat and not know how absurd that is, but it’s just not something I would like to talk about. I would rather let them discover it on their own, but I think I learned a lot of that kind of off the wall kind of stuff watching Stanley Kubrick because his movies were incredibly funny, but you never really knew how much was planned or accident you know?
Quint: True. You look at something like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and you are not sure if you should be laughing at certain moments. It’s almost a commentary of the audience member where it’s like “What do you find funny?”
Nicolas Cage: Yeah. I am kind of amazed at the life THE WICKER MAN has generated because I knew being in a bear suit and doing those insane things with the character was doing would get talked about, but I didn’t know exactly how people would respond, but I had a feeling they were going to respond in a way that was going to have some impact, but I had no idea it was going to create this kind of internet sensation of bashing as well as laughter that it did and I’m quite thrilled about it. [Laughs]
Quint: I just saw on SNL within the last couple of weeks, they referenced the bees cut scene which I can’t remember another movie that had a deleted scene that became so widespread and so known.
Nicolas Cage: Well, what’s funny about that scene is… and this is interesting to talk about and this is the perfect place to talk about it… that little device they put on my head was designed on something that my grandfather had built. I can remember he built this fly catch thing out of a screen and it had this funnel and he would put things in it so that the flies would go into it, like sweet things, and he could catch flies.
As a child seeing this, like a four year old and a five year old seeing this, it was the most bizarre thing… and even now as I think about it, why on earth did he make it? It’s just a strange thing for my grandfather to be making, Robert Vogelsang, and it left an impact on me.
So I thought “Well, let’s build something like that and then put it on my head and he’s screaming about bees,” because I was basically doing this recall of something that my grandfather had made when I was four, so to me it was just so weird and oddly funny that I wanted them to build something like that to put on the character’s head in THE WICKER MAN.
Quint: You are one of the hardest working guys in show business at the moment. It seems like you are in 18 movies all coming out at once and you are working on another dozen, so what do you have coming up if that’s not going to take another twenty minutes to answer? (laughs)
Nicolas Cage: (Laughs) I have a movie coming up called KICKASS…
Quint: Which I’ve seen and it’s awesome. It’s so good!
Nicolas Cage: Thank you and then I have a movie called SORCERER’S APPRENTICE coming out and then after that SEASON OF THE WITCH and then HUNGRY RABBIT JUMPS and then I start production on DRIVE ANGRY which will be my first movie where I’m working with 3-D cameras.
Quint: Oh yeah? What do you think about that? Are you excited to play with 3-D a little bit?
Nicolas Cage: Yeah, I’m always interested in exploring anything new with film acting, so it’s something I can do with it… I don’t know what I’m expecting. I think I’m open, but I’m hoping to learn something and I’m hoping to discover something new and the experience, but I don’t know yet how it will be until I get out there on the set and I meet this camera and I think about it and look at what I can do with it or not do with it.
Quint: Well cool man, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about this stuff and I definitely wish you success and can’t wait to see the 3-D movie!
Nicolas Cage: Alright, well thanks a lot. It was good speaking with you.