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Nicolas Cage | A Sunny Adaption to Directing.
an emily blunt interview




Every once in a while you discover somebody you're rabid Rhesus monkey over really is as cool as you thought.

When I think of cool I think of Nicolas Cage. Oh sure I'd like to dip him in butterscotch topping, sprinkle him with toasted almond slivers, and devour him slowly…but I also happen to really respect him for his integrity.

Who'd a thunk the wicked geeky kid from Valley Girl would blossom into the guy who'd play the dopey-eyed-opera-loving-romantic hotty in Moonstruck. Or the ripped mansteak good-guy-in-a-tough-spot-with-a-sexy-sneer in that manlyman extravaganza Con Air? Or as the adorable yet deadly sad make-you-pour-out-your-good-hooch shlub that's checking out -permanently- in that magnificent Leaving Las Vegas. Or that he'd mesmerize the feminine folk in my fave fairy tale about a guy that would actually give up heaven for a girl, City of Angels....sigh. Heck, I even own Red Rock West!

And gosh Batman, he's cute!

He's back on the big screen with Matchstick Men - and the performance is brilliant. He also has his directorial debut Sonny out on dvd.

Admittedly I was surprised, err, excited when I was green lit for this interview. What a brave guy…I mean after umpteen movies and awards - even a star on Hollywood's walk of stars - he's willing to chat with a gal that needs restraints to be in the same room...

I'm kidding. I loved Sonny - it's not easy stuff... no American Pie series. It's more like the darker acting choices Cage has made in the past. I think he did a fantastic job. He kept it real and worked it like a modern tragedy. Wonderful. He tackled one helluva wild script. And Sonny opened just as his performance of a lifetime was gathering acclaim with his latest acting gig, Adaptation. In Adaptation Cage had a dual role each polar opposite and he effortlessly glides between them. The film was, rightfully, a sensation. Matchstick Men opened this weekend so I figured I'd reissue the interview . Enjoy.

Emily: Howdy Nic.

Cage: Howdy to you too.

Emily: Sonny took, what, fifteen years or so to get made? Why?

Cage: Well, it wasn't my fault! [laughter] Nah, it was a movie I read a few years back and I was going to play the part. Richard Gere passed and decided to do Gigolo. I got it. Read it. And went through all the different emotional feelings I do when I connect to a piece…it was an excellent piece of material. I really wanted to do it. But I couldn't find a director to commit to it. So the picture was shelved and went on a list somewhere - I remember - in the eighties as one of the best scripts ever written that hadn't been made into a film. Then I forgot about it.

Emily: So you were originally just going to star in Sonny? [thought not spoken - malord is this guy adorable...and so tall…]

Cage: Yeah. I was gonna play Sonny. One thing lead to another and it just disappeared- shelved! Around the time that I was just finishing up on, Corelli's Mandolin I thought to myself it would be good to try and direct something. I recalled the script…I looked for it, got it optioned. Then I reread it and went through all the same emotions that I had before and thought, "Yeah this is what I had before. It would be good to start out with because it's about people its easily obtainable, and I can focus on performance. Then I had worked with Paul Brooks on Shadow of the Vampire [Nic's Saturn Films co-produced] and we had a good experience working together and he had the guts to say okay let's make this movie! I think he worried because it was unconventional - but he had faith in me from Shadow. That's pretty much how it all started to come to fruition.

Emily: You nailed the lead when you cast James Franco. How'd you find him?

Cage: I saw a headshot and I liked his face. I had heard of him. I met James in my office, alone, and we went through some scenes together and I was immediately struck by his enthusiasm, and how passionate he was about the movie, and about the part. When I saw his acting out of the scenes it occurred to me he had a great deal of emotion right at his fingertips. And that he could be unpredictable and fully authentic in the emotion of the character. Also I liked his face. I think everybody face tells a story and his seemed to resonate something to me. I could care about this person and no matter how horrible the situations we found him in we'd still care about him. There was also something just a little bit dangerous about him. This is a dynamic and highly charged actor but he's also a skilled and technically proficient actor. I needed somebody of that caliber - he's trained - for the role. We didn't have a whole lot of time to rehearse. We only had four days. We didn't have a whole lot of time to shoot it. We had six weeks. New Orleans was pretty much the center of the country at that time too. We had the Super bowl there…. Mardi Gras there…it's a big city. We were trying to navigate how to do the shots - and I got lucky with him.

Emily: [Though the fantasy thought of Nic in a Super bowl crowd waving a football logo'd banner with adorable manly stripes painted across his gorgeous facade started to make me drift…I refocused] Why were you all in such a rush to shoot the film?

Cage: There was a break in my schedule and we had just come out of a writer's guild strike and people were really hungry to work. I had to get out in time in case I had another movie- it fell apart- it was for Warner called Constantine, and I never would been able to finish the picture in time. By chance the movie fell apart anyway! I had the luxury of a little more time to finish my movie.

Emily: You had dialect coaches, cuisine coaches and even a voodoo coach? Why voodoo?

Cage: Voodoo is a religion. I try to be respectful of all religions. I certainly wanted to make sure if there was a ritual in the picture that it wasn't treated in the typical Hollywood fashion which all ghosts and goblins. Which is a bunch of horse doo-doo! [laughter] This is an old region it was important to me that I treat it with respect. The reason for the dialect coach …the accent of New Orleans is unique in the south. Very often it gets done incorrectly. They do it like Alabama. Well, it's more like a Bronx accent slowed down. It was important to me get the right sound. I was very lucky with Brenda Blethyn who's got like 100 point golden ears! I wanted to make sure I had the talent that could just get it! She only had a short amount of time to get. And she did beautifully. The same goes for the others. Mena's character was from Arkansas so she was slightly different.

Emily: I Adore Brenda! How did you get her?

Cage: [laughter] I'm a huge fan too. I had seen her secret and Lies and she's such an adventuresome actress. She can really go places that are bigger than life and I needed a personality that could be this grand madam of the south- who could control the people around her. I thought Brenda had that ability. Also a lot of the British actors are so technically skillful at accents I knew she'd be able to do it quickly.

Emily: Why'd you decide to get into directing? Because of all your Coppola cousins?

Cage: [laughter] No…. they didn't even know I was doing it! It was time for me to learn something- get uncomfortable. Even if I failed or fell on my face. Maybe I could surround myself with talents people that would restimulate me in my acting! I wasn't getting any "directing" offers. Ya know? I knew I'd have to generate it [directing gig] myself one day. The reason was I have been acting for over twenty years and I got comfortable with that and I made the decision that whenever you get comfortable you get lazy and I wanted to get uncomfortable again and not be afraid to fail. My conversations with Charlie Kaufman, my interviews with him about Adaptation, and hearing him talk about how he's not afraid to fail or be naked in the quest of trying to do something truthful in his craft inspired me to go ahead and jump off the diving board and try and direct.

Emily: So, Mr. Director what did it feel like when you completed your "first" film?

Cage: It was one of the best feelings in the world! You're going through all the emotions with them. You're behind the monitor and you're thinking trajectory of each the different characters- not just your own as an actor, which is what I normally do. It was great to switch it around! Like the nights before…going through all my notes. I didn't get much sleep [laughter]. …but trying to really understand what each character was going through. You're juggling a lot of different balls but you don't have that pressure of memorizing lines or worrying about the pressure of the camera being on you. So that's kind of relaxing.

Emily: I have to be honest. I am not sure about your character in the film. What? Who? Why? [oh my god - damn me and my honest streak…]

Cage: Well, it wasn't my idea to be in the movie [laughter]! I didn't want to be in the movie but understandably…. I wanted a specific cast and at that time James wasn't the star he is now and Paul said if you really want to do this you need to do a cameo. I didn't want to do it…so I proceeded to disguise myself out of the movie [laughter]. I got found out anyway.

Emily: [Whew! He wasn't offended. Even seemed to agree…hmm…kismet dear man. Let's hit the Elvis Chapel when your divorce comes through. STOP. FOCUS. ] Was there any directing "style" you were going for?

Cage: Not really I imagine some of the experiences I had in the past filtered through like osmosis. But I couldn't specifically name a director that I emulated. I have been greatly influenced by Kazan. How I am as a director- being an actor obviously I'm biased I wanted the actors to know I was there for them. Give them the space. I wanted them to be able to go anywhere they needed to go to get into their instrument to bare their souls …it's very vulnerable what they do when you think about it. All these people walking around. So I wanted them to trust their own instincts…do four or fives takes organically on their own then if I needed I would tart sculpting with them. I just wanted them to know how much respect they had. I never really seeked out a director to assist me. I met with Olivier Stone but really it was on a different subject where I was trying to get him to commit to the idea of doing a kind of Scarface on the water. A 1970's pirate movie in the Caribbean! Or the Bahamas or something [laughter] and he just looked at me and said [Nic impersonates Stone (on mushrooms I think)], "Argh, you really like those engines don't ya?! Those speed boats huh? You're an engine guy. You're an engine guy! " No Oliver that's not really my craft…[laughter] I said well I'm gonna go away now and do this movie. I'm going to direct. I said I'm going to New Orleans to shoot a film. And he had been in New Orleans to shoot JFK so he gave me just some thoughts on New Orleans - but that was by far and large it.

Emily: Do you intend to direct more now?

Cage: I'd like to. I enjoy both. I just have to find the right script. I intend to guard my directing career very carefully.

Emily: Sonny's original script took place in Lafayette in the 60's. Why'd you switch it to New Orleans in the 80's?

Cage: I don't know Lafayette. I wanted to take it out of the rural and put it in the big city. I know New Orleans. I shot a few movies there. New Orleans has so much color and architecture and there's a buzz in the streets when you hear music from all the bars that go on for 24 hours. There's a lust for food . I felt it would be a great character and backdrop for these people. A lot of the scenes are indoors so I wanted when we went outside that there would be an excitement to it. And I don't know the sixties I was very little then. I know the eighties.

Emily: You actually bought a house there to shoot in right?

Cage: Yeah. Because the French Quarter is like a museum. You don't have a lot of control. You can't paint the walls - you can't hag things. And also I knew that if I had my own place I could do what I wanted. I think it helped us finis the picture on schedule. I was able to move much more easily without being beholden to location.

Emily: You still have the house? [eyebrow erect with a vision, thought but not spoken: what's the address and when are you there dear boy...]

Cage: I do. I do…I don't know what to do with it now!

Emily: Sonny reminded me of a Tennessee Williams play. Did you think about that?

Cage: I think that must have been working on me subconsciously. Yeah. I didn't set out to do that per say. But I have heard that and I must say that Williams and Kazan are the reasons I really got into film. They are why I became an actor. So it must of stayed within me. And that's an enormous statement from you! I am very proud that you see that. Thanks!


Arrividerci molto bello uomo! Off the lad went to more drooling debutantes disguised as journalists.

A sharp dressed man with a pretty darn fast mind. Suddenly I'm in the mood for an Italian. Oops, I mean Italian. As in food! Jeeze...get the mind out of the gutter would ya? Hehehehehe...

He did a great job as director of Sonny (Blunt Warning: the film is not for everyone) and as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation he should be taking home his next Oscar and Globe and Spirit etc....etc. Hey, he may need a date....What did I do with that hotel key I swiped...

Be sure to get out and see Matchstick Men, Adaptation and Sonny and maybe you even wanna host your own "NicFix" evening? Pick up his heavenly man herion selections at Amazon (hint).



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