Here’s an early Christmas present, for me at least. Nicolas Cage has Season of the Witch opening in January 7th, so the time to do press for it is now, before the media gets swamped with holiday stories. I got a phone call this morning with that distinct, smooth cadence on the other line. When I thanked him for calling, he replied, “You too, thank you for inviting me to the interview.”
My invitation was contingent on getting weird though, and Cage is always game for the weird. It’s time to get weird with the master of weird. In Season of the Witch, Cage plays Behman, a 14th century knight assigned to guard a suspected witch. Behman has the long hair that would make Cameron Poe in Con Air proud, and we can hope for some moments that would belong in the “Nicolas Cage Losing His Sh*t” YouTube mashup.
Screen Junkies: You once shared with me the Hunter S. Thompson quote: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” How did you apply that to Season of the Witch?
Nicolas Cage: Well, in that case it’s probably weird in the true sense of the word, meaning W-Y-R-D, not W-E-I-R-D. The interesting thing about the word “weird” is it’s almost a holy word in that it was an ancient Celtic Druid way of life meaning literally to transform or to turn. That was the etymology of the word weird as we know it today because when you call somebody weird, it’s usually because they’re not acting like themselves or they’re turning into something else.
SJ: What’s been your favorite weird role to play?
NC: Yeah, there’s been a few now. It has been a while that I’ve been making movies now. I would have to say that in recent times, Bad Lieutenant was certainly a weird role, but weird more because he was contorted with chemicals both physically and mentally. I loved Peter Loew from Vampire’s Kiss. He was really weird because he went into the world of thinking he was a vampire.
SJ: I love Vampire’s Kiss too. What would Peter Loew think of the Twilight vampires?
NC: I don’t know. [Laughs] I don’t know how to answer that. I think Peter Loew’s interests were more Kafka-esque.
SJ: What’s a weird role you’ve seen someone else play that you would have liked to do?
NC: Well, I had a lot of admiration for Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in Gangs of New York where he played The Butcher. I thought that was a weird role that was really well done.
SJ: Does the witchcraft of this movie have anything in common with the rituals in The Wicker Man?
NC: The Wicker Man was more of a kind of black comedy of sorts, dealing with Neil Labute’s exploration of the relationships between men and women. It was just more of an extreme absurdist comedy dealing with that as opposed to any real kind of witchcraft if you will.
SJ: Is that why you put on a bear suit and beat up women?
NC: [Laughs] Yeah, clearly you don’t wear a bear suit and do something that off the wall and not know it’s ridiculous.
SJ: I’ve been reading Outlawvern.com and he’s coined the phrase “mega acting” with regard to your work in films like Bad Lieutenant and Face/Off. The idea is it’s not overacting, because it’s intentionally extreme. Do you feel that’s accurate?
NC: Yeah, I think that makes sense. I often refer to it as outsid the box, as opposed to over the top. The two things mean the same thing on one hand but one sort of celebrates the idea of breaking free and going into other forms of expression, whether they’re abstract or extreme or as this friend of yours calls mega acting. The other sort of implies you’re not being truthful to the part, but see, I don’t know how you measure something like that because life can be extreme and life can be mega. I wouldn’t do that to somebody in another art form. Not to compare myself to someone like Francis Bacon but just as a point of explanation, I wouldn’t say, “Hey, you can’t paint a screaming pope like that because a screaming pope doesn’t look like that naturally.”
SJ: There’s also that YouTube clip of “Nicolas Cage Losing His Sh*t.” Are you happy that people are celebrating those moments?
NC: Oh yeah. That’s very exciting. I was happy to see that this person found it and was going back to some of the really early work like Zandalee and even the movie I made with my brother Deadfall. It was very exciting to see that be reawakened.
SJ: Yet you won the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, which was a more real, tragic performance.
NC: Yeah, but there were some pretty extreme outbursts in that movie too but I don’t think they made it in that piece.
SJ: I love the long hair for Behman. I actually grew mine out one year and went as Cameron Poe for Halloween. It makes me wonder, do you have a collection of awesome wigs you pick from for each role?
NC: It’s amazing because sometimes people think I’m wearing a wig when I’m not wearing a wig and then sometimes they think I’m not wearing a wig when I am wearing a wig. You’d have to go through it carefully to pick which one is which. For example, Drive Angry I’m not wearing a wig. Behman and Sorcerer’s Apprentice I was wearing a wig. Even in Deadfall, if you look at that sequence, I even put a nose attachment on so the nose went out and then up, when I’m saying, “Vive la France,” that dialogue I was improvising.
SJ: Do you ever keep it when the movie’s done, whether it’s a wig or a real look you’ve developed?
NC: No, I don’t. I don’t wear wigs in my own life or in public so I have no use for them. I did keep the look on Drive Angry because I had dyed my hair blonde and I didn’t have any time to dye it back before the next movie which was Trespass. Once I got back from my press tour for Sorcerer’s where I had the Drive Angry blonde hair, I went back to my normal color.
SJ: Have you seen the College Humor clip about your agent?
NC: No, that one I haven’t seen.
SJ: Would we laugh if we saw the real scripts that passed your desk?
NC: You know, the truth is I’m very selective about what I do. Even now, if you look at the characters I’m playing, I’m trying to cultivate a body of work that celebrates people like Christopher Lee or Vincent Price. I’m wanting to go into a kind of horror and supernatural world with the acting because it gives me something more abstract to do. I haven’t seen that particular site that you’re talking about but I don’t think you would laugh. The reality is you’ll see pretty much an eclectic mix of characters but I don’t think anything that extreme in terms of [comedy]. Well, I haven’t seen the site so I can’t really comment on it.
SJ: With Drive Angry, did 3D give you a new tool for your acting?
NC: Yeah, I wanted to find ways to go into the audience. I even tried to get my tongue into the audience but I don’t know if that made it into the movie. That would’ve been an extreme moment but I’m not sure that it’s still in there or not. Yeah, trying to find ways to dance with the 3D cameras so that I could get into the fourth row of the audience or more.
SJ: What kind of performance is Trespass?
NC: That’s going to be another character and definitely one that is not like myself. He’s a frustrated husband. I think you might even say he’s a confused person about his tastes in romance. He’s somebody that’s really up against a wall.
SJ: What are you looking forward to about playing Ghost Rider again?
NC: Well, I’m currently doing that as we speak. I just got back from Romania and I’m going back tomorrow night to keep working in Bucharest on that and I’m very excited about the possibilities that we’re coming up with on that movie.
So there you have it, folks. Nic Cage was trying to get his tongue into the audience. Simply amazing. Be sure to check Cage out in Season of the Witch January 7th, and see if you can tell if he’s wearing a wig or not.