We caught up with Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage and chatted with him about getting into his drug-fueled character in his outrageous new DVD The Bad Lieutenant—Port of Call: New Orleans
(out April 6), how much he really kicked ass in the upcoming Kick-Ass
, and what movies on disc that he can’t live without at home.
In The Bad Lieutenant you play Terence McDonagh—a crazy cop who spends most of the movie fired up on one illegal substance or another. How did you get so intense before each scene?
Nicolas Cage: I just committed to it in my mind that I was playing this character who was high on coke or heroin or whatever it may be. I had this little vial of a saccharin-like substance, and I would snort that and create this imaginary world that I was out of my head on coke and try to imagine that to the point that Werner [Herzog, the director] started getting quite concerned and asked me what was in the vial. I found that antithetical to the process, but I had to explain to him that it was baby powder or saccharine. He was scared that I was really into it, which there is no way I would have been able to finish the movie if I was. It was more like a method approach.
At the end of Bad Lieutenant, your character has gone through a lot of life changes but is still up to his old tricks. What do you think happens to Terence after the end credits roll?
Cage: I don’t really know. I don’t have an answer for you because when I’m finished with a movie, I’m really done with it. I don’t tend to look back. Anything I would say would only damage your own concept of what happens to Terence. It really is up to the audience. The audience is always right.
In the sure-to-be cult classic Kick-Ass you play a Batman-like superhero and the father of Hit Girl. Did making Kick-Ass feel like circling back to the oddball films you made earlier in your career like Raising Arizona and A Vampire’s Kiss?
Cage: Yeah, I would say it did. There was a kind of playful creativity to the experience of making Kick-Ass that I enjoyed thoroughly, particularly because of Matthew Vaughn’s direction and his willingness to go in these pretty unusual waters. He was open to the idea of me channeling Adam West to play Big Daddy. I can’t think of another director who would allow that, but at the same time he was really the captain of his own ship.
How many of Big Daddy’s stunts did you do in that movie or did you have a double?
Cage: I did all of the fighting, so when you see the movie it’s clearly me. I only had one fight sequence—it took a bit to rehearse that and get it down because there was quite a bit of choreography involved. I think I started rehearsing the fight sequence the day I got there, and it was a two-week shoot for me. There is a time and a place for stunt doubles, but generally speaking I find that I’m usually doing my own stunts because it’s what the director and, quite frankly, what the audience wants. There are some places where it doesn’t make sense because it’s a wide shot or so far away that no one really can tell either way. Most of the time it’s me.”
Are you a Blu-ray or DVD guy at home, and which discs can you not live without?
Cage: I like both Blu-ray and DVD, but Blu-ray gives you more options. Ultimately I like Blu-ray, but my Blu-ray library is quite embryonic at the moment—I need to get more. The movies I cannot go without and that I watch annually are A Clockwork Orange, Scarface and Fantasia.”
Out of all the characters you’ve played in your career—and some you have played more than once like in the National Treasure movies—which would you play again?
Cage: I think I have a lot of room to go yet with Ghost Rider because the first one is really an introduction and the character was kind of an innocent. The effects of the Ghost Rider force inside of him could allow for some interesting developments down the road. I have more to say with that character, to grow with it and flesh the whole thing out. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done and I’m looking to learn and grow in some new way with other characters as they get introduced to me, as I did with Kick-Ass. I hope I continue to find those characters that get my creative energies flowing in the right direction.
You’ve done cult films, indies, dramas, big action movies and won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas. If you were to step out of your comfort zone as an actor, what would challenge you the most?
Cage: I think I’m about to do that because I’m about to start a movie called Drive Angry that is like a horror version of Two-Lane Blacktop or these older kind of road movies. I’m definitely uncomfortable because it’s not anything like any of the work I’ve done before. It’s got me a little nervous, so we’ll see what happens. Miles Davis once said that the reason that he doesn’t play ballads is that he loves them so much. What I think he meant is that it’s easy to keep doing what you love all the time, but to try to go in new directions means that you have to take movies that make you uncomfortable. I do try to find projects that challenge me.