Katie Chonacas is an up and coming actress and Hollywood producer who’s landed a role in Werner Herzog‘s latest film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. When the unofficial remake began it’s run on the festival circuit a few months back, it generated plenty of buzz that was good, bad, and everything in between. After speaking to Chonacas it’s fair to say that whatever Herzog has up his sleeve, it’s bound to knock our socks off one way or another.
As a fellow Michigan native, I discovered how she went from the small city of Livonia to working opposite an Academy Award winning actor like Nicolas Cage. The actress explained how she had aspirations of moving to Los Angeles as a young teenager, but got swept up in her love of cross country track. After high school she finally decided to make the move from home and hoped from Toronto, Paris, New York and eventually landed in L.A, where she’s been ever since.
Check out our interview…
When I spoke to Katie, the first thing we discussed was the Bad Lieutenant shoot. The film has drawn obvious comparisons to the 1992 Abel Ferrar version, so I wanted to find out if they were drastically different. The pressure of doing a remake can sometimes help or hinder an actor’s performance, a fact the actress was well aware of.
KC: I decided not to see the original because I wanted to go in with my own fresh take of it and not do something that somebody else has already done. Instead of going and seeing the original I went to Werner Herzog’s website and I bought the six disc box set, and I watched all of his films. To see Werner, so I could find out about how he works.
From what you have seen of the original, is there a similar tone or aesthetic?
KC: The original is really raunchy and dirty, and it’s a representative of New York City in the early nineties. Herzog’s is more existential and absurd. There’s a lot of humor, Nic Cage’s humor spirals deeper, and deeper into his character. It’s very cool that it’s set in New Orleans, with everything like Katrina, and we had to bring the jazzy soul of New Orleans to the core of the new film. They’re both powerful films, but their also unique and different.
How was it working with Werner as a director?
KC: Working with Werner, he is a complete genius. I was just so captivated by him every time, the way that he would speak, the way was staring at something, or looking off, the way he would move. I was just watching him, and I wish I could create with him more often, and just soak up his knowledge, his life experience. I was interested as a viewer after watching his documentary, because he’s traveled the world. I’m an artist, I’m a seeker of adventure and travel, and I just love world culture and being out of the box. So, I relied on him so much. With Werner, I just wanted to strive to be more like him. I hope I have the chance to work with him again.
What was your experience acting opposite Nicolas Cage?
KC: He was very professional. He came up to me, he introduced himself to me, he shook my hand. While we were on set creating, after the first rehearsal he was in shock. He was in shock! He told me, his exact words were ‘when people see this film, and everyone will see this film, everyone in Hollywood will want to work with you.’ Those were his words. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God. This small town girl from Michigan, from 7 Mile just shocked, and knocked the socks off of Nicolas Cage who’s worth a 100 million dollars, a mega superstar in every way, and comes from the Coppola family. He has the whole history, you know obviously it’s Nicolas Cage.
What did you do to cause that type of reaction?
KC: You’ll have to see the film, but it was a great experience, and I loved it.
The cast is filled with talented actors (Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer, Xzibit), did you get to interact with any of them?
KC: Most of the time when I was working we had a closed set. It was just me and Nicolas, so those three weren’t there. I really worked with Werner and Nicolas hands on.
Were you able to attend any of the festival premieres for the film?
KC: I was working on another project so I didn’t get to go, but I was invited!
After her experience on Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Chonacas had a few things waiting on the back-burner to keep her busy. In terms of her acting, she’s working on a developing film that will have her interacting with another talented and creative individual.
KC: The producer from Hotel Rwanda, Izidore Crodon had seen my work and got a hold of my team and he wants me to play the lead role in his new film. So, I read the script and hopefully that will happen.
What’s it called?
So, that will be filmed in South Africa? Have you ever been there?
KC: Yes. When I was little I used to have dreams about going away to South Africa, you’d fly on the plane and you’d see giraffes, but that’s not how it happens. The safari is four hours away, so you don’t get to see giraffe’s when you’re arriving. There’s a part in Werner’s documentary, where he was in a plane, and he was looking down, and he saw giraffes. (laughs)
As I noted earlier, Chonacas is also a rising producer and has been working on several high profile projects. One of the biggest titles being Riot, an action drama, which centers on the famous “Scared Straight” program that was made popular in the seventies. Cage has been rumored to star as the film’s lead, so I decided to get a little production update.
KC: I don’t think it’s happening anymore. We got Nic Cage to do a two picture deal, and the two picture deal was with Riot however he has the option to exchange it with another film. I’m not sure what movie it will be, but it will probably be another film. But, yeah we got John Carpenter for the deal, it was Nicolas Cage and John Carpenter and now it might not happen.
If Nicolas Cage opts out of the film, will John Carpenter stay on?
KC: I don’t know. I’m not sure, probably not.
The Cage reunion may not happen on that film, but there are still plenty of future opportunities for them to work together again. Until then, you can see Katie and the rest of the cast of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans when the film hits theaters on November 20th in limited release.