Nicolas Cage is an Academy Award winning actor who’s done and seen it all. He’s taken on drama, comedy, action, horror, you name it and he’s probably had a part in it. With a career that spans almost 30 years the actor has recently found himself attracted to big budget family films like the National Treasure series, comic films like Ghost Rider, and his latest flick The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Despite his background in the industry, Cage still finds wonder and fun in making movies and revealed that he likes the new challenges that effects driven films bring. At the Los Angeles Press Day for the movie he discussed his personal and professional friendship with Apprentice director Jon Turteltaub as well as his affinity for working with young actors such as his co-star Jay Baruchel.
Cage has known director Jon Turteltaub since he was a teenager and their long running friendship is what sparked the idea for them working on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Nicolas Cage: First of all, let it be known that Jon Turteltaub is a really, really good actor. We were in the Beverly Hills High School Drama Department together and we both auditioned for the lead in Our Town. He got the lead and I got to play Constable Warren and he’ll never let me forget it. What’s interesting about this is that when the idea was created and developed to do Sorcerer’s Apprentice I wanted Jon to direct the movie and there was a play happening at Beverly Hills High School, my son was in it, and so there we were in the old seats in the old drama department in the theater watching this Inherit The Wind production, which was good as well and we’re talking about doing Sorcerer’s Apprentice together so it came full circle. The whole movie’s been like that. It’s had that magical quality which is amazing since the movie is about magic.
He revealed that he’s had a recent interest in old English history, which further fueled his desire to do the film.
NC: I began to have an interest in Arthurian mythology and the Grail cycle particularly ancient England. I was trying to find a movie that resonated that in some way at the same time I wanted a family movie that would entertain parents and their children, give them both something to look forward to, congregate together, and smile together. I think that’s one of the better ways I can apply myself as an actor. So, it made sense to me that if I could do a character that relied on magic and not bullets I could entertain the family and Jon, if you really look at his career carefully has always made positive movies that never resort to gratuitous violence or gun play and that is really hard to do in Hollywood.
That’s his vision and he’s done it and he’s made people happy. It’s a very positive vision so I knew he was the right director for it because of our experience together on National Treasure and Jerry [Bruckheimer] I’ve made 7 movies with Jerry and he always entertains the world. No one can make a movie as exciting as Jerry Bruckheimer. You know when there’s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie it’s going to have lots of chrome and gloss it’ll be sexy, it’s going to be big and it’s going to be fun. He put it on a fast track and that’s how it happened.
Since he’d already had an established relationship with the producer and director, Cage said he thoroughly enjoyed working with his younger co-star Jay Baruchel as well.
NC: I love working with younger actors because they always come into the game full of energy and ideas that challenge me and keep me learning something and stimulated. Jay is somebody [and I was so thrilled to see this] who in my opinion subscribes to what I like to call “jazz style acting”. He’s not afraid to go off the page and improvise and throw something at you so I can riff with him and some accidents would happen where you get to a better — more real truth. We kept that going the whole time.
The other thing I want to say about Jay is that I’ve always believed that the greatest actors are the ones that have the voices that are amenable. My heroes are like [Humphrey] Bogart and [Clint] Eastwood and [James] Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, well Jay’s got a voice and that’s hard to have. When you see How to Train Your Dragon it’s just jumps off at you. He gets in your head and he’s going to be around forever.
Another thing Cage had to act off of was a green screen and he spoke about how he tackles the idea of working against “nothing.” Where some actors collapse under the use of such a convention, he thrives!
NC: Acting is imagination. It’s acting, that’s what it’s all about. I actually enjoy working with green screen because I can imagine all that stuff happening. I really cut my teeth on a movie I made called Adaptation where I had to imagine 4 page dialogue scenes with my twin brother who’s nothing more than a tennis ball and a gas can. So, I was really up for it. I do understand sometimes when actors say “There’s no one to talk to,” or “You can’t react to.” There’s truth in that but for me I’ve always enjoyed green screen and blue screen.
One of his biggest challenges while working on the film was coming up with a way to illustrate the use of magic.
NC – In terms of the choreography, I remember early on we were talking about Balthazaar wearing these two bracelets and that whenever he made magic he’d put the two bracelets together kind of like Sinbad pulling his belt, and then things would magically happen. I really felt that it was important my character use his hands, like a conductor, like magic is coming out of the hands. That’s where [costume designer] Michael Kaplan so brilliantly offered the idea of all the rings on each finger, and using the power ring, as opposed to the bracelet. That was always present, on my mind, to use that kind of choreography, like a conductor.”
As for any real-life magical moments that happened on set, Cage claims that there was one eerie event in particular that involved Nikola Tesla, an inventor who’s work appears prominently in the film.
NC: Well, there were many magical moments throughout the whole film. One of the more interesting things that comes to mind is Nikola Tesla, and that coincidentally, we wrapped the movie on his birthday. And coincidentally, I found out that the day he died is the same day I was born, and so with that in mind, I went to stay in Nikola Tesla’s room at the New Yorker Hotel, to try to just see if I could call up the spirits, figuratively speaking, and see what came to me. And then I was in the room and nothing really happened, but something hit the window, and I think it might have been a pigeon, and I read a little bit about Tesla, and I found out those were his friends. He loved pigeons. And he really cared about them, he would take care of them, that was it. That was it for him, his pigeons and his science. So I thought, okay, that’s the gift. I’m going to try to find a way to put a pigeon in the movie, I’m going to fix his leg, and it’s for you, Nikola Tesla.
As for the big question, what would Cage do if he had the ability to do magic one time and one time only?
NC: I would just keep doing what we’ve been doing. I just want to keep making movies that hopefully makes some kids smile.
Aww, Cage loves the kids!
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice opens in theaters nationwide July 14, 2010.