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INT: Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage is one of a handful of actors working today who can transition seamlessly between small, independent-minded films, like ADAPTATION, and big-budget Hollywood event movies, like GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS, without losing a shred of credibility. His latest effort, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced NATIONAL TREASURE, definitely belongs in the latter category. It's a modern-day Indiana Jones tale, featuring Cage in pursuit of a vast treasure hidden away by several of the Founding Fathers. Following clues left in and around various artifacts, monuments and other objects of historical prominence, Cage aims to solve the riddle and find the treasure before the bad guys do.

Cage stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week for a press conference to publicize the film. Check out what he had to say about about making NATIONAL TREASURE, opening today.

NICHOLAS CAGE

Of all the action films you were offered, what was it about this one that struck your fancy?

I think that the thing that made me trepidatious was the same thing that intrigued me, which is the idea of a man going in and stealing the Declaration of Independence. I thought: this doesn’t seem very plausible, and how can this actually be pulled off. I met with John Turteltaub and he said: "But that’s what’s interesting. He’s audacious. He’s bold." And Jerry Bruckheimer always brings in a great group of technical advisers to do the research and try to figure out exactly how to make it within the context of the film seem as believable as possible. And I got to do it in a tuxedo, so that was interesting to me as well.

Do you see yourself ever being as bold as this guy?

Without going into too much detail, I have had my obsessions, and he certainly is a character who’s obsessed about this treasure, this marvelous Templar treasure, and has devoted his entire life and groomed himself to figure out exactly what he needs to do to find it in the face of great ridicule. And I think I’ve been obsessed over the years with where I could go with acting, or how I could challenge myself with that, if that answers your question.

How has turning 40 changed you?

Well, I always add a year to myself, so I’m prepared for my next birthday. So when I was 39, I was already 40, and now I’m 41 (laughter). It makes me...I’m feeling...I don’t want to say happy because that’s too fragile a word, but I’m definitely content, and I’m hopeful about the future, although I spend most of my time thinking about the present.

How do you make a movie like this believable?

I think you have to give yourself over to the context of the movie and go along for the ride, which is what I did. I saw it for the first time the other night with the audience, and I was very happy with the way it all seemed to work logically within the suspension of disbelief. I enjoyed it. It has a certain spirit which is reminiscent of Indiana Jones, but where it parts company with Indiana Jones is that there’s nothing supernatural about National Treasure. There’s enough there that we can wonder about, that we can think about in terms of — does this treasure really exist, and indeed several highly intelligent people who believe it exists have risked their lives looking for this buried treasure.

Can you talk about your experience working with Diane Kruger and Justin Parker?

Justin and Diane both have wild senses of humor. They’re both very mischievous and kind off the wall in their sense of humor, as am I. As you can imagine, we got along great and had a lot of laughs on the set as well as off the set. We’d go and karaoke from time to time (laughs). And sort of blow it out and be completely ridiculous, which helped, I think. The playfulness and chemistry amongst the three of us — I think it was some Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC and some Sex Pistols.

Have you tried on your Ghost Rider costume yet?

I haven’t. I’m very curious about that. However, I'm still in talks about that particular movie. It’s not a definite at this point.

Are you into comic book films in general?

Comic books for me as a young man were one of the ways I learned how to read. There were other ways too, but I was always fascinated by the mythology of them. Because I used to Greek myths, so I discovered a kind of kindred spirit in the mind of Stan Lee and also DC Comics. And I always felt they were successful in film as well even before they became successful, and I knew the big three would be Batman and Superman and Spiderman. I guess the reason I responded to them was that they had the fantasy of the child’s mind, and they’re a wonderful alternative world to sort of lose yourself in.

You’ve been attached to the project for so long, what's the problem?

Again, it’s really just the vision of the movie and how it will be portrayed. It’s also about script and things like that. It’s true that I was involved with Ghost Rider over three years ago and was trying to develop it with another filmmaker. These things are very sensitive. It’s a bullseye and you really have to hit it; otherwise it may not work. So it’s best for everyone to be cautious and make sure it’s got the auspices.

Did you ever try on the Superman costume when you were in talks to make it with Tim Burton?

I was never going to do Spider-Man. I know they talked to me about playing the Green Goblin, but it was at the same time I was offered Adaptation. And I was wanting to play twins in a movie, so that’s why I opted for Adaptation. Also, I like Spike Jonze’s work quite a bit. I also like Sam Raimi very much as well. But it just seemed like Adaptation would give me more of an opportunity to learn something. Superman, yeah, I did do that. I went pretty far down the road with Tim Burton on that. And at the time, Warner Brothers just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger so to speak on the script because it was getting incredibly expensive and that was at a period in their career, Warner Brothers, where they were being cautious with the money.

Are you surprised at how successful you’ve become?

That’s an interesting question that I sometimes get asked. I don’t really know that I have the same perception of myself that other people may or may not have. I don’t really look at myself as a successful person. I always look at myself as someone who’s trying to find the next place to go or the next thing to discover or improve upon. I have a difficult time looking at the cup half full. I always tend to look at it half empty.

How has your relationship with Jerry Bruckheimer developed over the years?

I think over the years we’ve cultivated a shorthand. We’ve discovered what each of us brings to the table. He’s a producer who very much encourages his actors to come up with ideas and then he goes through a selection process to see what he feels will work or not work within the context of keeping the train moving. Jerry has a vision which is an honest one. He’s a terrific movie fan. He loves going to the movies and he likes films that I think are very entertaining to himself and to many other people. So it’s a vision that a lot of people share. But what’s unique about Jerry is that he really does look in interesting places for his actors, and even writers. He’s always looking for someone who might come up with an unexpected choice, something a little bit outside the box which you can see in Con Air.  He used a lot of the independent film actors in that, with Johnny in Pirates, John Malkovich. And then he has a sense of nostalgia for veteran actors like Duvall or Jon Voight or Hackman. He does have a terrific amount of taste for talent.

What were your scenes with Harvey Keitel like?

He is, and there’s another example of Jerry Bruckheimer casting somebody who we’ve all sort of grown to know in more independent material and challenging, edgy material. Harvey and I work extremely well together. We both have an odd angle and take on life. I don't know if insane is too harsh a word, but it’s sort of a playful and unusual perception which I think mixed well for the two of us.

Why was South Africa the right place to make Lord of War?

South Africa is a fascinating location because it can model for so many other locations. Lord of War is a world stage. It takes place in many different areas. You have Manhattan, you have Ukraine, you have Liberia. And so there’s so many locales that you can actually use South Africa for, it becomes very convenient. It’s much less expensive to shoot there and now I believe even Dreamworks is going to be building a studio out there. The way the tide is going now, it’s becoming increasingly rare to shoot a movie here at home. It just is the way it is. It’s simple economics. If you can do a $120 million movie for $80 million in South Africa, then that’s what the studio is going to do.

Can you describe your character?

It’s one of those characters that I guess if you were to take Scarface and replace the drugs with guns, he’s a gun runner and he’s always figuring out where the political climate is in the world to get rich and sell the right amount of guns, and really has no ethics as to picking sides. He just has got his calculator. And needless to say, it’s a politically charged movie.

You've played a diverse array of roles.  How do you go about choosing them?

I have eclectic taste. I wouldn’t want to be on one steady diet of any type of movie and so I think that informs my choices as well. I have eclectic tastes in the movies I want to do. I think it’s dangerous when you get trapped in an identity that is one way. I mean, it can work because then the audience knows what they’re going to get, and they can rely on that person to do that type of movie every time. But that would be very boring for me and I would be calcified by that. I love keeping myself guessing and keeping you guessing. I don’t want to just do independent movies and I don’t want to just do adventure films. I enjoy both, and I think both are cogent. I always have. I’m the first to admit that I like going to -- or my memories at least of going to Clint Eastwood movies or Charles Bronson or James Bond. Bruce Lee, I always forget to mention him. He was a huge inspiration for me and when I was a kid, I was Bruce Lee in my mind. And what I like about it is it makes me happy and I think it makes a lot of people happy to go to the movies and to not think about the problems of the day or the problems of tomorrow or the yesterday and just go on for the ride and have the fun of losing oneself in a fantasy.

Do you plan on doing any more directing?

That’s the one area that I am slow to pull the trigger on because I feel that I am still cutting my teeth in that area and I’m still sort of finding myself as I go along.  I’m very happy with Sony and it was a challenging move.  It was, I think a movie that was difficult for people to grasp because the subject matter is somewhat taboo, but that’s the very thing that I think is stimulating to me and I have to look very carefully to find the next script that would fit in that.  In that regard, I think I am trying to find my identity.

You character in National Treasure has a family with a tradition that’s passed down, a belief that others don’t really share. Is there anything like that in your prestigious family?

I’m very proud of my family and I think it’s a family that’s loaded with creativity.  But with creativity comes a price.  I mean there’s the flip side of creativity which is I guess the - as you said eccentric or bizarre behaviour that goes along with that I guess can be judged by others.

Nicholas, you mentioned that you were into Greek and Roman Mythology, are you also into the more contemporary myths?

I like anything that makes you wonder. That isn’t totally spelled out for you.  Somewhere in - mythology is interesting too because it also implies it’s a myth whereas the Templar Treasure many people believe that this is fact.  I like things that could be real but aren’t totally defined yet.  There’s supposed to be - like I was watching unusual animals on Discovery and they really believe of all these animals that have eluded people, like the Loch Ness Monster which proved to be a hoax and Big Foot, blah, blah, blah.  But all the scientists got together and were convinced that somewhere up in the Asian mountains of Tibet or I don’t know what, there is a short red haired two legged ape man and they’ve seen it and they’re trying to get it.  Now that’s fascinating to me and I’d like to go meet this guy.  I want to look at him.  I want to say hi to him and I discovered the wild dog when I was in Africa.  And we have dogs around us every day, but to see a wild dog in its own nature it’s like seeing a cave man.  I kind of know you, but I don’t, and you’re interesting.  I guess why I’m going off on the diatribe is that I’m fascinated by the as yet undiscovered, but possible. 

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com

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