Un­bri­dled spirit

Ni­co­las Cage con­tin­ues to do things his way.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By RENE RO­DRIGUEZ Ghostrider:spir­itofvengeance

IN Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, Ni­co­las Cage punches Satan. He punches Satan in THE FACE. Play­ing Ghost Rider, Cage also saves a lit­tle boy and helps peo­ple and does some other heroic stuff. But no mat­ter what he does, the char­ac­ter will never be as beloved as Bat­man and Su­per­man. Ghost Rider doesn’t get cheer­ing crowds or pa­rades. The char­ac­ter of Johnny Blaze – a mo­tor­cy­cle stunt­man who turns into a flam­ing skele­ton and sucks the souls out of peo­ple – isn’t even a su­per­hero, re­ally. He’s more of a man pos­sessed, which is why the role suits Cage so well.

Un­like other up­com­ing Mar­vel Comics film adap­ta­tions such as The Amaz­ing Spi­der-man and The Avengers, which are due in the sum­mer ac­com­pa­nied by an avalanche of hype, Spirit Of Vengeance rode into cine­mas with­out screen­ing in ad­vance for crit­ics. That’s the same stealth ap­proach Columbia Pic­tures used when they re­leased the first Ghost Rider film in 2007. The re­views, when they ap­peared, were scathing. On the In­ter­net, where geek cul­ture reigns supreme, the movie was heartily ridiculed.

But Ghost Rider earned Us$228mil (Rm684mil) world­wide. That was enough to con­vince Cage – a diehard comic-book fan who named his son Kal-el, was once set to play Su­per­man for di­rec­tor Tim Bur­ton and ap­peared in the su­per­hero satire Kick-ass as the proud papa of a 12-year-old as­sas­sin – to give the role an­other shot.

Spirit Of Vengeance was di­rected by the film­mak­ing duo of Mark Nevel­dine and Brian Tay­lor ( Crank, Gamer) in their usual break­neck, I-can’t-be­lieve-what-i-just-saw style. The movie boasts some sen­sa­tional 3D ef­fects, nifty night­mar­ish im­agery and a cu­ri­ous sense of hu­mour – not quite camp, but def­i­nitely in the same neigh­bour­hood. Early in the film, for ex­am­ple, there’s a scene in which an in­jured Blaze tries to con­vince a hospi­tal nurse to give him some mor­phine. He ex­plains that he trans­formed into a mon­ster the night be­fore. She as­sumes he’s nuts. “No, man, I’m not hal­lu­ci­nat­ing!” Blaze shouts at her in a blast of un­hinged lu­nacy. “Look, I’m flirt­ing with you!”

Cage’s face lights up when you bring up that line. It’s a throw­away mo­ment in a movie packed with gi­gan­tic ac­tion set pieces, elab­o­rate chases, Satan wor­ship­pers and tat­tooed monks. But the scene is also the kind of small, bizarre beat Cage grooves on.

“I find it in­cred­i­bly funny when guys, in the pres­ence of a lady, re­fer to them as ‘ man’,” the ac­tor says. “It’s just wrong. In that scene, Johnny Blaze is re­cov­er­ing from the pretty se­ri­ous hang­over of hav­ing his head erupt into a flam­ing skull. That’s just free rein for me to try stuff. I wanted Blaze’s hu­mour to be a lot darker and edgier in this movie. He’s noth­ing like the Blaze from the first movie. We did other takes of that scene that went fur­ther. Even Nevel­dine and Tay­lor weren’t ready to go there.”

“Nic went off the deep end that day,” Nevel­dine says about the film­ing of the scene. “He wanted to go su­per dark. He went nuts. In one take, he yelled at the nurse ‘If you call the po­lice, I’ll whip your ass and break your lit­tle arm!’ and it felt so real, like he re­ally meant it. We were like ‘ Okaaay, Nic! Let’s do a cou­ple more takes. And re­mem­ber: This is a PG-13 movie!’” WE asked Ni­co­las Cage to say the first thing that popped into his mind when we men­tioned the ti­tles of five of his older movies.

> Rum­ble Fish: “Best (mu­si­cal) score of any movie since (En­nio) Mor­ri­cone. There is no one bet­ter than Ste­wart Copeland when it comes to scor­ing films.”

> Adap­ta­tion: “It was a work­out. I was play­ing twins and I had to make them com­pletely sep­a­rate in­di­vid­u­als and make it seem like they were talk­ing to each other. On the set, I was act­ing op­po­site a ten­nis ball, us­ing an ear­piece to respond to di­a­logue I had pre­vi­ously recorded as the other

Cage would dis­ap­pear into char­ac­ter when play­ing the Ghost Rider. He would walk around with his face painted like a skull. He glared at peo­ple through his black con­tact lenses – which, when you think about it, was prob­a­bly a lit­tle scary. He wouldn’t be say­ing a word to any­one on the set, be­cause Johnny Blaze speaks, but the Ghost Rider doesn’t (he’s a skele­ton; he has no tongue or vo­cal cords).

“I could see the fear in the eyes of the crew, and that was oxy­gen to my for­est fire,” Cage says. “Tay­lor said he felt an un­holy en­ergy was com­ing off me at times. The prob­lem was leav­ing all that be­hind when I went home. twin. I had to mem­o­rise all the di­a­logue of two char­ac­ters. The de­gree of dif­fi­culty was re­ally high.”

> Moon­struck: “It was early in my ca­reer, and I was liv­ing in fear I would get fired ev­ery other day. I wanted to play the char­ac­ter like Jean Marais in (Jean) Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast, so I gave him that voice. And then (di­rec­tor) Nor­man Jewi­son called me on Christ­mas Eve to tell me the When you’ve been play­ing Ghost Rider un­til 3am, and then you get in­vited to a Christ­mas party in Ro­ma­nia and you throw in a cou­ple of gin mar­ti­nis ... all hell can break loose. And it did.”

Here’s the thing to re­mem­ber about Cage: He re­ally means all this stuff. Col­lec­tively, his films have grossed more than Us$4bil (Rm12­bil) world­wide.

He also has one of the most di­verse bod­ies of work of any ac­tor of his gen­er­a­tion. Cage, 48, has won an Os­car (for Leav­ing Las Ve­gas) and he has di­rected a movie (2002’s Sonny, about a male pros­ti­tute played by James Franco). He has made films for Martin dailies weren’t work­ing. I knew then I had to act from the spinal cord.

“The irony is that I think I was tap­ping into (screen­writer) John Pa­trick Shanley sub­lim­i­nally, be­cause I found out later the orig­i­nal ti­tle of that movie was The Wolf And The Bride.”

> Hon­ey­moon In Ve­gas: “Fun in Hawaii with Sarah Jes­sica Parker. It was a fresh pe­riod in my life, full of po­ten­tial and pos­si­bil­i­ties. I was com­ing into a new phase in my ca­reer in terms of what I wanted to do with act­ing and com­edy in par­tic­u­lar.

“(Di­rec­tor) An­drew Bergman re­ally liked Scors­ese and Oliver Stone and Werner Her­zog and Alan Parker and David Lynch and Michael Bay and John Woo.

Say what you will about his choices, which at times have been du­bi­ous ( Bangkok Dan­ger­ous, Sea­son Of The Witch). Laugh all you want when one of his movies goes rad­i­cally wrong (a two-minute clip of choice scenes from his per­for­mance in the 2006 re­make of The Wicker Man has amassed more than three mil­lion views on Youtube).

But Cage com­mits to all his roles with the same fe­roc­ity, re­gard­less of their pedi­gree. And he is com­pletely, ut­terly self-aware. He knows to turn down his vol­ume when act­ing in Pg-en­ter­tain­ments such as Na­tional Trea­sure or The Fam­ily Man. There’s no need to scare the chil­dren in those. But the bulk of Cage’s films have been genre pic­tures, be­cause those are the ones that al­low him to try out the crazy stuff: Fight­ing axe-wield­ing killers while hug­ging a naked pros­ti­tute ( Drive An­gry); eat­ing a live cock­roach on cam­era ( Vampire’s Kiss); pee­ing a jet stream of fire ( Spirit Of Vengeance).

“Nic is just like a kid: He al­ways wants to come out and play,” says Nevel­dine. “He’s al­ways com­ing up with ideas on the set, and 97% of the time what he brings is amaz­ing. And he’s a Method ac­tor, so he puts one mil­lion per­cent into ev­ery sin­gle take. Brian and I trip on that stuff. We love it when Nic goes crazy. You do have to grab him some­times and say ‘Okay, let’s pull it back a lit­tle.’ But he’s so pas­sion­ate and in­tense. The guy is a force.” – The Mi­ami Her­ald/mcclatchyTri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice n Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance is now play­ing in Malaysian cine­mas. my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his di­a­logue. I re­ally re­sponded to his ital­ics.”

> Wild At Heart: “That was my first at­tempt at what I call a Warhol-es­que ap­proach to act­ing. In Stanislavski’s An Ac­tor Pre­pares, he says you are not al­lowed to im­i­tate. But rules are made to be bro­ken, so I tried to chal­lenge that. I be­lieve in art synthesis. Warhol used to do that. He would take (Mick) Jag­ger or (Elvis) Pres­ley and use them in his paint­ings. So I de­cided to take Pres­ley and em­body his aura while play­ing Sailor Ri­p­ley. It was an over­lay of per­for­mance over per­for­mance.” – MCT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.