NI­CO­LAS CAGE

Best bud­dies with Rob Zombie, versed in Nor­we­gian black metal and chan­nelling Dave Mus­taine for his psy­chotic new hor­ror movie…

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: ADAM REES

Yes, Ni­co­las Cage is in Metal Ham­mer.

And for good rea­son: it turns out this man is the most metal dude in Hol­ly­wood.

With the sad pass­ing of the great poly­math Sir Christo­pher Lee in 2015, it was in­evitable that there would be some de­bate over who would suc­ceed him as the ac­tor deemed most metal. The suave and wor­thy can­di­date Michael Fass­ben­der has spo­ken of lov­ing Sepul­tura and Slayer in his youth, while Jim Car­rey’s fas­ci­na­tion with grind­core and death metal led to him fa­mously hir­ing Can­ni­bal Corpse to ap­pear in Ace Ven­tura: Pet De­tec­tive. Then there’s Jack Black, who proudly pro­claims his de­vo­tion to rock across var­i­ous projects, al­beit with a large dose of tom­fool­ery thrown in for good mea­sure.

But when it comes to an ac­tor who not only loves the genre, but de­ploys that ex­treme in­ten­sity and nakedly bares his soul on-screen, few could be more de­serv­ing of the ti­tle than Ni­co­las

Cage. It seems only fit­ting, given this is­sue’s cel­e­bra­tion of the sym­bi­otic link be­tween hor­ror and metal – not to men­tion their ex­is­tence on the ex­treme fringes of film and mu­sic – that Cage is set to re­lease the twisted, psy­che­delic hor­ror col­lage Mandy this month. In a near-40-year ca­reer that has seen him take on wild roles that have been ac­claimed and lam­pooned in equal mea­sure for their os­ten­ta­tious de­liv­ery – coin­ing the phrase ‘go­ing full Cage’ – his role as Red Miller might just be his wildest yet. Star­ring as a des­per­ate and bro­ken man out for bloody vengeance af­ter the hor­rific mur­der of his girl­friend, Mandy sees Cage go­ing, well, full Cage.

Speak­ing ex­clu­sively to Ham­mer from Vi­enna, the ac­tor fa­mous for his roles as a ma­ni­a­cal ter­ror­ist in Face/Off, the Kauff­man broth­ers in Adap­ta­tion, a de­ranged hypochon­driac wouldbe vam­pire in Vam­pire’s Kiss, and his Os­car­win­ning turn as an al­co­holic in Leav­ing Las

Ve­gas, is thrilled to dis­cuss his pride at his lat­est per­for­mance that has been as rap­tur­ously re­ceived as the vis­ual de­liv­ery of ac­claimed direc­tor Panos Cos­matos. Mea­sured and friendly but with an ec­cen­tric­ity run­ning through his dis­cur­sive an­swers, you for­get you’re talk­ing to a thes­pian, such are the sim­i­lar­i­ties to ex­pla­na­tions given by mu­si­cians of their art and de­liv­ery. In par­tic­u­lar, it’s his ex­pla­na­tion of how the cathar­tic re­lease of his own feel­ings of the loss and grief chan­nelled from “an in­ner caul­dron of emo­tion” that helped him to con­vey Red’s unimag­in­able tragedy, as well as how he takes in­spi­ra­tion from some of mu­sic’s most dis­tinc­tive or­a­tors when he em­barks on an un­hinged trail of ret­ri­bu­tion, that forges a link with the bands who usu­ally oc­cupy these pages.

“For me, all art is in­spired by mu­sic on some level. Even when I come up with ways of speak­ing di­a­logue it has a mu­si­cal in­tent to it,” Ni­co­las ex­plains in that riv­et­ing enun­ci­a­tion that’s be­come his trade­mark. “There’s one ex­am­ple in Mandy where I say, ‘Did you rip my shirt?’ I knew I was go­ing to go there with the melody and vo­cal­i­sa­tion, and even though I’m a ‘film per­son’ and not a singer,

I can still hear some of the di­a­logue as if I’m singing, al­most like a metal singer. To me, the voice is very grav­elly and goes al­most op­er­atic, from a growl to a scream, which is metal all over. I think there is some in­flu­ence there, from Dave Mus­taine of Me­gadeth, or some­times Axl Rose’s vo­cal­i­sa­tions come into the process by virtue of os­mo­sis, by be­ing around it.”

Set in 1983, Mandy is cut through with rock ref­er­ences, from the gui­tar wid­dling of the in­tro, to King Crim­son play­ing over the open­ing cred­its and the Möt­ley Crüe and Black Sab­bath t-shirts worn by Mandy her­self (played by An­drea Rise­bor­ough) to a mon­strous mo­tor­cy­cle gang that re­sem­ble Slipknot mu­tat­ing into Kaiju mon­sters, the berserk fan­tasy axe wielded by Red and the movie’s ti­tle card, with its thorny, none-more-metal, in­de­ci­pher­able font. With the lav­ish vi­su­als

“I DID THE LINE LIKE A METAL SINGER. THERE’S SOME DAVE MUS­TAINE IN­FLU­ENCE THERE”

NIC CAGE: LEARN­ING FROM THE GREATS

and synth-heavy score at­tack­ing the senses over the plot’s berserk man­i­fes­ta­tions and philo­soph­i­cal tan­gents, Mandy more closely re­sem­bles a night­mar­ish pro­gres­sive rock al­bum come to life, shot through a cock­tail of hel­la­cious mind-al­ter­ing chem­i­cals, with the sec­ond half the in­evitable, sear­ing come­down of vis­ceral car­nage and wild-eyed fury.

There’s a fair claim that this might be the most metal film Ni­co­las Cage has been in­volved with to date – which is no small claim for a man who once shot a faux­trailer for Were­wolf Women Of The SS di­rected by his friend and guest edi­tor of this very is­sue, Rob Zombie. As Nic re­veals, it was a love of hor­ror that saw him be­come friends with our Rob, via an­other rock lu­mi­nary, Johnny Ra­mone, one of Cage’s clos­est friends and best man for his mar­riage to Lisa Marie Pres­ley.

“We were very close be­cause we had in­ter­ests in hor­ror films. Johnny was a huge hor­ror fan and would come over to my house and look at the great old hor­ror comic books and posters I had. I would go over to his house and he would play me a very ex­ten­sive video col­lec­tion of hor­ror that he had col­lected over the years. Rob [Zombie] was a friend of Johnny’s and he brought Rob into my life, so he and I be­came friends. So we had this con­nec­tion with hor­ror and mu­sic.”

If the thought of Ni­co­las Cage, Johnny Ra­mone and Rob Zombie hang­ing out and dis­cussing mu­sic and movies seems too cool to be true, that’s noth­ing com­pared to oth­ers who were brought along to join the party.

“My friends were Tom Waits and Kirk ham­mett from Metallica. So I brought them to the ta­ble and Johnny brought in Ed­die Vedder from Pearl Jam,” ex­plains Ni­co­las. “We all be­came friends to­gether, this circle of hor­ror movie fans and mu­sic fans. That was a great time. It was a lot like the old French sa­lons, where we were talk­ing art, film and mu­sic.

Ed­die and Johnny would do this funny thing called ‘The Men­tal­ist’, where Ed­die would start read­ing peo­ple’s minds – I don’t know how they did that but that was one of their jokes. Tom went on and did a cover of a Ra­mones song. It was a very cre­ative, give-and­take ex­pe­ri­ence that I was proud to be a mem­ber of.”

While hang­ing out with punk rock founders, grunge leg­ends, the gui­tarist in the big­gest metal band of all time and be­ing mar­ried to the daugh­ter of Elvis are an in­cred­i­ble list of ref­er­ences, it’s when Nic starts to dis­cuss metal’s roots and his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of more ex­treme realms that the ac­tor’s metal cre­den­tials be­come iron-clad. While he’s keen to stress his love and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of a wealth of mu­sic, from rock and blues to gospel and clas­si­cal – he’s on his way to the opera af­ter our chat – it’s thanks to his son, We­ston, who has per­formed with the black metal bands Eyes Of Noc­tum and Arsh Anu­bis, that a fond­ness for mu­si­cal forms as ter­ri­fy­ing as his beloved hor­ror movies de­vel­oped.

“We­ston got me into the black metal mu­sic that is so pop­u­lar in Nor­way. Black metal is some­thing that gets a pretty bad rap, be­cause of the church burn­ings [in the early 90s] and so on, but the mu­sic it­self came from clas­si­cal mu­sic! We­ston was lis­ten­ing to bands like Dimmu Bor­gir and I thought the singers were out­stand­ing, and the mu­sic was clas­si­cally in­flu­enced – I think that’s the root of metal, which is in­ter­est­ing enough in it­self as it springs from Bach, Wag­ner and Beethoven.

You can’t say that about so many forms of mu­sic, as so much of it came from gospel and African mu­sic. I think there’s some­thing to be said for that.”

Well read in metal the­ory, a stu­dent of Dave Mus­taine for Mandy and BFFs with metal roy­alty. There’s no doubt Ni­co­las Cage is hol­ly­wood’s most un­likely de­fender of the faith.

“THERE WAS ME, ROB ZOMBIE, KIRK HAM­METT, ED­DIE VEDDER...”

NIC CASUALLY PERSONIFYING SQUAD GOALS

Mandy IS OUT IN UK CINEMAS OC­TO­BER 12 AND OUT ON BLU-RAY DVD AND DIG­I­TAL DOWN­LOAD OC­TO­BER 29

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