Wed, 18 Mar 2009 15:25:27
"I got tired of movies where I had to shoot people," Nicolas Cage deadpans in his trademark monotone delivery, explaining why he chose to take the role of physicist John Koestler in the disaster epic Knowing. "At this point, I'd rather entertain you with spectacle and imagination, as opposed to servicing your bloodlust appetites."
He may have an Oscar on his mantle, but the actor is rarely recognized for the depth of emotion he brings to roles, which run the gamut from smart, sci-fi fare like the aforementioned Knowing to action-adventure thrillers like the National Treasure franchise.
The actor, who grew up with a professor for a father, admits that he mined personal experience for Knowing. He states that he isn't a chaos theorist, despite the film's apocalyptic, diametric oppositions of the random versus the designed and science versus faith. Rather, Cage was attracted to the father and son relationship at the core of the film.
"I dedicated the movie to my first son, Weston," Cage admits. "I had memories of life with my own son, and the script came to me at the right time. I had the life experience and emotional resources to play John Koestler. Some of the lines came out of direct memories of my times with Weston. I had been looking for a way to express those feelings for a long time, having been a single father. I wanted to have a chance to express that and show that archetype, which is a devoted, positive relationship between a father and a son."
The relationship between the father and son as the world is spiraling into chaos and despair was something that Cage and director Alex Proyas approached with a cinéma vérité lens. "We wanted a documentary style of performances to make the experience more terrifying and perhaps more visceral for the viewer," Cage explains. The actor also worked diligently to elevate his character's initial interaction with Rose Byrne's Diana from casual to panicked. "I knew Diana would have to be scared of John Koestler," he says.
“Says Cage, 'You have audiences wanting to go along for the ride, [go] to places that are more of the imagination. That's where I like to dance.'”
As a busy Hollywood player who has the luxury of cherry picking scripts, Cage selected Knowing because it represented science fiction that entertains and stimulates. He admits, "Good science fiction is not impossible. It's rooted in the abstract, so you automatically get closer to more divine sources of interest. You have audiences wanting to go along for the ride, [go] to places that are more of the imagination. That's where I like to dance."
Byrne, who slips in and out of her Australian accent, elected to come to this "dance," having met with Proyas previously and developed a hankering to work with him. "It was an intriguing script and he's a visionary director," she beams about her fellow Aussie. Byrne points out that she enjoyed working with the children at the center of the film, which she deems "eerie and foreboding." The actress says, "The children brought a candidness and vitality. They lifted the set, so it didn't become so heavy because it's a dark movie." Byrne freely admits she was born of "two skeptics," but the film's science versus faith argument still affected her. "I don’t know either way. It's a miracle we’re all here, the sum of oxygen and gravity. This film reminds you of that."
That Proyas "blows up" New York City may upset sensitive audience members, but the director argues, "L.A. is such an uninteresting city, visually, to destroy. New York is symbolic, like so much of the film. It’s the Everycity that has inspired so many cities because it's iconic and beautiful." The director also affirms that the disasters and the harsh realities depicted in the film are meant to display atrocities implicit to the world's end. "When you are going to do something violent, so as not to exploit it, you must show it in all its horror."
That's exactly what Knowing does well.
— Amy Sciarretto