In 2000, Nicolas Cage made the movie Gone in Sixty Second with director Dominic Sena – it has taken them ten years to make another film together, but next week their supernatural tale, Season of the Witch, opens.
Set in medieval times, Cage portrays Behmen, who has just returned from the Crusades with his friend Felson (Ron Perlman), and is looking for a peaceful life. But a local Cardinal (Christopher Lee) threatens the pair with prison if they refuse to escort a young woman (Claire Foy) accused of being a witch, from his dungeon to a distant abbey where she will stand trial.
In reading this script what jumped out at you that made you want to do it?
I’ve wanted to make a picture in this period for a long time. I really learned how to be an actor when I was a child in the backyard of my house. I imagined that I was a knight or a sorcerer or an astronaut, and I’d never before had an opportunity to play (a knight) because I was more or less making contemporary films dealing with contemporary themes.
This was a real dream of mine so it held a lot of fascination to have a chance to experience that and play a character from that period. I’m also a big fan of a movie called Wages of Fear, the famous French film, only in that one it’s a road movie where they’re transporting nitroglycerine and in this one we’re transporting a witch. And I thought you could do wonderful things with that.
Can you tell us a little about your character?
Behmen is a radical thinker for his time. He’s a man who joined the Crusades believing he was doing the right thing, but got sick of the killing. While he’s in no way an atheist, he has decided to separate himself from the church. He has a very strong connection with God, but he has abandoned organized religion, which was heresy at the time. He could be burned at the stake for it.
When he is asked to deliver the alleged witch to the abbey at Severak, he does it to ensure her a fair trial. And along the way, incredibly spooky things begin to happen.
If the movie had only implied the supernatural would it still have been interesting to you?
No. To me the supernatural was what was interesting. I wanted to go into the imagination. I’ve made a lot of movies where I’ve been in dramatic roles that are contemporary, that are dealing with realistic themes. This was a chance to go further into the imagination again, which is where I like to dance right now because it’s abstract; it allows you to explore other possibilities as an actor, which I find exciting.
You treat it as though it’s real, but it depends on what you consider or don’t consider to be real. I have an open mind. I’m open to anything as a possibility because I can’t pretend that I know everything, so in that regard is it possible that something like this could have happened? I don’t know, maybe.
I like to allow myself to imagine those sorts of things when I’m playing this part.
How much preparation did you have to do for this?
I’m just a little boy from California, and I’m trying to play this knight in medieval times, and I knew that I really had to apply myself to the sword as well as the horseback riding or it wouldn’t be authentic. And then just working in the forest, we were in these forests in Austria and Hungary, they were quite beautiful – I think it just inspired all of us.
How did you and Ron Perlman create a friendship in such a short period of time?
It is acting to be honest with you. Ron and I hit it off. He’s someone I genuinely like. We had a good relationship together. He’s very funny. I think he’s a good man.
We stayed in contact and will continue to do so. I had good relationships with all the actors. Campbell Moore, I would consider a friend and Robert Sheen. You couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with.
Can you talk about working with Dominic again?
Dom is somebody I thoroughly enjoy working with. He makes you feel very comfortable. It’s a relaxed set. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s just a lot of fun to be around.
I’m at the point where I want to work with people I consider to be friends, people I’m comfortable with and that’s what it was like.
Before anybody became well known, I was good friends with Charlie (Sheen) and we would spend time together in Malibu and Martin Sheen came into the room and said, all that really matters is that did you like where you were and what you did, and you like the people you worked with. At the time I was like how can that be?
This was after he’d had a heart attack on the set of Apocalypse Now at 36, and I realized he’s right so now, I try to make my movies with people I consider to be my friends.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this?
I want them to be scared, that’s what I’m hoping they’ll come away with, but also it’s not a horror movie per se, there’s a road movie aspect, there’s a buddy movie aspect, there are emotional themes that are recurring in the film, so they get a little bit of everything.