Nicolas Cage heads back to the remake well with “Bangkok Dangerous”, a new version of the 1999 Hong Kong feature by directors Oxide and Danny Pang.
The Pang Brothers also helmed this incarnation in which Cage plays a hitman visiting Thailand to carry out four last hits.
Cage was part of a conference call on Wednesday to talk about the film and his other upcoming projects:
Question: In the original the character was a deaf-mute, whereas here your love interest is. Why did that change take place?
Cage: I actually thought it worked out better to have the leading lady have that aspect to her behavior. It made it more emotional, somehow. Also, my interests were more about this white man in this entirely Asian world and trying to fit in and trying to connect, some way, with the culture.
Question: A military coup took place during filming, can you tell us how that went down on-set?
Cage: I was on the set. I was outside, it was about one in the morning. The manager in charge of the weapons said we couldn’t fire the guns because there was a military coup takeover happening right now and if we fire the weapons, they may start firing back. I didn’t know what to make of it. It was completely abstract. There was nothing in my world that could relate to that. One of the Chinese directors, there were two of them, Danny and Oxide Pang, one of them looked at me and said, ‘Hey, it’s Bangkok Dangerous!’ I realized then that I was going to do whatever I could to get my family safe. So I walk over to the river, walk off the set, got on a boat, took a boat to the hotel, woke my wife up, my kid, my father-in-law was staying with us, and I said, ‘We’re going.’ I took them to the airport, got them on a jet, dropped them off in Seoul, got back on another plane, flew back to Bangkok, all the while having visions in my mind of things burning. I gave myself 50/50. I didn’t really know what could happen, but then I did go and finish the scene and the next morning people were putting flowers on tanks and I realized I was out of the woods. It was nothing like anything I’d ever experienced before.
Question: How did this remake come about, did the Pang Brothers approach you or was it the other way around?
Cage: Jason, one of the producers, brought it to me and the Pang Brothers were already attached. I was aware, very loosely, of the original film, but what happened was I was thinking about being more global in my work, which means trying more foreign countries and working with foreign filmmakers, hoping they would give me a new take on my work, a new point of view, reinvent me in some way. That’s largely why I made the movie.
Question: How do you keep the character likable despite his dark nature?
Cage: I don’t really think about it in those terms. I just think about whether or not there’s something organic in it for me, something sincere. If I can tell a story of a character in a way where he’s honest, and in this case I could because I had my own feelings of enchantment and bewilderment in my life, being married to a Korean lady. I didn’t really know how to fit into her culture. There were feelings of wanting to do the right thing but fearing of making a mistake. All that kind of connected with Joe in Bangkok Dangerous, those feelings of isolation. I think that the best characters are the ones who both manage to be attractive and repulsive at the same time. Because, if you do that, you’re in the center of the universe. You can speak to everybody with characters who are more ambiguous or raise more questions than answers.
Question: What is it about remakes that appeals to you?
Cage: Remakes are always a challenge and they always are sitting ducks, but, in this case, this remake has the same filmmakers. I felt that they were probably going to try to improve on their movie, or at least introduce new elements in the movie because they felt that they could. I really didn’t factor in the original film at all. To me, this is a much different film because it’s a story of a white guy in the middle of an Asian culture and that automatically gives the movie an inherent dramatic tension that you find when you have pictures with different cultures and different races interacting. On top of that, this movie, the female lead, Charlie (Young), is the one that’s deaf so that gives it even more of a tenderness that was perhaps not in the original. This movie is very independently spirited. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before. I have no expectations. I just know that I connected with the character’s feelings of isolation and enchantment.
Question: What are the similarities and differences of working with John Woo and The Pang Brothers?
Cage: The only similarity I will say is there is kind of a dream logic that comes out of Asia that is unlike anything that we have in the States, and Europe and really anywhere else in the world. There’s a way of being naturally abstract that still somehow has some sort of logic to it that I admire. If I had to make a comparison, which I normally do not like to do, Woo would be more like a jazz musician and the Pangs would be more like marvelous illustrators. The Pangs draw their movies like graphic novels and they do not deviate from that at all. You don’t change it, you just stick to what they drew. They’ve already had the movie made in their head before photography happens, so that’s it. It’s a very fast process.
Question: How did the haircut help you get into character?
Cage: I kind of learned early on that one of the tools that an actor has is to use hair and make-up to try to transform himself, to create new characters, so that you can lose yourself in the character. It does help with believing that you become somebody else. That goes all the way back with Lon Cheney, who was probably the master of disguising himself. It’s always an aspect of disguise that I like about film acting. There has been much talk about my hair in this movie, and I think it does require, at this point, some sort of response. I’m playing a hitman who is going to Asia. In Asia, if you’re a hitman, you don’t want to stand out. You don’t want to look like a target, so the jet-black hair look was really from the perspective that the character was really trying to blend into the look of the culture so that he wouldn’t stand out. There was a scene where Joe was going to dye his hair on camera and I still wish that we had shot that. It was an idea that had come up where, before he got on the plane, he dyed his hair to fit into that world. What’s also interesting to me is the antagonist in this film is an Asian guy with ultra-blonde hair. We have this ying-yang thing happening where the white guy has the jet-black Asian hair and the Asian guy has the ultra-blonde white-guy hair.
Question: What was it like working with Shakrit Yamnarm?
Cage: I adored him. I thought he was a great actor and a really nice guy and I’m hoping that this movie will certainly open some doors for him here in the United States. You know, girls love him and he’s got a great style to him. He’s somebody who I think would do well. He has a good command of the language, perfect English. One of the things I was trying to accomplish in doing this movie, an all-Asian movie, which is really what it is. This is not an American film, Asian filmmakers, Asian crew. I’m hoping that people will discover these actors all over the world and use them more and more.
Question: Any talk of a “Ghost Rider” sequel?
Cage: Yes, actually. I had a nice meeting with the studio about a month ago, actually more like three months ago, and we talked about even going international with that character, taking him into Europe. Have him go on a motorcycle tour through Europe and be connected with the church, if you can believe that. It sort of has elements to it that are very much in the zeitgeist, like The Da Vinci Code and things like that.
Question: What’s next film-wise from you?
Cage: I just finished The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in New Orleans and I’m excited about that. I’ve got Knowing which I’ve finished with Alex Proyas in Australia. I’m going to work in England with Matthew Vaughn on something called Kick-Ass and they’re all very diverse and international kinds of movies.
Question: Kick-Ass is based on a comic about a kid who always wanted to be a superhero, what made this one click for you?
Cage: As I continue working in film, I want to make it as organic and honest as possible. I am that kid. I was that kid who would dress up as a superhero and sneak out of the house at night and snoop around, pretending like I was fighting crime. It was a good match because it’s definitely sincere.
Question: Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays a younger version of you?
Cage: No. I play a guy named Damon and I’m the father of Mindy, who is Hit Girl and I’m Big Daddy and I’m training my daughter to become a superhero.
Question: Is there a comic book that hasn’t been adapted yet you would like to see on the big screen?
Cage: What I think would make a beautiful movie would be The Submariner. I don’t know how many people would go, but it would be a beautiful movie because it would all be underwater.
Question: Can you talk about your work on “Astro Boy”?
Cage: Well, I play the mad scientist’s father, who creates Astro Boy and, yeah, it is an animated movie. Astro Boy was just one of those marvelous, iconic cartoon characters that I grew up with that I fell in love with because the character is so endearing and yet so powerful. It was kind of a science-fiction version of Pinocchio which was always a story that my father liked and would tell me when I was a boy, so it seemed to be a good match.
Question: What was it like working with Werner Herzog ?
Cage: Werner has a unique vision. He comes into a movie with a definite sense of control, an approach that is not like anyone else anywhere in the world. That’s what I was looking for. I was looking for somebody to give me an experience that would be new, that would be unlike anything I had ever done before and that’s what I got from it.