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IFFAM: Nicolas Cage Talks Asian Cinema, Chinese Money

Nicolas Cage, the Oscar-winning actor and International Film Festival & Awards Macao talent ambassador, reckons he is no stranger to the Asian brand of cinema. He has worked with the likes of John Woo (“Face/Off”,) the Pang Brothers (“Bangkok Dangerous” remake) and Sion Sono on upcoming English-language film “Prisoners of the Ghostland.”

Addressing a press conference in Macau on Saturday, Cage said: “Asian cinema is one of the greatest presentations of cinema in the history of cinema. The amount of style and talent that goes into Chinese movies, Japanese movies, Korean movies, is quite remarkable, and I have been blessed to work in several Asian productions.”

“I know the reason I’m still blessed to make movies is largely because of China, and Chinese cinema and also Chinese investors,” Cage said. “It is because of this film industry here that I’m blessed to continue working. So, I know who to say thank you to. More western actors and filmmakers are trying to have this relationship, because they realize how important it is. It is in fact indeed the future of cinema. So that’s why I wanted to come back, to say thank you.”

Talking about his experience of working with the Pang brothers, Danny and Oxide, on “Bangkok Dangerous,” Cage said: “They would never tell me which one was directing, and they would play these funny jokes on me. One would be Oxide one day, again he’s be Danny the next day, and I could never tell who was directing me, and they had fun with that.”

Cage recalled the 2006 military coup that took place in Thailand during the production of “Bangkok Dangerous.” He organized a private jet to take his family to safety in Korea, flew them there, and returned to the set. “I had no way which way it was going to go,” Cage said.

From watching Woo’s “Bullet In The Head” Cage learned about the size of performance. “It was large, it was right up against the edge of emotion, it could have gone either way,” Cage said. “I had a great time working with John Woo,” Cage said. “He is a true cinematic maestro.”

Cage recalls being surrounded by multiple cameras and several video playback monitors on Woo’s set. “He would look at each one and I could tell that right there he was putting the movie together in his mind,” Cage said. “He was actually cutting the film in real time, during the real production.”

Cage counts Woo’s “Face/Off” as one of his seminal performances. He credits his aunt, the Oscar-nominated actress Talia Shire (“Rocky”) who impressed upon him that naturalism is itself a style and encouraged him to try other approaches to film performance. “What I had learned and experimented with in ‘Vampire’s Kiss, I applied to ‘Face/Off.’ Similar facial expressions, similar ways of talking, and it was in a big Hollywood production with John Travolta and with John Woo directing, and it worked.”

Cage said that he rated his performances in “Adaptation,” “Raising Arizona,” and “Bad Lieutenant” among his best.

For his life mantra, and how he chooses his roles these days, Cage recalls a piece of advice given to him by Martin Sheen years ago. “I always go back to his voice in my head. ‘Nic, all that matters is do you like where you were and do you like the people you were working with.’ And he’s absolutely right, and that’s how I make my choices now.”

On Sunday, Cage delivered a masterclass, in conversation with IFFAM artistic director Mike Goodridge. Cage spoke at length about his influences and career.

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