Earlier this week I got a chance to go to the press conference for the new supernatural thriller, Season of the Witch, with actors Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, and Stephan Campbell Moore. Aside from actors being covered in bacon and attacked by wolves, I’d really like to know more about Ron Perlman’s hotel habits. I never thought I would, but I do.
This film is rooted in the time of the Crusades. What themes in the film do you think are relevant to today?
Nicolas Cage: I think there are enormous parallels to be made in politics and religion, but I don’t want to draw them. I’ll leave it up to you guys to sort that out.
Ron Perlman: Very, very good answer.
What made you want to do this movie?
Nicolas Cage: First of all I really wanted to be in the forest. I was doing a little movie called, “Bad Lieutenant” in New Orleans, and it was very hot, I was in these tiny, very humid little offices, and I was dreaming of doing a movie in the forest. Then this script came along. And so I said I’m going. So I was in the Austrian Alps, which was divine, and in Hungary. Then I found myself living a dream because I always wanted to play a knight. I had been doing it since I was little in my backyard, but it took this long to put it to celluloid. It was my dream. That was really the connection. I like to keep it mixed up. I want to try to find new looks, and new styles of movies to work in because it has been thirty years now. I like to go into different careers. I’m celebrating the careers of Vincent Price and Christopher Lee who I was fortunate to work with. I like those movies. It is sincere for me. Those are the movies I watch, so I thought I should do that.
In the first battle scene the characters of Behman and Falson have a bantering that seems more of today than of the Crusades. Was that intentional?
Nicolas Cage: I think there was some desire on the part of the producers and the director to try to give it somewhat of a contemporary feel. Also to connect with modern day audiences as well.
Ron Perlman: It was an attempt to call attention to the fact that the last thing these guys want to do when going into maybe their very last battle is to call attention to the heaviness of the situation. To offset it with a sort of gallows needling. It is probably more in tune with what warriors do than allowing themselves to get caught up in something more negative.
Claire Foy: I think sometimes with period pieces people think that characters have to speak in a certain way for it work, and I don’t think that is the case. I think it is much more relatable to people if characters have real relationships, which is what I think all the characters have in the film. They just behave normally as opposed to “playing” a knight.
For any of the actors, do you do any research for a role like this?
Nicolas Cage: Well, none of us were really there, right, but I try to open my imagination up to what it was like. The hypothesis of the sound is that it would sound more like early America, the settlers here. Quite a bit of thought went into that. It was interesting for me because I was working with all of these brilliant British actors, but they were being made to sound a little more Americanized, where I was supposed to sound a little more European. It was a strange sort of sound that we all had to come to that sounded at least accurate in the eyes of the producers and the director.
Having not played a knight before can you discuss how you trained for the sword fighting in the film?
Nicolas Cage: That was very exciting. I really did enjoy that. I thought the two ways into being a viable knight would be the sword and the horse, and if I could get those two down fairly well in training then the audience would go along with me for the ride. That is also one of the reasons I became a film actor. I couldn’t figure out realty what I wanted to be, but if I could start making movies I could learn all of these different skills. I could be a boxer; I could be a sword fighter. That is always interesting when you learn new skills when you make movies.
Robert Sheehan: I think what was great is we were brought over for two weeks before we started filming, and they said, “You’re going to learn sword choreography, you’re going to learn how to ride a horse, you’re going to learn how to drive a carriage.” It was just like a gift of all of all these skills that I wouldn’t have gotten to do, or gotten around to do because I’m lazy by nature.
Ron Perlman: We had some great second unit directors. Kevin McCurdy was our sword master for most of the film. The fight that happens between Felson and Kay when we first meet was rehearsed over the course of about a month. He set a very specific style of swordplay. I have “Conan” coming out, and there are all different ways of handling the broad sword depending on what period it is, and what the cultural environment is. We had the Armstrong brothers, Jim and Andy, to choreograph the big Crusade sequence. So we were really in great hands. I think it was important to all of us to keep checking with them to see if we were getting it right because the last thing you want to look like when you are playing a life time warrior, a professional solider, is a guy who came from the Bronx.
Claire, did you do any sort of research into witches at that time?
Claire Foy: Yeah, I had an obligation to, I think, because it was something that everyone knows about. So I did do quite a bit of research, but my character wasn’t, in my mind, necessarily that clear cut. It wasn’t just a story of a witch. But it did help with things like the ways they behaved, and why people suspected them, the symptoms of being a witch.
For the wolf attack scene, how much of that was real and how much was technology?
Nicolas Cage: That was a scary day because I had a wolf that was snarling, a real wolf, in my face, and there was no one holding on to him, and I was only like a foot away. A few things did flash in my mind, that I was going to lose my face, that I was going to get bit, so that was a scary day.
Stephen Campbell Moore: The guy who was in charge of the wolves was called Zoltan.
Robert Sheehan: There was a point that Hagamar, Stephen Graham’s character, is attacked, and there was a particular shot that the wolves were biting, so he was covered in bacon and padding. He must have lost a few chunks of flesh in that attack because they were vicious.
This is a spooky movie. Did anything supernatural happen on the set?
Stephen Campbell Moore: Just my hair.
Claire Foy: It was scary enough doing the night shoots in that forest where you couldn’t see a foot in front of your face because they put in so much fog around.
Ron Perlman: We did some stuff in Shreveport – [looking to the Publicist] – am I allowed to say that? Too late I fuckin’ said it – and I got thrown out of the original hotel I was staying at… for life, and I had to stay in a casino hotel, and there was some supernatural stuff happening in that room.
Nicolas Cage: What was the reason that you got thrown out of the room?
Ron Perlman: It was so unsexy. It isn’t like I’m Kurt Cobain, or Keith Richards, or Mick Jagger getting thrown out of a hotel so I won’t go into it. I’ll just leave it at I’m not ever allowed to go back to the Hilton in Shreveport.
Ron, with this film and your role in “Sons of Anarchy,” do you like playing these combative characters?
Ron Perlman: It allows me to do what I’d like to do at home, but can’t. I think one of the lures of this profession is this immersing yourself into parts of yourself that you’d like to exercise more freely in the real world, but are not able to. You get a chance to live as that guy for ten or twelve hours a day, and work out some of your fantasies. The notion of why I have, of late, seem to be in this pattern of playing combative characters is more coincidental than anything else. They are just things that come along that I find well rendered on the page, characters that I find that are dynamic and compelling. There really is no other criteria for me.
Nicolas, you’ve been known to collect strange things in the past. Did you take anything home from this film?
Nicolas Cage: No, no, I don’t collect anything anymore. That was a different life. I don’t collect.
Do your recent financial issues affect the work that you chose to do?
Nicolas Cage: I’m making the movies that I want to make; I’ve been blessed that way. Necessity is the mother of invention, but I can say that every movie that I’ve made I have found it to be inspiring, and I’ve found something interesting in doing it.
You sport the long hair in this film, and the upcoming “Drive Angry.” Are you happy to be back to the short hair?
Nicolas Cage: Historically film actors and stage actors have always experimented with new looks, and because I do make quite a lot of movies I like to keep changing it up, and transforming myself. Whether I wear a prosthetic nose, or I decide to wear a wig in one movie and not in the next that is fine with me. I like to play dress up – when I’m working – that’s part of the fun of it.
Nicolas, are you going back to directing any time soon?
Nicolas Cage: I hope to, I don’t know when, but that is one of my plans. I really do want to get back to that. I have an idea, but I might have someone else direct it in the time being. But if that doesn’t happen I’ll go ahead and direct it.
After learning to ride a horse for the film, have any of you done any riding since?
Robert Sheehan: I’ve done quite a bit for the last year and a half. I actually lied to the director, Dominic Sena. That’s a thing actors always lie about. He asked, “Can you ride horse back,” and I said, “Yeaaaah, of course I can.” I actually can now, which I’m quite proud of.
What was it like working with a screen legend like Christopher Lee?
Nicolas Cage: He was hilarious. One of the best stories he shared with me was that he was in Hollywood back in the ’70’s, and it was the Thrilla-in-Manilla or some fight, I’m paraphrasing, but Mohammad Ali said right after the fight, “I just want to thank my friend Christopher Lee.” And Christopher Lee told me that everyone at the party said, “How did you get Mohammad Ali to do that?” He looked at them and said, “Magic. BLACK magic.”
Interview By: Paul Myers (aka EL LUCHADOR)