Wednesday, 16 April 2008

I like Nic. Cage that is.

“I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion”. Nick Cage.

I’ll never forget what Nicholas Cage said to me. “Who are you?”

Actually, he said nothing and by some incredible and uncanny coincidence, nothing accurately reflects my acting career so far. But hey man, I liked Nick. For two days over a weekend in April 2008, I was one of many extras on Cage’s latest film, Knowing.

I was gonna be a featured extra, then nothin'. Featured extra is a little bit more important than a fold away chair.

Then as is my charming way, I stood out enough to find myself right at the front of a major scene, not far from Cage too. A few weeks later I went back for another six days to where they had a mock-up of Lafeyette Station. I finally got featured a bit too. In one little scene I'm pushing a group of people through a train carriage as another screaming train is heading towards us. Rght next to Cage I yelled "Move it you fucks!" Cage laughed. Well, they did ask for conviction.

He also gave me some sage advice.

“If you step on my foot again, I’ll beat you to death!”

Nick Cage. "I grew up watching adventure movies. Charles Bronson was a hero, Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, and I would fantasize that I was in those movies when I was a boy. Then as I got older I discovered James Dean and De Niro and I wanted to be that kind of an actor, so I tried to find my way".

Only time will tell if a parking metre gets more screen time than I do. No, but really, I was the man who staggers angrily around as hundreds of people stream out of a subway exit out onto the plaza in front of a skyscraper. I rather intensely survey the appalling scene that is the result of a subway terrorist attack!

Well, as ya do, eh? Everyone was great. And I tell you, it brought a lot of emotion to people. Hey, it’s just a movie! But really grabs ya.

Nick Cage."I think everything I've experienced has left its imprint on my mind and my soul, and it comes out in the work, whether I want it to or not".

What was Cage like? He was great but what do I know? He can really swing and has that intensity that makes the most naff material believable if you um, believe it. Just like Chuck Heston used to burn up the scenery, he believes it and therefore so does the audience. That's focus for ya.

"Don’t talk to Nick!"

Seriously. Well, what have I got to say that he'd want to hear? Coincidently, I have little desire to meet most celebrities unless for some curious reason, they really wanted to meet me, so it works out fine for everybody.

And yep there was a bit of er, deference to Nick's Hollywood thang. Cage came on mostly for his bit only, then would dissappear, going off stage more times than James Brown in his stage cape at the endless end of a Sex Machine/Brand New Bag medley.

Someone else noted during a previous production, that Nick would turn up in a limo with his assistants, get out, do a great job and then leave. I can't help thinking of some kind of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore routine.

Dudley: "I'm here with the famous Hollywood star and stamp collector, Jim Planet. First of all, welcome to England, Mr Planet!"

Peter: Silence.

Assistant: "Mr Planet will not answer any questions that contain any words. He believes that they are a major source of increasing levels".

Dudley: "Er, levels? Of what exactly?"

Assistant: "Just levels".

Dudley: Makes endless fart sounds.

Hey, in the end we're all here cos' of Nick Cage...and er, Alex Proyas the Aussie Director, the great Oz crews, that Melbourne can pass pretty well for parts of New York and N.Y state, and that you can make a cool film for less than half of the cost of the US. Cage was straight forward and was very prepared. Thus the millions of bucks. There was an air of ah, getting on with a slightly testy and unpredictable employer, dig? But that's showbiz.

But then the employment of thousands and the investment of millions of dollars, ride more than a little on Cage's efforts, and on whether people give a damn about what he does right now on set and in any particual scene. Thinking about such pressure is kinda nightmarish, but we all have a cross to bear. I should be so lucky.

From my tiny and very limited nobody window, it looked like Cage was there to do serious work. Those involved were enjoying having him around a lot. It sure beats sittin' at home...bloggin!

"I'm singin' those Hollywood Blues! I got so disgusted I threw my Martini across the manicured lawn, and it almost scratched my Lamborghini!" The Hee Bee Gee Bees.

Up on the Wardrobe Department warehouse walls was the wide angle, high definition location shots. They looked incredible. It made me want to check out Melbourne. Looks like a swingin' place!

There's something about Australia and Australians that makes the idea laughable of taking stars and the often postured illusions of stardom seriously. I don't think it can be done here so easily, especially on any scale. It always seems...funny.

It's a real conundrum. Showbiz glamour. They may be illusions, but they're the only ones we've got...

I've seen a few stars around locally and they always look er, reduced somehow in our rather harsh Australian sun and landscape. Walking down inner-city Chapel Street, Lenny Kravitz appeared just like an Arts Major from Prahran Campus whose parents have money.

Thus we have no real local stars per se. It's as they say, a kind of joke. Stardom can only happen apparently, by leaving Australia permanently and you still don't believe it. Now I like talented people and even movie stars sometimes, but the centre often doesn't hold...It's a drag too, cos' there are some very, very talented people here and that haven't left permanently yet.

But I can dig the work, recognition and cash. When it's a right on performance, which Cage strives to do rather intensely, well, you bought your ticket, didn't you? Somebody on set said of Cage, "I thought he'd look healthier". And they're right. I thought I'd be more successful by now, but no. Where did I go wrong? Most places, I'd say.

"One more thing, if anybody is listening, that is. Nothing scientific, it’s purely personal. But seen from out here, everything seems different.

Time bends. Space is boundless. It squashes a man's ego. I feel lonely".
Chuck as Taylor in Planet of the Apes.

Nick Cage.“I guess a lot of people have thought of my work as odd and yet they meet me and they say, "Well, this is a normal conversation we're having, why is the work so odd?" In reality, I'm actually downright boring. Hollywood didn't know if I was an actor or a nut or if I was this crazy character I was playing. I had developed an image of being a little bit unusual, different and wild".

What do I know about Nick? Bugger all, but the whole groovy experience gave me an urge to know a bit more. He’s said some intriguing things, done a lot of terrific acting, seems like an interesting guy and is married like I am, to an Asian broad. And dig this. She was a waitress and not the freakish and doomed celebrity pairings as per usual.

Yep, I dig Cage, the self-confessed Bob Denver impressionist. And yes, I have noticed his incredible success, especially when compared to my er, failure.

I asked for a discrete briefcase of cash but he said in that classic odd Cage way, “No, I will not provide a briefcase of cash, discrete or otherwise, and you’re standing on my foot”.

Colonel Neville: “Well, then what about a bit part? I’ve got something and I pick up fast!”

Cage: “How about I run you over with my Mustang?”

Nick Cage.“To be a good actor you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new. I welcomed the idea of bad reviews because that would mean I was doing something that challenged the critics. I thought I could change acting, which isn’t really my goal anymore. But at that time I was headstrong”.

I must see the film and not just for my minuscule appearance that may or may not make it to the lower right hand corner behind your popcorn. But it looks like fun and a neato drama as well, and Cage seems hip in it. Plus it’s end of the world stuff. My favourite.

So we’re all lined up on the steps of the subway mock-up waiting for the smoke to build. We’re all in torn, dusted, and bloodied New York business precinct attire. Looks great and Nick is standing there, as he would.

Colonel Neville: “So Nick, what’s it like to finally meet me?”

Then it's "Action!" and Cage heads out past the streaming crowd who are screaming, coughing and mixed in with New York Police, Fire and Ambulance officers. It’s tremendous and kinda authentic. Cage goes walking off calmly through the mayhem and down the sidewalk. He tried to warn ‘em, but did they listen? No! The fools!

What I liked was how he did his walk with his head slightly back and distinctive shoulders with that resigned hang dog thing he does. A little Chuck Heston for presence too, say while leaving behind some apocalyptic scene.

Nick Cage."I've always wanted to do work that's stimulating and exciting on an escapist level, but also to do movies that are a bit more thoughtful and thought-provoking and poetic. I used to have this thing I called my Sunshine Trilogy, and now I'm in my Midnight Trilogy”.

Which reminds me. Cage would have been a better last man alive in I Am Legend I reckon. He has that complex, misunderstood sadness, loneliness and unstable thing, that the main character needs to be able to show.

He has a real tone you give a damn about. Get rid of the jelly baby CGI mutants in Legend and improve the depth of the script, and it would have been something sharper, more ambiguous, elegiac and just damn better, no? Will Smith was pretty good, but he was maybe given little to work with of substance, eh? I mean attack of the Gummi Bears...

Instead of Chuck saying “If I can just find the nest!”, it was Will saying “If I can just find the Family Pack of Gummi Zombies!” Frankly, I’m unruffled by marauding candy.

Nick Cage. "Billy Roth's story truly spoke to my heart; despite the darkness and intense despair, an unlikely and flawed character is able to find and provide hope to others”.

Being in a simulated terrorist attack that's merely a rehearsal for the inevitable in Australia, had an effect on me. Must have been the screaming. Yep, it’s gonna be a real laugh. And like a true frustrated er, creative type, I thought what the Hell am I doing with my life? A whole lot a nuttin’, that’s what! If I’m not talented, then nobody is or I must be mad, not that they’re mutually exclusive.

Nick Cage."I've been allowed to surround myself with creative people even when I'm not acting. I get stimulated by exciting people who are passionate about their crafts, passionate about film making, have ideas and are free thinkers".

The mostly Aussie crew were professional and thoughtful and damn, I didn’t want to leave. I always get embarrassed when everyone cheers at the end of the days shooting. I could be quite content to spend three months on location. I’d take notes and film everything. And while actors are a curiously gullible lot, everybody was very nice. The lunch was kinda weird though, and reminded me of when I was twelve. It was as if the ghost of my Mother had packed 200 of her curiously disappointing bag lady lunches. Hey, but quit show business?

Nick Cage."When I was six, I wanted to get 'into' the TV set, but I was very shy, and very much an outsider in high school. My real inspiration came when I saw James Dean in East of Eden at 15. I never got over it. I identified with his need to impress his father. I never want to get comfortable with what I'm doing. I don't think I can grow if I'm comfortable. So I want to push myself a little bit further”.

I found the set beautiful, Alex Proyas the director and his AD's hip and smart. Seeing an actual star do his thang up close was neat. To be a good extra, bit part player, actor and bum or whatever, I try to stay with the positive energy. No, really.

One tries to concentrate, listen, learn, prepare, co-operate and just take it all in. Follow instructions and go with the very uniquely groovy flow of a movie set. I dig any chance to experience any of this crazy movie scene and I’m just glad to be there. It's important to keep focused and spirits up, to take notes and any opportunity to achieve something without being a creep. Also I bathe regularly.

Which is amazing as my parent's were both English! Go figure.

Yep, I really like Nick, but what do I know? I was an extra and extra's are just like parsley.

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