All That Jazz

When Nic Cage and John Woo talk, it's a friendly face-off

Beach: He doesn't waste any time with his movements with the camera. It's like, in a scene, if that scene required a body language and movement, that's what he's going to use: your body as a movement. He's not going to waste his time coming in with a close-up when he knows that body language could sell a lot more. It's like this guy knows how we think, how we move. And he follows that and knows how to edit it.

Cage: I remember how we were doing Face/Off, and there was this moment where I had to get out of the prison. John had this idea of: "Take the bottle of alcohol or something, and throw it and then shoot it. When it explodes, then you get away." I thought, "Well, that can't possibly work," but I did it, of course. Then I see the movie and go, "That worked amazing, that was great!" So I was just like, anything he wants, I'm going to try it. I'm going to go there.

DO, to Cage: Your character in Windtalkers is, in some ways, the older brother or older version of the character in Birdy in 1984--a tormented soldier who's seen too much and experienced too much. I look at those two performances, and one's clearly by a younger man who's sort of at the beginning of his career, and the other's by someone who evolved. Are you aware of things you've learned, of the different things you actually get from acting, of your own evolution? Do you think of those things when you play someone who's close to someone you've played before?

Stephen Vaughan

Cage: That's actually a good question, and I hadn't thought of it before, but if you look at the two--Al Columbato and Joe Enders--you see they're both Italian-Americans, both from back East. It's kind of a sad way to look at it, because Al was sort of bright-eyed and full of possibility and hope, not unlike Adam's character. Then when you see Joe, I guess the maturity and the years of seeing too much can transform a man into what happens. It's a great comparison, actually.

DO: I'm always fascinated by how the filmmaker and the actor sort of evolve, and the different things you learn over a period of time and sort of the different things you get out of the process. I assume that making films to you means something different now than when you started. Just as I'm assuming it did for you, Adam. You're not a rookie, but the gentlemen sitting next to you have a few years on you.

Beach: I'm in awe. Just the performance of Nic in Raising Arizona to that extreme, and then bring him back to the normality of someone caught in the war and how intimate he is with everything--to killing someone, to looking at a seagull. That extreme shows how amazing the guy is. And with John, it's like he's trying to challenge himself all the time, when people would say, "Hey, dude, just stick to Mission: Impossible 2." And he's always wanting to evolve, and that's where I learned: You gotta evolve, you gotta move, challenge.

Cage: I think it's like, the more I do this, the more I want to get to a place...I try to aspire to get to a place like Carlotti's definition of "beautiful" in the dictionary. You know: "a summation of the parts working together in such a way that nothing need be added, taken away or altered." Just the right amount is all you need.

DO, to Woo: What do you get out of this process of making movies now? What different rewards does it offer you now than at the beginning? Your recent films are the antithesis of The Killer, Hard-Boiled, A Better Tomorrow and Face/Off. These stories are becoming if not more intimate, then intimate in a different sort of way. As a storyteller, what do you want to get out of filmmaking now that you didn't even know about 10 years ago?

Woo: Well, I must say that every movie I make is a learning process for me. I learn so much from every movie, and I like to work with people. I think that is the only way I can communicate. Like you said, I like to work with the actors, I learn so much from them, and also I find so much great friendship with them. So when I'm making a film, it's just like I'm writing letters to my friends, sending a message to someone I really care about. I always feel, myself, that I'm living in a movie world. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I'm always thinking about movies. When I'm thinking about movies, it's like I'm thinking about friends. I feel the pain, I feel the love, and I feel the friendship and feel the history, you know? Doing a movie makes me feel I always have friends.

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