Wild at Heart. Vampire's Kiss. Raising Arizona. Adaptation. Nicolas Cage is a movie star and an Oscar winner (for Leaving Las Vegas), but he's also one of America's most creative actors. 2010's summer movie season finds Cage doing double duty: as Big Daddy (a.k.a. Damon Macready) in Lionsgate's cracked superhero adventure Kick-Ass, and as sorcerer Balthazar Blake in Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Cage's titular co-star in The Sorcerer's Apprentice is Jay Baruchel, who broke out in Judd Apatow's FOX TV series Undeclared before appearing on the big screen in Apatow's Knocked Up. Baruchel's other films include Tropic Thunder, She's Out of My League, Fanboys, How to Train Your Dragon and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Both actors met fans at 2010's WonderCon at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. I was able to get in a couple of questions, once Cage explained his dramatically (and comedically) raspy voice.
Nicolas Cage: Well, to begin with: if I sound strange, it's because I've been shooting in Louisiana, and it's covered in pollen, and I have laryngitis, so if I sound like a black blues singer, that's why. The thing about Big Daddy is we—when Matthew Vaughn first showed me the belt for the character, it was a yellow belt, right? And it had, like, little tubes on it. And I said, "I know what that this. That's the belt from Batman, the '60s TV show, right?" He said, "That's exactly what it is. What do you think: can we pull it off?" I said, "Well, not only do I think we can pull it off," it was the coolest thing about his character. About his--not his character, about his costume. So I said, "I want to wear that, and not only that: I want to talk like him." Because it occurred to me—like, he would speak in these staccato rhythms, you know. Like everything kind of had these odd "influctuations" [sic] and didn't really go together for any particular reason; I thought it was interesting. So I thought that Big Daddy should talk like that...Comic-books, I was the first to say, are the modern mythology at the time, like great myths. They give people power. There are people who go out and wear Batman T-shirts under their cop uniforms. And they wear Superman T-shirts under their paramedic uniforms. Because that's what gives them the guts to go in and get the job done. So, yeah. So it's like Jung, collective unconscious: today let's do the same thing with Adam West, Big Daddy being Batman from the '60s TV show is what got him the guts to do it with—to clean up D'Amico's gang. Then with—it's really stupid to talk about the work, because it takes all the mystery away from it. The work speaks for itself, but...I'll finish the answer. But Damon was—I dated a girl years ago, and her dad was a cop. And he'd always wear these glasses, and he had that moustache that a lot of cops wear. And he always called her "Chiiild." "Oh chiiild." I thought it was so strange, you know? So I thought that Damon should be that guy. You know? (Smiles.)
Groucho: The film is terrific. When I saw it, when [you] first bust...out with that Big Daddy voice, it's jaw droppingly funny. And I loved that. But then weeks later, I was thinking back on it, and I thought, "Y'know, it's actually, psychologically, kind of poignant, and sad, that he chooses that voice...
Nicolas Cage: Well, first of all, I like Adam West. 'Cause I grew up with him and the TV show, right. And I guess the thing was I thought that Big Daddy would channel that on some level, you know? To give him the guts to do what he has to do. But also, as I said earlier, I like to challenge myself. Y'know. And I think that—I like to take things that are—I like to take bad sounds and just see if I can make them sound good. Y'know. Like take bad sounds and see if I can make them work. And I make it extra-hard on myself. But otherwise it's not interesting for me. You know, so I'm always tryin' to mess it up a little bit, or subvert it. Yknow. Mess with it...
Groucho: I know that the Fantasia segment was just an inspiration, a jumping-off-point [for The Sorcerer's Apprentice], but could you talk about what aspects of that find their way into the film, whether they're stylistic; for the actors, did you gather some physicality from looking at that original animation?
Jon Turteltaub: Should I go with this?
Jay Baruchel: Yeah, you go with this one.
Jon Turteltaub: Jay is the apprentice. And so—Mickey Mouse wasn't available, so—it was cheaper. Not a lot. You couldn't make it a whole movie. And it wasn't just the story that we had to get into the film, but where—there's a segment of the movie that somewhat recreates, [in a] relevant way to our film, that section You don't want to just do a little nod, and say, "Alright, we'll be cute, here's a little nod to Fantasia." We want to make it have some kind of relevance to the plot. So that's all there. Obviously, the fun is with—y'know, you may know: Nic really felt this. Nic hired me, came to me. And when he talked about it, the notion of taking advantage of CG and new technology to do this was great. That's the excitement of it. But we also spent a lot of time looking at the cinematography of Fantasia.
Jay Baruchel: There's some shot-for-shot recreations in that sequence, I think, yeah.
JT: And in wardrobe and things like that, to suggest and nod. And, y'know, Jay had to play that.
JB: Yeah. I mean, I basically—I just—I will infuse any part I'm playing with physical comedy, so when I get to do somethin' like pay homage to one of the great funny sequences in film history, I was just kind of chomping at the bit. And so I tried my best to kinda give my respect to that sequence and to what Mickey did but to kind of do my own thing as well...
G: Could you guys talk a little bit about the character dynamic between the two of you, the rapport—or not—that develops. And I guess also the rhythm you guys developed as actors together.
NC: Oh, it was very easy working with Jay. You know, we have similar interests. We're both very interested in history, and mythology. We both have pretty open minds about things mystical—
JB: Some of the same kind of music.
NC: Yeah! The same music as well. So I genuinely like Jay. So it was so easy to work with. And—well, just the other day—he likes to tease me quite a bit. And just the other day, I was doing some sort of promotion at Disney, for the film, and I accidentally said [in an adenoidal voice:] "mer-vie" instead of "movie." And he's sitting there: "mer-vie!". That’s the kind of relationship we have.
JB: I think it's kind of like—I find our relationship is kind of Midnight Run-ish, in a different way, because we’re both [Robert] De Niro and [Charles] Grodin.
NC: Or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
JB: Yeah, right...!
G: Thank you.
NC: Yeah! You're welcome.