LEKHA J. SHANKAR
Nicholas Cage, who was in Bangkok recently to shoot for a film, took time off to meet journalists.
His presence in Bangkok recently, for the shooting of the Hollywood version of Thai film, `Bangkok Dangerous,' was the topic of every conversation. The exotic Oriental Hotel where he stayed, kept his movements a secret, although most people were aware that he had been shooting in the popular night-life district of Soi Cowboy and other areas.So, when Hollywood actor Nicholas Cage finally surfaced, to meet the SE Asian press, including reporters who had flown in from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea and Phillippines, it becamea big media event. Looking smart in blue jeans and grey jacket, sporting long hair and an easy smile, the actor was friendly and articulate as he fielded a variety of questions, with the same aplomb and intensity that he displays on the screen. In spite of the fact that he was asked to speak only about his new release, `World Trade Centre,' Cage sportingly tackled the questions from his unique acting-style to his unforgettable experiences in Asia.In `World Trade Centre,' Cage plays Sgt. John Mcloughlin, a real-life policeman, who gets buried in the rubble but survives the horrific tragedy.Excerpts: How special is it being in Bangkok? I felt the energy and warmth of the city, the moment I stepped out of the aircraft! I haven't seen a kinder, more helpful people anywhere else in the world. I've a lot to learn from this country and a lot to take back with me to the US. How `connected' do you feel with Asia? My wife is Asian (Korean-American Alice Kim), my son is Asian and I feel half-Asian! In fact my son was born when I started to film `WTC.' I'm very much at home in Asia, and would like to make another movie here. What do you think of Asian Cinema? I acted in a film by John Woo and have always admired Asian directors and cinema. There was a time when Hollywood would not hire Asian artistes, but that's not true any more. There are so many good films coming from Korea, Japan and India.I'm happy to be here and [to] learn more about Asian culture. It's very important for us artistes to learn about each other's cultures. You've done a variety of roles, over two decades. What keeps you going? I try to find something new and exciting in every role and always stay challenged. I never get comfortable and always act as if this film is my last! If there's one thing I promise my audiences it's that I'll never bore them. What is important about your role in `World Trade Centre' ? You don't get opportunities like this often, where you portray a moment in history that changes the world. As for me personally, I've been going through a period in my life and work, when I wanted to use my abilities as an actor to teach and heal. In the film `Leaving Las Vegas' [for which Cage won an Oscar], I got a chance to dig deep and portray suffering. Through this, I could teach my audiences how to face suffering and get healed. I felt the same with my role in `WTC.' How special is it working with Oliver Stone? I've been a fan of his films, because he always tries something unique in all his movies. I admire those who take chances and step out of the box like him, not those who repeat themselves. I knew I'd be in good hands with Oliver. How did you prepare for the role? This is the first time I am playing a real person who is still alive. It was a lot of pressure not to embarrass a true-to-life hero! I prepared for my role by talking a lot to John Mcloughlin. Here is a man who was at the epi-centre of tragedy, and been tested to the utmost. He is one of only 20 survivors in a tragedy that killed thousands. I asked him hundreds of questions, including many personal ones. I watched him walk, talk, and video-taped everything.How difficult is it to enact the traumatic scene of being trapped deep under the rubble, for more than 12 hours? I gave myself over to the spirit that overcame me while doing the film and allowed it to express itself! To get into specifics, I thought of a `Tactile Dome' that my father had created for a museum in LA, when I was a boy. I allowed myself to lie flat in a `Deprivation Tank' like that, with 900 cc of salt and 2 inches of water in total darkness. It was scary at first, but I soon got used to it, and could convey the horror of that night. An actor has to find the best way to make an unbelievable situation, believable to his audience. Won't `WTC' re-open wounds, when people are just beginning to get over the tragedy? In a way, yes, but there's also a lot you can learn from tragedy. That's what Shakespeare's plays are all about. If you want to make a difference, you have to think positive and learn from every experience, including tragedy. What is your own political stand on the 9/11 tragedy? I like to believe that this movie was not made with any political intentions and I want to keep my political views out of it. I want nothing to eclipse from the tragedy of 9 /11. All I want to say is that... war is an absolutely last, last, last resort.