In Bangkok Dangerous, Nicolas Cage plays Joe, a white hitman in Thailand who has a crisis of conscience and falls for a deaf-mute woman named Fon (Charlie Young).
Cage recently talked to ComingSoon.net about the film, some of the real dangers that occurred during shooting, and his philosophies on what keeps him in the acting game.
ComingSoon.net: This movie was shooting during the Royal Thai Army’s coup d’état in September 2006. Can you explain what happened and did you fear for your safety while you were on set?
Nicolas Cage: I was on the set, it was outside, it was about 1 in the morning. The man in charge of the weapons said “we can’t fire the guns because there is a military coup takeover happening right now, and if we fire the weapons they may start firing back.” I didn’t know what to make of it, it was completely abstract. There was nothing in my world that could relate to that. So one of the Chinese directors, there were two of them, Danny and Oxide Pang, one of them looked at me and said, “Hey, it’s Bangkok Dangerous!” I realized then I had to do whatever I could to get my family safe. I walked over to the Chao Phraya river, walked off the set, got on a boat, took the boat to the hotel, woke my wife up, my kid, my father-in-law was staying with us. I said, “We’re going.” I took ’em to the airport, got ’em on a jet, took ’em to Korea, dropped them off in Seoul, got back on another plane, flew back to Bangkok, all the while having visions in my mind of things burning. I gave myself fifty-fifty, I didn’t really know what could happen, but then I did go and finish the scene, and the next morning people were putting flowers in the tanks and I realized I was out of the woods but it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
CS: How did the idea come about to remake this film? Were you approached by the Pang brothers or did you approach them?
Cage: One of the producers brought it to me. The Pang brothers were already attached. I was aware, very loosely, of the original film. What happened was, I was thinking more and more about being global in my work, which means going to foreign countries and working with foreign filmmakers, hoping that they would give me a new take on my work, a new point of view, keep it fresh, reinvent me in some way. That’s largely why I made the movie.
CS: What did you discover, personally, after immersing yourself in a foreign culture working on this film?
Cage: As myself, as Nicolas, going to Thailand and working with an all-Thai crew, and having the opportunity to live in that beautiful country for a couple of months, I was amazed and enchanted really by the amount of time the Thai people take to bless one another and to show respect. The time it would take me to walk down the street in Los Angeles to go home, if that were 2 minutes it would take 20 minutes in Bangkok because you bow, you make the triangle hands, and you bless everyone everyone, it doesn’t matter who you are. That to me is very heartwarming. This also was interesting to me because it was a monarchy. I’ve never been in an active monarchy before, and it was one example of how it works, ’cause it’s a good monarchy. The people there love their king, and it makes you feel totally safe because if you wear the king’s insignia on a shirt you’re invincible because no one would dare do anything to that person because they wear the king’s symbol. That was interesting to me.
CS: How do you attempt to make your characters appealing for an audience?
Cage: I don’t really think about it in those terms. I just think about whether or not there’s something organic in it for me, something sincere. If I can tell a story as a character in a way that seems honest. In this case I could because I had my own feelings of enchantment and bewilderment in my life being married to a Korean lady. I didn’t really know how to fit into her culture. There were feelings of wanting to do the right thing but fear of making a mistake. All that kind of connected with Joe in “Bangkok Dangerous” so it was those feelings of isolation. I think that the best characters are the ones that somehow manage to be both attractive and repulsive at the same time. If you do that you’re in the center of his universe. You speak to everybody if you find characters that are more ambiguous or raise more questions than answers.
CS: “Bangkok Dangerous” is of course a remake of the Pang brothers 2001 film of the same name. What are your general feelings about remakes?
Cage: Remakes are always a challenge, and they’re always sitting ducks, but in this case this remake was the same filmmakers. I felt they were probably going to try to improve upon their movie or at least introduce new elements because they felt they could. I really didn’t factor in the original movie at all. This is a much different film because it’s a story of a white guy in the middle of an Asian culture, and that automatically gives the film an inherent dramatic tension that you find when you see pictures that are dealing with different races and cultures interacting. On top of that the female lead, Charlie, is the one who is deaf, so it gives it more of a tenderness that was perhaps not in the original. This movie is really independently spirited, it’s not like anything I’ve ever done before. I have no expectations, I just know I connected with the character’s feelings of isolation and enchantment.
Bangkok Dangerous opens nationwide today.