Nicolas Cage told reporters that his upcoming film Knowing delivers the goods as both an entertainment spectacle and a thinking person's film. He also said that his role as a scientist required no research whatsoever and that he dedicated the film to his teenage son Weston.
Directed by Alex Proyas, Knowing stars Cage as John Koestler, a professor who realizes that the numbers on a sheet of paper pulled from a long-buried time capsule are prophecies of disasters from the past and to come. As the story progresses, Koestler is joined by his young son (Chandler Canterbury) and an initially reluctant ally, Diana (Rose Byrne), in a race to prevent the predicted disasters.
Cage spoke about the movie in a press conference this past weekend. Following are edited excerpts from the first part of a two-part Q&A with Cage. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) Knowing opens March 20.
How much research did you do for this? Did you get into quantum physics and science to prepare for this role?
Cage: I grew up with a professor, so that was all the research that I really needed. I just used my own recall of what that experience was like.
You did Next fairly recently. What's your interest in the future, in seeing the future? Do you think we have a predetermined future?
Cage: At the risk of impinging on your own personal opinions, your own relationship to the movie, I would just offer that I'm not a chaos theorist.
How did your relationship with your own son inform your relationship with your son in the film?
Cage: Well, I dedicate the movie to my first son, because that's what the relationship was, really. It was me and him. I just have memories, and this script came to me at the right time. I had the life experiences and the emotional resources to play John Koestler, and indeed some of the lines in the scenes came from direct memories of my times with Weston. I had been looking for a way to express those feelings for a long time, and having been a single father, a single father out in California, I know that there is a gender bias depending on which lawyer or which psychologist or family therapist that you talk to. It's like there's a full moon out if a father wants to see his son. That's just not true; just because you're a man doesn't mean that you can't raise your kid. I think that families should stay together, but if you are a single father, don't give up no matter what they say. So I wanted to have a chance to express that, to show that archetype in a movie, that you can have a devoted, positive relationship between that family, a father and a son as well.
Is that what attracted you to the script, then, that it affected you in that way?
Cage: Just that, again without coloring your own opinion or personal connection to the movie, that I had gone through various thought processes at the time the script came to me where I felt I was in sync with Alex [Proyas] and with the story. It's one of those rare opportunities where I felt like the filmmaker and myself were completely on the same page philosophically and in terms of style. Alex is an artist. He's an original, and he can really make a movie look beautifully designed in a way that has a signature, his signature. But, having said that, we both agreed that the character should be almost cinema verite, that there should be almost a documentary style to the performances so that it would make the experience more terrifying for you and perhaps more visceral in some way.
John's relationship with Diana is interesting. It's not a romance, yet they're in desperate trouble immediately and need to trust each other in order to save themselves, their loved ones and the world. Can you talk about approaching that kind of relationship in a film?
Cage: Well, that was the challenge: How do I convince this woman to go along with me and to sort through what's happening in my life and in everyone's lives? It was kind of awkward at first, because I was trying to go around the scene in different ways that would terrify her, and yet at the same time I had to keep her with me. Now the thing is that Diana's mother had this calling and this ability, and she was living with the curse, if you will, of feeling that she was going to die on that particular date. So when I was able to give her those numbers, that's what brought her back, but I didn't really see how there was any way that I could get around it. I felt that at some point early on in that dynamic that she was going to be scared of John Koestler, that she would have to be scared of John Koestler and not to shy away from that, not to sugar-coat it any way.