LOS ANGELES – Nicolas Cage has made quite a career for himself playing erratic characters living dangerously. Whether it’s in “Matchstick Men” or “Leaving Las Vegas,” the Oscar winning actor has proven to be one of the most versatile actors of all time.
In his latest project – call it a case of Cage rage — he’s a cop with a cocaine habit and as the title implies, he’s indeed a very, very bad lieutenant.
Based in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Cage plays Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, a high functioning, deeply intuitive drug addict who is saddled with an agonizing back problem — an ailment Cage aptly portrays with a hunched back. A cocaine addict — at least that’s his preferred drug of choice although heroine and marijuana are never off the table, he boozes occasionally to level off the drug high and his life is such a loveless hell that he buys sex just for the sensation of being touched.
A – Terence McDonagh(Cage) and Big Fate (Xzibit) rendezvous for a drug deal. Photo Credit: Lena Herzog. Courtesy of First Look Studios.
B – Terence McDonagh (Cage), Big Fate (Xzibit), Gary ‘G’ Jenkins (Tim Bellow) and Deshaun Hackett (Lucius Baston) Photo Credit: Lena Herzog. Courtesy of First Look Studios.
C – Werner Herzog directs Cage and Eva Mendes who plays Frankie, a troubled prostitute. Photo Credit: Lena Herzog. Courtesy of First Look Studios.
D – Val Kim and Nicolas Cage. Courtesy of First Look Studios
An updated version of the 1992 movie of the same name, it’s directed by Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man”) and is a gritty, primitive crime drama which puts an out-of-control psychopathic police lieutenant on a collision course with disaster as he tries to solve the drug-related murder of a family from Senegal. Eva Mendes, who previously collaborated with Cage on “Ghostrider” further complicates his tumultuous life as Frankie, the prostitute he’s in love with and will do anything for.
With a bad back, an attitude to match, wrinkled suits, an unshaven chin and a penchant for swearing, Cage, in one of his best performances conveys a lost, sardonic character in tremendous real pain and plays Terence with raw honesty.
“When I play a character like that I have to understand why he’s like that so I can play the part truthfully,” says Cage. “I designed Terrence and came in with a vision. My mother was a dancer and so I like to use the body as part of the instrument of acting and I saw his back injury as an opportunity to transform myself. I didn’t need to be pushed. I just felt like I was in a zone and came in prepared and did what I had to do. I’ve been blessed to be eclectic and thankful for that.”
Shoot entirely in New Orleans, a city where Cage has very close connections to (has made five movies in the city), “Bad Lieutenant” also stars Vondie Curtis Hall as the captain and Val Kilmer who has little screen time as just another face on the force. Rapper Alvin “Xzibit” Joiner plays the drug Kingpin Big Fate in a role which Herzog claims was a very spontaneous casting decision.
“Xhibit had such authority and I loved his voice that in sixty seconds it was clear that he would play the gangster,” says Herzog. “He’s a man who really enjoys what he does in the film and it was clear almost instantaneously that this is the man I should have in the film.”
“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” releases in theatres Nov. 20
Samantha Ofole-Prince is an entertainment journalist based in Los Angeles and can be reached on email@example.com