Nic Cage tells io9 about the horrific appeal of dark magicS

Why is Nic Cage so drawn to damaged, tragic heroes? He says it's because those are the guys who face up to epic supernatural threats. In our exclusive interview, he explains how he transformed himself for Season Of the Witch.

In the second part of our exclusive Nic Cage interview

I've noticed you've been playing a lot of tragic heroes lately in Season of the Witch, Ghost Rider, Drive Angry and Kick-Ass, what's your attraction to this type of character?

Well, the first thing I would say is all those characters that you just mentioned they all work in a world that is open to the supernatural, or to invisible forces at work that one may, or may not, believe in. I've been wanting to celebrate actors like Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Lon Chaney and the grand classic horror actors. I think at some point, in an effort to stay eclectic and in an effort to stay interested, I decided to switch into that mode, that style. Because I haven't done it before and because I find it interesting. It's more about that than anything else. As opposed to the tragic hero, as you described it. But maybe those kinds of movies lend themselves to that sort of protagonist. When you're dealing with something that epic, things usually do go wrong.

It's because the movies themselves are dealing with supernatural themes. Like Ghost Rider, Season of the Witch and Drive Angry these are all movies that are dealing with magic and the supernatural and I found that interesting.

What is it about magic that appeals to you?

It's inherently abstract. It naturally allows me to get a little bit surreal, or it allows me to get a little more enigmatic, which in my opinion, more interesting to me. It appeals to my tastes. I like paintings that are somewhat spooky. I like music, that can be at times evocative of mythology. And also I personally enjoy watching films that are not slasher movies but are definitely movies that aren't afraid to tap into the unknown, and to things like the spirit realm. To me I just find if fascinating.

So how is the magic in Season Of The Witch different from the supernatural elements in film you've dealt with before?

This is a medieval experience. The idea is that this is a Teutonic Knight broke free, he's kind of like the first conscientious objector. He's broken free from religious propaganda that is making him kill people that he considers to be innocent, yet he still gets closer to God through this iconoclastic approach that he's taking. Where he's basically abandoned the church and gone AWOL. I find that kind of character, in those days especially, very brave. The magic in this movie is more of a spiritual quest than anything just for special effects or hocus-pocus, this is more about a guy that's trying to find himself and his faith again after breaking free from the church. He comes face-to-face with a young lady (played by Claire Foy) who is a witch. Or he doesn't believe she is, and then he has to deal with that. It's more of a classical good versus evil take.

Nic Cage tells io9 about the horrific appeal of dark magicS

Some of the plague images in this film are exceptionally grotesque, did that have an impact on you, did you research the Black Plague at all?

Some days it was pretty hard to take some of the images were pretty terrifying. But, again, I did want to make a movie that was scary. I wanted to make a truly scary story come to life and this is because I do find these stories interesting, and I'm a fan of old Roger Corman films and Vincent Price films, I wanted to offer something to you that was a sincere presentation.

They say the witch takes your fear and uses if against you, what would the witch see inside you to use?

Hmm, I think it could be anything that has fear attached to it… Without going into detail or publicly displaying what my fears are, it's usually about people that you love getting hurt, isn't it?

Did you already know how to use a sword and ride a horse before Season Of The Witch?

No, I had to spend a lot of time training. I'd never been on a horse before. I finished Bad Lieutenant and went straight into training for Season of the Witch. I got up to speed in two weeks, which was a relief. I didn't know that I would be able to be that comfortable and perform with a horse on camera. But that worked out. The sword fighting was really a lot of fun for me and something I've always wanted to do, but never had time to do in the past. One of the great things about acting and movies is you get to learn all of these great things. You get to have these new lives!

You touched on the hero's journey earlier and how he's the first consciences objector, I'm curious how did you transform yourself for this role?

I like to change my look, it's common knowledge that sometimes I like to change the way my hair is or change the way I dress for a role. I make so many movies, I want people to have a fresh take each time they see me. In terms of internal transformation, not so much. It was more about accepting where I was and really committing to it and believing in it. There were a lot of Celtic sacred sites up in the Austrian Alps and all these different forest, it really looked like something out of the Brothers Grimm. I really wanted to just give myself over to that, and have it go into me in some way, even if it was just in my imagination.