Ever since we saw the gunfight sex scene from Nic Cage's bat-out-of-hell-screwing-shooting-vengeance flick Drive Angry, we've wanted to know more. Now the director Patrick Lussier is cracking open Nic Cage's own personal Hell for us. And chatting about the Hellraiser-reboot.
Nic Cage's character seems to fit into that "You're not supposed to like him, but you'll end up loving him" type. What else do we know about the character Milton?
Patrick Lussier: When Todd Farmer and I came up with the concept we wanted to write a story about a guy who was an absolute bad-ass. A character who, in many other stories, could have been the villain. But we wanted to write it as a story of redemption of a guy who's done a lot of bad things in his life, but has now has a chance to do something right. And not to save the world, but for incredibly personal reasons. He has fucked up a lot, and this was his chance to make things right. His chance to do one last heroic thing. That, to us, was really appealing. Nic was the first actor we went to, he said the script was the craziest thing he'd ever read, and he brought him to life beautifully. Milton is a guy who can kill to people in the opening with absolute relentless ruthlessness, but at the same time he's the guy you root for.
I read that Nic was a big part of developing his character and that he worked hard on developing him with you, so what did Nic add to Milton, what did he change?
He added a few character nuances about Milton. The look of the character was all over the place when we were starting. Nic had several ideas that went different directions. Ultimately we all sort of found him together. Milton's whole look in the film came in at the very last minute, we tried so many different things. At one point he as modeled sort of after the look of Roy Scheider in Seven-Ups, and that didn't really work. Then we had this alligator skin jacket thing which was a little reminiscent of Wild At Heart (even though that was a snake skin jacket) but that didn't work. At the last minute we found this black jean jacket and t-shirt, just really simple, and that became him. This guy who has this incredibly simple directive.
Very specific things pop into my mind with Nic Cage and "nuances." Like the way he talks like Adam West when he's in Big Daddy costume in Kick Ass, the scream in Bad Lieutenant. What little tics should we be looking for with Milton in Drive Angry?
In part of the film he has this angry twitch, but it's very minor and you have to really look for it. As the character evolves through the course of the story, that begins to fade. Mostly what he has is a knowing. This is sort of something that Nic came up with, he's a guy who has been to the other side and knows way more than anybody else would. It was in the writing, but he really clasped hold of it and brought it to life…. there are a few other things but you'll have to see it.
How much do we deal with Hell in this film? Milton is actually in Hell and then comes back so do we see him in hell, what's hell like for Milton?
When we wrote it that [Hell] was more of a reveal. But now it's laid out very early in the film, probably in frame one. So yes, that's where he's from [Hell] . Not directly, I think he's originally from Chicago. He breaks out of his punishment to set something right. And he's pursued by somebody who tells him that he's got to come back, "you don't get to leave." That relationship between those two guys is sort of key to the supernatural element. You have someone who is relentless, unstoppable, wicked and darkly funny. But funny because they knew they would succeed and they have this overconfidence. It creates this constant press on the hero and that as vicious and relentless as Milton was, there was someone who was more so. And as hard as Milton is pursuing this cult and Billy Burke's character Jonah King [the leader of the cult], there's someone chasing him as well.
Ok so you're talking about The Accountant right? Why call him The Accountant, how did you come up with that?
Yes. We imagine Hell as probably as very well done. With all our experiences with bureaucracy we thought that, yeah [The Accountant] would sort of make sense. Bureaucracy can be really vicious and of course we need somebody who would have that attention to detail. Who made sure the checks and balances were met and that every single column lined up. And if it was that person that came after you, you would be majorly fucked. We talked about how you'd already seen the hunter from hell and we thought nah, it's a guy in a suit. It's a guy who looks like a lawyer, but isn't. It's a guy who looks at numbers and is indifferent to your plight. You can't negotiate with him because to him it's just about making sure everything adds up. If you're against the books, then he will make sure to correct it. We just thought it would be fun to have that, to make The Accountant the coolest character on the planet, and then call him the Accountant. Bill Fichtner he loves that part. Because it's the guy who does everything everybody wants to do, and gets away with it. So yes, he was a blast to write!
Do we get to see Milton get punished in hell, and what is his punishment?
That's a complicated question. You have to see the film to understand what Hell is in this mythology and the nature of how you're punished. One could easily say yes or no. You have to see Hell to see what I mean by that. You do see the nature of his punishment, yes. Do you see him actually getting punished? Perhaps not.
I've seen the Gunfight sex scene, how do you top that scene?
You certainly haven't seen all of it. That scene is maybe three times as long. Oh god, yeah there's more.
While we're on the subject of Hell, I'd love to know a little more about your next project, the Hellraiser film. Where are you right now with this flick?
We're in the writing process. This is a project that Dimension has been trying to develop for quite some time. It's sort of a… I don't know if reboot is the right word or remaining or reinvention, or re whatever. We pitched them a pretty aggressive turn in the story, leading into the world that Clive [Barker] created in the first one. But not an essential remake, because Clive's film is a landmark horror movie. Why remake something that holds up so beautifully. That story is such a personal story. We talked about doing a hard and fast remake. And then talked about, "What if we take the parts of that story, the parts of the world that you're never allowed to see, mostly because they didn't have the money or the time, and what if we walk into that world? What if we walk into the facets that Clive showed the world, but didn't have the means to drag you in kicking and screaming?"
How do write the backstory to Pinhead and that world?
It's surprising where and when the ideas come from and how they work. I've watched all the theatrical versions, and I think I've seen all the direct to DVD films, except the latest which hasn't come out yet. You look at the appeal of the universe. What is it about that universe that people are drawn to? What is the darkness that people can't turn away from? And then you start working through the story and the characters. What is the human story that makes that world dangerous, compelling and something you must enter even though it's likely not in your best interest to do so. That is what we grab on to, and then you just want to have the most awesome cenobite action you can and make it shockingly horrific.
How much of the cenobite world and the Pinhead world will be practical?
As much as we possibly can. Practical is always best wherever you can do it. A mix of practical and CG is good, but it's better to have someone walking down a real hallway than a CG hallway. These days it's all related to budget and time. But the goal is to create a real world and how that world moves in an out.
Have you talked to Clive since this has all come out?
No not yet. Hopefully we'll be able to look at that later in the Spring when hopefully we'll have the full script to work with.
Drive Angry will be in theaters Feb. 25th.