There comes a point in every classic Nicolas Cage movie where the volcanic actor erupts in a fury that’s as entertaining as it is slightly unnerving. Cage aficionados have a name for this moment: Cage Rage. And Cage’s newest film, Mom and Dad, features the mother of all Cage Rages. Midway through the Brian Taylor-directed movie, which had its world premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival‘s Midnight Madness series, the actor has an intense freakout that culminates in him destroying a full-sized pool table with a sledgehammer.
That act of wanton destruction was met with lusty cheers by the Cage lovers populating a Midnight Madness crowd that included their hero. “As you may have noticed, the audience and I are one,” Cage told Yahoo Entertainment the morning after Mom and Dad’s premiere. “I am them and they are me. I’m a midnight movie fan at heart.”
That kind of symbiosis between audience and performer is precisely the reason why Taylor tapped Cage and fellow geek icon Selma Blair, to be the stars of his dark comedy, which imagines a reality where mothers and fathers suddenly feel compelled to murder their offspring. While Brent (Cage) and Kendall (Blair) fight that urge for as long as possible, eventually they give in and go after their teenage daughter, Carly (Anne Winters), and her younger brother, Joshua (Zachary Arthur), with whatever weapons are at their disposal. To the likely frustration of some, the movie offers little overt explanation for this murderous parental rampage apart from a high-pitched noise that brings out their collective buried bloodlust.
At the same time, the Cage Rage sequence — which chronologically takes place two weeks before the film’s main events — hints at a psychological component to Taylor’s gonzo premise. As Brent goes to town on the pool table he’s worked so hard to build, he also reveals the true source of his frustration to Kendall: an overwhelming sense that they no longer have individual identities outside of being “Mom” and “Dad.” “Men and woman both find truth in that scene,” Taylor explains. “And Nic and Selma are the perfect pair of actors for this, because you can dress them up as mainstream as you want, but underneath that exterior, they’re punk rock and all it takes is a little scratch to make that come out. Both of them capture that sense of being lost.”
To properly capture his leading man’s explosive temper tantrum, Taylor ran multiple cameras while Cage unleashed a very real sledgehammer on a very real pool table. “It’s very difficult to break one of those down,” the director says, laughing. “If you took five guys and had them do it, it would take about an hour. Those things are burly and really hard to get through. It was easy to write into the script, but by the time we were done shooting it, Nic was just a shell.”
Not that Cage allowed the least bit of exhaustion to creep into his performance when the cameras were rolling. “Obviously, we all know that Nic can be a real wild beast,” says Blair, who witnessed Cage Rage up close and personal as his scene partner. “That’s what people applaud. Watching him do this take after take and destroying himself with rage, it felt like the room was vibrating and pulsating. It scared me, take after take! Tears are dropping from my face [in the scene] because feeling that much energy is a very agitating experience.”
For his part, Cage says that he operated by only one guiding principle during that marathon sequence: don’t act. Instead, his Cage Rage is all coming from a familiar place. “When Brent’s talking about having love handles and a fat ass — I’m 53, man. I feel like that! So I’m not acting. And when I talk to people about the movie, they laugh and say, ‘That’s how I feel everyday.'” Good thing we don’t all act on it; that would mean a lot of busted pool tables.
Watch Mom and Dad filmmaker reveal the crazy truth about directing Nic Cage:
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