Wondercon ’10: Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel and Jon Turtletaub discuss ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’


On Saturday Walt Disney dominated the early hours of programming in the 5000-seat Esplanade Room at San Francisco’s Wondercon: the studio brought out cast members and filmmakers from Prince of Persia, Toy Story 3, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Prior to their public panel, however, the cast and crew of their new filmThe Sorcerer’s Apprentice, including stars Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel and director Jon Turtletaub, spoke directly to journalists, offering additional insights about what was involved in making the movie’s magic come to life on screen.

[Note: Although “Hollywood News” is used to distinguish questions from answers in the text below, our journalist was just one of many reporters asking questions of the filmmakers.]

Hollywood News: What aspects of Fantasia find their way into the film? Stylistic, physicality, any inspirations from the original animation?

Jon Turtletaub: Jay is the apprentice and Mickey Mouse wasn’t available so we went with Jay. Jay was cheaper. Not a lot. We knew we couldn’t make it a whole movie and it wasn’t just the story that we had to get in the film, but there’s a segment of the movie that somewhat recreates, in a relevant way to our film, that section. We didn’t just want to do a little nod and say, “Aren’t we cute? Here’s a little nod to Fantasia.” We wanted to make it also have some kind of relevance to the plot. So that’s all there. Obviously the fun is, as you may know, Nic really developed this. Nic hired me, came to me. When he talked about it, the notion of taking advantage of CG and new technology to do this was great. That’s the excitement of it. But we also spent a lot of time looking at the cinematography of Fantasia, the use of light.

Jay Baruchel: There’s some shot for shot recreations in that sequence I think.

Turtletaub: And in wardrobe and things like that to suggest. Jay had to play that.

Baruchel: Basically, I will infuse any part I’m playing with physical comedy, so when I get to do something like pay homage to one of the great funny sequences in film history, I just kind of was chomping at the bit and so I tried my best to kind of give my respect to that sequence and to what Mickey did but to kind of do my own thing as well.

Hollywood News: Nic, what draws you to these kind of high-energy roles? Is it adrenaline?

Nicolas Cage: When you’re playing supernatural characters, like Ghost Rider or City of Angels, Next and now Sorcerer’s Apprentice, there is an infinite number of possibilities that you can do with the character. I also think it provides really wonderful entertainment for the whole family. You don’t have a high body count. You don’t have to if that’s not to your tastes. The children and the parents can congregate together and look forward to this together, buy the ticket, say, “I’m looking forward to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” That’s important. Families get together and share that experience with each other and it entertains the adults as much as the kids. You can do that with a film like Sorcerer’s Apprentice. When I came up with this idea, I was on Next. I was talking with Todd Garner who’s also the producer there. I said, “Man, I really want to play a magician. I want to play a sorcerer.” He came in the next day and said, “Nic, I got it. Let’s do Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Then I went to my partner at the time, Norm Golightly and we got a script out of it. We all thought, “You know who would really put this on a fast track, who would give it all the panache and all the big entertainment style, nobody better than Jerry Bruckheimer.” So we went to Jerry and being the good friend and a great producer that he is, he read it and he said, “Hey, we’re doing it.” We just got off of National Treasure 2 and that was a great experience. We thought the only man that could really do it and make this unique, because there have been other movies that are supernatural like Harry Potter, what not, bring the comedy into it and the humor into it and make it really connect with big audiences like kids and adults was Jon Turteltaub. That’s how it happened.

Turtletaub: Just so you know, Nic has laryngitis. He’s not trying to sound even cooler than he always is. He’s cool, but he doesn’t need to sound that cool. Doesn’t he sound so cool right now?

Baruchel: He sounds really awesome.

Hollywood News: How important is transforming your appearance for each role?

Cage: Actors work with their look. I come from the Lon Chaney Sr. school of acting, man. I want to transform myself every time I get. I’ll wear wigs, I’ll wear nose pieces, I’ll wear a green contact lens in my eye. I’ll do whatever I need to do to create a character. That’s what it’s about. That’s the fun of it. So I wanted Balthazar to have a look like an ancient – – Jerry says like an ancient rock star, but he has that kind of cool style that harkens back to the 500s or the 600s which is where he came from. Merlin was his teacher so I wanted him to have that look throughout – – he goes through different ages and then he starts to really look like an ancient magician when you meet him in New York City.

Hollywood News: Jay, how is it playing a magician with effects added later?

Baruchel: It’s what I’ve been waiting to do my whole life. I remember I read an interview with I think Robert Patrick who said all acting is play acting. It’s all cops and robbers. When I was a kid, if I wasn’t playing cops and robbers, I was playing superhero or something. I was always flying around and killing monsters and shooting energy out of my hands. So I’ve been waiting my whole life to get the chance to do this. It also lends itself, the role lends itself to do what I love doing which is pratfalls and standing awkwardly and getting to shoot plasma out of my hands at the same time, so it’s just a marriage of my two passions.

Turtletaub: When Jerry [Bruckheimer] and I were kids, we used to dream about bossing around superheroes.

Hollywood News: Nic, does it become a personal movie when you’re involved with your buddies, versus when you’re just an actor for hire?

Cage: I always prefer working with my friends, and hopefully when I work with new people I can become friends and make new friends but you know there’s a shorthand when I work with Jerry, when I work with Jon. I know what to expect so we get a lot done very quickly and we trust each other. There’s a confidence level and a comfort level where I don’t have to get up and running. I can get to set and I know what’s expected of me. One of the things I love about Jerry is one time years ago he was talking to me about algebra and algebraic equations and always looking for the X factor or the Y factor in a formula. I think one of the reasons why he has this genius ability to make these movies successful is that he looks for actors that provide alternative ways of delivering dialogue or alternative contributions to give that X factor, that Y factor. But he puts it in a formula that appeals to a lot of people over the world. That’s fun.

Hollywood News: Jay, talk about working with Nicolas Cage. Do you have a favorite character of his?

Baruchel: Oh, Holy Moses. Yeah, there are so many good ones. Raising Arizona is pretty special. For me it’d have to be Adaptation. That whole thing was just like he’s channeling, he’s not just channeling something. He’s channeling two things. That’s pretty special and I personally remember when I was 15, I snuck into Con Air with my friends. We bought tickets for something else. It might’ve been one of the Free Willy sequels or something.

Cage: I love that story because my wife snuck into Face/Off.

Baruchel: He’s one of the great actors of our time and I grew up watching him and loving him and hearing him. He has such a unique, distinct way of doing everything that to be in conversation, let alone doing scenes with the man that I grew up watching in movies, it wasn’t lost on me. Also, I also just get on with him really well. To me, the legacy of this movie is I walked away with two pretty great friends in Teresa and Nic. I really enjoy their company. That was the most fun to be had for me, aside from shooting the plasma, was being able to talk nerdy stuff with him.

Cage: It’s so true everything he said because we had great conversations. Teresa and Jay had more to do than I did with Teresa so most of my time was with Jay. I got to know Teresa a little later on and she’s a marvelous actress and also a really good friend. She’s terrific in the movie but Jay and I have similarities though. We have a lot of similar interests. We both like mythology and history. I have an open mind to thing and possibilities.

Hollywood News: What similarities will we see between Fantasia and this movie?

Cage: What’s amazing like what Jon was saying earlier is we have the technology now to make these wonderful things come to life in a live action feature. So you have the broom sequence is actually going to happen and go even further still.

Baruchel: This time with dustbusters and a Dyson vacuum.

Hollywood News: Nic, you have a lot of different acting modes. How do you decide whether to let loose or hold back?

Cage: Well, thank you for noticing. First of all, it’s difficult to talk about the work, right? Because when you talk about the work it’s kind of stupid because the work speaks for itself. I don’t want to name it because when you name it, it loses its mystery, right? If I tell you exactly what I’m thinking or what I was up to and I have been guilty of that, then you lose your secret connection with the work of art. But, and I digress, but I went on Dick Cavett many years ago and I met Miles Davis. I was talking about things like art synthesis and Picasso and you can do with acting what he did or with music. Miles came out and he got it. He was looking at me and he gave me this like he nodded and he winked at me. Miles Davis, you know. We were sharing the trumpet together and ever since then, because he accepted whatever my philosophy was, I believe that I wanted to approach acting as jazz. So he became like a surrealist father of sorts along with Walt Disney and I thought, “Okay, well, this time I’m just going to let anything come out, whatever it may be.” Like Bad Lieutenant. Sometimes it’s really thought out and constructed and carefully thought about like Adaptation. So I always like to mix it up. I hope that answered your question.


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