Nicolas Cage is familiar with trying to save the world in his movies, and he’s preparing to do it again in the upcoming film The Humanity Bureau. Set in 2030, the dystopian thriller finds the world facing serious environmental ruin as a result of climate change. The actor admits that the subject matter hit especially close to home.
“I got my advanced diving certification on the Great Barrier Reef while I was shooting the first Ghost Rider movie,” says Cage over the phone from Las Vegas. “It was a experience that I will never forget—such a gorgeous place. It looked like an underwater sequence out of a Disney animation.” Since his visit, scientists have reported portions of the reef as dead, left bleach white for good. “That was just about a decade ago. It is hard to think that future generations may never get to have that experience I did.”
Over the course of his career, Cage has starred in seemingly every kind of movie possible from Leaving Las Vegas to The Rock and the National Treasure franchise, but he admits a special fondness for science fiction because of its ability to address current issues. Men’s Journal spoke to the actor about this love for the genre, performing action sequences, and where you should be driving in Nevada.
How did you come across ‘The Humanity Bureau’ project?
Everything came together fairly quickly. Kevin De Walt was producing and he sent it to me. I immediately responded to it because I felt like it was very relevant and reflected what a lot of us are thinking about right now. One of the filmmakers I am friends with, Paul Schrader, had just done a movie called First Reformed, and we talked about how it could be said that we are living in this spot in time where we have been hurdling towards a very scary future. Perhaps we could have been able to change it, but I am not sure that we will still be able to. Now our children and grandchildren may have to face some difficulty because of that.
So delving into that scenario interested you?
This movie is science fiction, but perhaps scarily, it may be more science than fiction. This is a genre that I have always been drawn to because I think it is the genre that we are most able to exercise our right to freedom of speech. There are other countries in the world that look to this genre as a means to express their thoughts without being punished or censored. You put this very relevant story on some distant planet or some far-off time zone, and you are able to get away with it. I believe science fiction is one of the great genres, and we have to keep it alive. I give these kinds of movies a longer look than other projects.
How did you get into the mindset of your character?
I just spent part of every day reading the paper, and seeing some of the things that are written, like are they really saying that global warming is a China hoax? What are the scientists saying about that? It gave this more Spartan outlook. That was the source of those feelings. This is a very bleak environment that he lives in. He is trying to find his lost young son. There is the personal emotion of a father wanting to reconnect with his child, and there is also the awareness of the damage that has been done to the Earth. That combined with where we are at in the subjects of immigration and travel bans, and this movie addresses all of that on some level.
How did you feel at the end of the process?
This global warming issue is at a point where it looks like there isn’t much that we can do about it anymore. Of course, I hope that is not true.
Do you still dive much after getting your certification?
I snorkel mostly now, which I really enjoy. I loved scuba diving when I could, but occasionally after the dives, breathing in the gas, I discovered I would laugh a lot. I wasn’t going into nitrogen narcosis or anything, but there was something in the gases making me feel goofy. I started researching it a bit and wasn’t satisfied with the research just yet, so I switched to snorkeling.
Do you have any projects coming up that will get you outdoors again?
I am going down to Colombia to do a movie on the cartels down there, and hopefully I will make it out to the jungle.
Sounds like there will be a little bit of action in there. Do you still like doing stunts?
I enjoy being as active as possible. So when I can do action sequences, there is a buzz that comes with that.
Which of your projects was the most intense as far as stunt work goes?
Gone In 60 Seconds was probably the most intense stunt work that I have ever done in a movie because I was spending a lot of energy just trying not to die. The studio didn’t want me to go as fast as we were going, because it was too fast for the camera to actually pick up where we were. I had to go to a stunt driving school to try to do those 360s and power slides. We were all going full tilt, pedal to the metal in downtown Los Angeles. The pace that we were going, if we didn’t make the turns at the right time, it was pretty much against a wall and lights out. I don’t know if I would ever want to do it to that level again.
What’s one of your favorite cars you’ve driven?
I recently got one of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350Rs, partly because of my relationship with the car from Gone In 60 Seconds. I have to say the company definitely put some thought into that new engine. They made an extraordinary car. It has a great stick shift. The Voodoo engine they put in there is really incredible.
Do you have a place around Nevada to take a car like that?
The drive from Nevada to Utah on I-15 is always a really great time. It looks like a place out of that Cars movie. It is hard to believe those rock formations are real. They look painted by artists. I highly recommend that drive. It will blow your mind.
Sounds like you enjoy going fast.
I have always been one of those people who respond well to a triple espresso or driving a car at an extraordinarily high speed. I discovered that back when I was racing cars pretty regularly. Surprisingly, that is perhaps when I find myself the most calm.
The Humanity Bureau hits theaters April 6.
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