*”The Season of the Witch” is not only a great film to start the New Year off with, but is more than meets the eye—about much more than witches. Besides the edge of the seat finger biting scenes and non-stop action sequences, there is much to be said about the Crusades in this electrifying thriller. The Film Strip spoke with Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman, who star in the film, during one of their pit stops to promote the movie.
ALTHOUGH THIS FILM IS DEEP ROOTED IN THE ERA OF THE CRUSADES, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE SOME OF THE PARARELLS TO THESE DAYS AND TIMES?
NICOLAS CAGE: I think there are enormous parallels to be made in many different departments of politics and also religion, but I don’t want to draw upon them. I leave it up to you to sort that out.
RON PERLMAN: With reference to the parallels, in trying to justify how to keep supernatural real I like to think of it as when the karma of a situation is off, when the world is kind of caught up in its own lie and corruption has overwhelmed decency, things in the universe tend to get out of whack. I think that using the backdrop of the Crusades, which we now in hindsight were billed as one thing but were something other than that, was fertile grounds for this movie where we’re escorting a young girl that we think is innocent to this scapegoat environment and then all hell breaks loose
THE DIALOG BEFORFE THE FIRST BATTLE SCENE ABOUT BUYING DRINKS AFTER THE BATTLE SEEMED LIKE SOME THAT WOULD BE SAID AFTER A GAME IN 2011 AS OPPOSED TO SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE SAID IN THE 1300s. WAS THAT INTENTIONAL?
NC: Well I think there is some desire there on the part of the producers and the director to try to give it somewhat of a contemporary feel to also hopefully make it connect with modern day audiences as well.
RP: Also, it’s more of an attempt to call attention to the fact that the last thing these guys want to do when they’re maybe going into their very last battle is to call attention to the heaviness of the situation. To offset it with a little bit of gallows needling is probably more in tune with what warriors do than allowing themselves to get caught up in something more negative and doom oriented.
NIC, YOU SAID EARLIER IT’S UP TO THE AUDIENCE TO LOOK AT THE POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS PARALLELS. OTHER THAN THOSE IDEAS, WHAT ATTARACTED YOU TO THIS PROJECT?
NC: Well first of all I really wanted to be in the forest. I was making a little movie called ‘Bad Lieutenant’ in New Orleans and I was very hot and I was in these tiny, very humid offices, and I was dreaming about making a movie in the forest. And then this script came along and I said, ‘I’m going.’ And I’was in the Austrian Alps, which was divine, and Hungary. And then I found myself living a dream because I’d always wanted to play a knight. I’d been doing it since I was very small in my backyard and it took this long to put it on celluloid, but it was my dream. I like to keep it mixed up; I like to keep it eclectic. I want to keep trying to find new looks and new styles of movies to work in because it’s been 30 years now and I like to go into different careers. I’m celebrating the careers of Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, who I was fortunate to work with. I like those movies. It’s sincere for me; those are the movies I watch. So I thought maybe now I should try that.
NIC, YOU’VE BEEN A MASTER OF GUNPLAY AND DRIVING CARS IN YOUR FILMS. HOW WAS IT GETTING YOUR SWORDSMANSHIP ON?
NC: Well that was very exciting. I really did enjoy that. I felt one of the two ways into being a viable knight would have to be the sword and the horse, and if I could get those two down fairly well in training that maybe you would go along with me for the ride. It’s also one of the reasons why I became a film actor, because I couldn’t figure out really what I wanted to be, and I felt if I could make movies then I could start learning all these different skills. I could be a boxer; I could be a swordfighter. So that always is interesting to learn new skills when you make movies.
RP: We had some great second unit directors. Kevin McCurdy was our swordmaster for most of the film. The fight that happens between Felson and Kay when we meet was rehearsed over the course of about a month. He set a very specific style of swordplay because I’ve got ‘Conan’ coming out, that’s one style. And then we had the great Armstrong brothers, Vic and Andy, to choreograph the big crusade sequence. So we were in great hands. I think it was important for all of us to keep checking with them, ‘Am I getting this right?’ because the last thing you want to look like when you’re playing a lifetime warrior professional soldier is a guy who came from the Bronx.
WHAT ABOUT THE WOLF ATTACK SCENE? HOW MUCH WAS REAL AND HOW MUCH SPECIAL EFFECTS?
NC: That was a scary day. That really was. Because I had a wolf that was snarling, a real wolf in my face and there was nobody holding on to him, and I was only like a foot away. A few things did flash in my mind that I was going to lose my face and I was going to get bit.
NC: He was hilarious. He said some very cool things. One of the best stories he shared with me was he was with some friends in Hollywood back in the ‘70s, I think it might have been a Hollywood party in Malibu or something, and it was during the time of ‘The Thrilla in Manila’ [I believe]. It might have been another fight, I’m paraphrasing, but Muhammad Ali said right after the fight, ‘I just want to thank my friend Christopher Lee.’ And then Christopher Lee told me that everyone at the party said, ‘How’d you get Muhammad Ali to do that?’ And he looked at them and said, ‘Magic. Black magic.’ I love that about him.