When Nicolas Cage calls you an “ass-fuck” during a scene, you know that you’ve officially made it as an actor. In the new thriller Trespass, Cam Gigandet has the enviable honor of receiving the always explosive Cage’s craziest verbal darts.

The home invasion movie, directed by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Phone Booth), finds Cage and Nicole Kidman playing a married couple battling through domestic woes; he works too much, and she’s feeling neglected. Their teenage daughter (Liana Liberato) isn’t helping matters either, defiantly heading off to drug-filled house parties against her mother’s wishes. The dysfunction amplifies, however, when four ski-masked criminals force their way into the family’s house, hold them at gunpoint, and demand that Cage antes up with diamonds locked away in a safe.

Typical to the home invasion subgenre, Trespass erupts into a series of twists, mysterious character reveals, and tragic violence, with plenty of Nicolas Cage lunacy sprinkled throughout. It’s an interesting, psychologically multifaceted change of pace for Gigandet, the 29-year-old teenage-girl-magnet known for Never Back Down, wholesome love interest roles in The Roommate and Burlesque, and for playing the villain in 2008’s franchise-starter Twilight.

Complex recently spoke to Gigandet about Trespass, falling in love with Nicole Kidman, and withstanding Nicolas Cage’s unpredictable in-scene moments.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Complex: Trespass is a home invasion movie, a subgenre that always seems to work because it taps into a universally relatable fear: People breaking into your house and putting your life in immediate danger. Movies like Funny Games and The Strangers are great examples; prior to working on Trespass, were you a fan of home invasion style movies?
Cam Gigandet: Yeah, definitely, and what was surprising to me during the first couple weeks of shooting…. I’ve never had anything like this happen to me, but so many people have, and it’s surprisingly a frequent occurrence. You’d be talking to someone and either they’d know someone or they’d be someone who had had any type of home invasion happen to them. So it’s a credible threat—it happens. And that definitely plays into what makes Trespass an intense movie.

Did any of the stories you heard match the degree of violence that takes place in Trespass?
No, I don’t think anything has gotten to that level. [Laughs.] Actually, Nic [Cage] actually had an odd one where I think someone had ended up in his bedroom, and they were naked or something, and with a popsicle or a sucker or some weird thing. But I don’t think they were after anything other than Nicolas Cage. [Laughs.] Nothing that I've heard about has gotten to the level of what the characters in the movie go through, though.

Trespass falls in line with the darker films you’ve done in the past, like The Unborn, The Roommate, and Priest. Are you naturally drawn to dark material?
I do enjoy the dark stuff, yeah. I think it’s a part of my perverse nature; I’ve always been a bit more drawn to darker things. And, of course, I’ll take whatever jobs I can get. [Laughs.] But these darker movies, there’s just something about them. To play characters who are a little off-kilter, and having to justify what they do, there seems to be, at least for me, more creativity and imagination involved with justifying the things they do.

Whereas with the good guys and/or heroes I’ve played, they have to abide by a very strict set of standards and rules that, for me at least, I haven’t been able to figure out how to have creativity and imagination and still stay by those rules. Hopefully one day I’ll figure out how to have the best of both worlds.

 

[Nicolas Cage] is quirky, and he is funky and different, but that lends itself to so much creativity. Once you see someone like that trying new things, taking risks, and having no judgment...you kind of get the confidence to follow in his footsteps.

 

With that in mind, is a role like yours in Trespass more fulfilling than your past ones, since there are several layers to the character?
Yeah, absolutely. There was a lot more involved, and the emotions were much more heightened and on a deeper level. And then you add this behavior of obsessive, compulsive, narcissistic, god-like “I’m gonna be the savior of this person”—that belief is definitely more in-depth than movies I’ve done like Twilight or Never Back Down. [Laughs.] There’s just more to hang onto, which is fun.

Your character starts off as the intruder group’s “good guy,” the one who has a special fondness for Nicole Kidman’s character, but as the movies goes on he turns out to be far less stable than was previously thought. When you’re playing a character like that, is the approach for you as an actor to think he’s stable or unstable?
It was an interesting thing to play with. For me, I tried to play him as if he was a follower, like he’s as dumb as a fox. He’s always playing the game, and he’s always doing what needs to be done. In the back of his mind, he knew what his end-goal was, and it just comes out later that there are certain things going on that stop him from getting what he wants. So, that’s where the things he can’t control come out. When he’s under control, he can probably maintain a normal life; it’s when he doesn’t get what he wants that something else really dark takes over him.

It’s the most challenging role I’ve played in my career so far. It’s a boost in my confidence to have someone like Joel Schumacher having faith in me and trusting that I can deliver what his vision is. I loved the opportunity.

 

In Trespass, you have a lot of intense scenes with Nicole Kidman. To get the right connection down needed to handle those scenes, did the two of you spend a good amount of one-on-time together prior to shooting? Your characters have a definite connection, but what that relationship is exactly gets flipped upside down by film’s end. It seems like it’d be tricky to play on both sides.
It was always something that we had discussed from the very beginning, and what was so great and so different about this movie, compared to anything I’ve ever done, was that we actually had the opportunity to rehearse and talk about things for two weeks beforehand. We rehearsed the entire movie time and time again. If you look at the movie closely, there are a lot of interlocking things that needed to be focused on, so you wanted to get that technical aspect out of the way.

You don’t want to reveal things too early, so there was a lot of planning. It ended up almost being this dance routine once we started shooting, because, in having seven people in a house and the scenes take places one after another in the same two or three rooms, there were scenes that were literally 20-minute long scenes that we shot in one take. So we had to explore and get creative during that rehearsal process, which was great. And, of course, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with Nicole Kidman of all people. [Laughs.]

Did sitting in a room and rehearsing the entire film in that same room make the shooting process of filming everything in one or two rooms that much easier? It’s not like you were in a small room rehearsing scenes that take place on a mountain or some outdoor location like that.
Yeah, exactly. There were times where we would start rehearsing and the scene would begin with me walking into the front of the house and the scene wouldn’t end until we were screaming at each other in Nic’s character’s office, and that would be a half-hour later. When you get to kind of play around and really live it…. We were rehearsing inside the actual house that we were going to shoot in, and that was a dream come true. To be able to do that for 12 hours and try anything that comes to your head, with no results that we needed to accomplish, you can’t beat that.

When you’re shooting a movie in such a confined space, is it more difficult from a physical aspect?
It was, yeah. It was definitely a new experience for me. We had four cameras going at certain times, and it definitely became hectic. It was like this dance routine that we all had to figure out, and it would never be the same, but, at the same time, you have to adapt to whatever’s going on. I remember shooting one scene where I had to walk into the room and the two camera guys were bumping into each other, and we’re trying to keep the scene going. But it keeps things challenging and fun to know that we’re not just standing on a tripod and filming two people face-to-face. It definitely added a level of excitement to the shoot.

That reminds me of interviews I’ve read with directors of found-footage movies. They talk about how, in movies like Cloverfield and Quarantine, which have all of these long one-take sequences, if one person misses his or her mark, the whole scene gets ruined. And that can be someone who’s not even speaking, someone who’s just off in the background.
Yeah, definitely. It ends up like a dance—a big choreographed dance number. And if one person messes up in those, the audience sees it right away, and it’s never good.

Adding to the shoot’s difficulty, I’d imagine, was having to go toe-to-toe with Nicolas Cage during a number of intense scenes, with him in his always entertaining “ready to explode” mode. How was that experience?
To be honest, I was warned that he was going to be difficult, or crazy or whatever—all of the things that you’ve heard about him. But I was so surprised by how funny he is, and how enjoyable the process to work with him was. He is quirky, and he is funky and different, but that lends itself to so much creativity. Once you see someone like Nicolas Cage trying new things, taking risks, and having no judgment placed on anything that he’s trying, just trying it for the sake of exploring…. To see someone like that take the lead, you kind of get the confidence to follow in his footsteps. It was such a learning lesson to work with someone like him.

So people in the industry were giving you warnings about him?
Yeah, and I don’t know if it’s an earned reputation, and I don’t know if that just comes from me getting this advice from business-type people, where he’s just misunderstood in a way. But, on a creative level, he’s a dream come true.

Some of his dialogue in Trespass is really wild—it’s so out there that it doesn’t seem like stuff a screenwriter would actually write themselves. Does he do a lot of improve?
Yeah, there was definitely some off-the-cuff, improv moments, which is great because you think after rehearsing for two-and-a-half weeks we wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience anything new, but that certainly wasn’t the case. There was new stuff going on every single take. I remember there were times when he would try something new or different, or he would say something so unexpected that I couldn’t contain myself; I would just be on the floor laughing.

Let me guess: It was the scene when he calls one your character’s accomplices an “ass-fuck.” Or the one where calls the guy a “shit-hole.”
[Laughs.] Right? Those words definitely weren’t on the page. It’s so funny when you’re there on set, too, because, in the moment, it just goes in one ear and out the other. But then you think back and ask, “Wait, did he just say that?” [Laughs.] He really is one of a kind.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)