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Elijah Wood and Nicolas Cage may seem like unlikely partners in crime, but it totally works in The Trust, the directorial feature debut from fraternal duo Ben and Alex Brewer. Nic Cage has been in his fair share of action movies, and Elijah Wood has been in his fair share of, well, everything. But there's something comical about the two of them together, playing corrupt cops attempting a heist. As a Las Vegas police officer named Jim, Nic Cage is very much your quintessential idea of Nic Cage: totally serious one moment and dancing around and tricking Elijah Wood into eating hot sauce-covered lemon slices the next. Meanwhile, Elijah's David, wide-eyed and nervous, spends his screen time anxiously following Cage around until the final act, which involves an unexpected appearance from pop star Sky Ferreira.
In Austin, Tex., part-time home to Elijah Wood, I sat down with Wood (who's also here to promote The Greasy Strangler, which he produced) to talk about working with Nic Cage, horror films, and my attempt to creep him out at a SXSW dance party.
I watched you DJ on Friday night and a disturbing thought came to me. I was like, "What if I slipped you the note from Grand Piano that said, 'Play one wrong note and you die?'"
That would have been awesome.
But, it’s like, Elijah Wood has no idea who I am...
I would have loved that. That’s such a specific reference.
I was like, "He might call security on me."
No. God. I would love that.
Let's talk about The Trust. I didn’t expect this movie to be funny. I thought it was going to be a serious crime thriller, but Nicolas Cage is just so Nicolas Cage in this film.
He’s so good. So funny. I think I was surprised too. It was always an idiosyncratic film. I wouldn’t have described it as a comedy. But seeing it with an audience yesterday for the first time, I actually realized how funny it really is and how a lot of the things that were sort of subtle moments ended up resonating with people in a really funny way.
What was it like getting yelled in the face by Nicolas Cage?
Intense. It was great. I think anytime you are in a moment with another actor you sort of forget about everything else. It’s a very exciting thing to be opposite.
I love when you get paired with these macho action stars.
It was such a treat for me. From the outside, I suppose it’s somewhat unlikely. But I’ve so longed admired Nic’s work and wanted to work with him, especially in something where the core of the film is our relationship. He did not disappoint. He’s so vital, filled with ideas. Nic’s always got amazing and crazy ideas.
He must know he’s become this Internet meme, right?
He knows. He’s aware. I think he’s ultimately endeared to it. I suppose there’s a way to look at it where you could feel like you were being made fun of. I think he knows that it comes from a place of affection and has made his peace with that. There’s also a whole generation of people who have grown up with him post-Internet and are finding him through those memes. If that’s the conduit for which they can discover a great body of work, that’s a wonderful thing.
My first night here I was using the bathroom at a bar, and the first thing I see in the stall is his face.
What have you been doing in Austin? Have you been partying?
Not a lot. I’ve DJ’d a bit. I live here part-time. It’s home. SXSW is a great time to catch up with people.
I know you are a horror fan. What have you seen lately that really excited you, or is there a trend in horror that you're liking right now?
Well it’s really nice to see films like The Babadook, It Follows, and The Witch getting attention because—I don’t know if that’s a trend so much, I think all those films are quite different—what unites them all is that they are well-crafted. They take their subject matter seriously, and they feel fresh. If that’s a trend, that’s a great thing.
Do you feel like there’s a resurgence in horror?
Horror never really goes away. I think right now is a really good time in horror, especially independent horror. I feel like there are incredible filmmakers in that space who are crafting exciting examples of what horror could be and elevating the genre. The Witch, I think, is one of the most extraordinary horror films in the last 10 years.
I love The Witch. I actually got to see it in Salem with real witches.
Oh, brilliant. That’s the perfect spot to see that. I think that’s a shining example of what can be achieved. That movie is as much a drama as it is a horror film. I like all kinds, but some of my favorite horror movies are movies where you can remove the genre elements and still have a compelling story. That’s a lot of what we are trying to do with Spectrevision, at its best. We are looking for things that don’t necessarily survive solely on the horror elements or exploitation elements but that are really driven by character and story.
My favorite film from two years ago is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.
Oh god. That film is so stunning. I was really proud to be a part of it.
It’s not straight horror or super scary, but it does have horror elements to it.
If anything, that movie is a love story more than it is a horror movie.
That bedroom disco scene is one of my favorites.
Ana Lily Amirpour is such an exceptional filmmaker and has such a clear voice and a clear vision for the kinds of films she wants to make.