Nicolas is coming out of his Cage, and he’s been doing just fine.
The Academy Award-winning actor is fully leaning into absurdity with his latest slate of movies, including titles such as “Wally’s Wonderland,” in which he’s fighting amusement attractions that come to life. He’s also called the upcoming “Prisoners of the Ghostland” the “wildest movie he’s ever made.”
At HuffPost, we beg to differ with that assessment. Wild is the exact adjective that comes to mind when thinking about the premise of Cage’s newest film, “Primal,” which is in theaters and on demand now. In it, the actor plays a big-game hunter/animal smuggler who’s just snagged the catch of his life ― a mythical white jaguar. But then, oops, he winds up trapped on a ship with a terrorist (Kevin Durand) who’s just let all the animals loose!
The actor was excited to team up again with director Nick Powell for the movie, especially since both of them were disappointed with the way their previous collaboration, “Outcast,” was deployed and “ultimately held hostage,” he said.
In an interview with HuffPost, Cage discussed unleashing his inner jaguar for the role, his true feelings on Bigfoot and coming back in another life as an orca whale.
So what made you interested in taking on a jaguar in “Primal,” a movie that’s kind of a modern-day, action version of Noah’s Ark?
I love that analogy.
The situation is just so absurd. It’s a wild situation, and I have fun with those circumstances. It’s meant to be entertainment, it’s meant to be fun, it’s meant to be somewhat unpredictable. They’re surrounded by dangerous animals contending with the most dangerous animal, which is man himself, the character that Kevin plays so brilliantly. This is a man who is twice my size. A lovely guy. He’s one of the best people I’ve met, and he’s careful, but he’s big-boned. We’d go into the fight scenes, and I’d think, “How am I gonna make this seem believable at all, that I could even stay in the ring with someone like that.”
So what’d you do?
[Director Nick Powell] helped me with that. I thought, well, bring out your inner jaguar and make him seem wild and feral, and hopefully it’ll seem somewhat possible.
Speaking of jaguars, how did you prepare for your white jaguar fight?
It’s no secret; there really aren’t any white jaguars to act with. It was computer generated, so I had to use my imagination. As a child, I remember once I was attacked by an alley cat when I was 8 years old. I thought about that. It came back to me in my memory. I just tried to apply that to the film.
We’re talking about a mythical jaguar here, so I have a list of cryptids here I’d love to hear your thoughts on.
Oh, that’s great. What a fun question.
First one. What do you think about Bigfoot?
Well, as much as I love the idea, I’m of the mind that he doesn’t exist. I don’t think someone of that, a primate in the forest standing upright. Although you had them in history ― far in the past there were primates that looked like what Bigfoot would look like ― but I think that if Bigfoot did exist we’d probably have more proof by now.
What about chupacabra?
I think chupacabra is probably a diseased dog that lost its hair. I feel bad for that particular cryptid. If it does exist, it’s probably a dog that is rabid.
Loch Ness monster.
Giant eel. Loch Ness is famous for its eel population, and if it was a plesiosaur, it would be trying to get air a lot more often. I don’t think these people are making things up. I think they’ve probably seen an eel, and I think there might be some DNA tests to that effect coming up to the surface.
And then lastly, Yeti.
Well, I think they had some talk about that. It’s usually a bear. Most of the DNA samples come back as bear, so I don’t think so. I’m sorry to say that. I love the idea of these marvelous creatures and to that effect, the gorilla was originally thought to be a myth and turned out to be fact. The coelacanth was a prehistoric fish, which is still alive. But the one animal that I think is probably the cryptid that I think is probably factual is in the ocean. We have not really seen everything in the ocean, so there might be something there.
What’s your favorite animal?
I’ve always loved cats. I’ve always had relationships with cats from an early age. They’ve been my best friends. I think they’re clean, they’re affectionate, they purr and so when I found out I would do a movie with a white jag, I love the idea of applying my imagination to that as a concept. Cats are I think the most beautiful, the big cats are stunning.
In “Harry Potter,” everyone has a Patronus, like an animal that comes out to protect you when you cast a special spell. Would you say cats are your Patronus?
You’re talking about a power animal, and that can change. You can go through life, the big cat can be your power animal, the snake can be your power animal, the California gray whale can be your power animal. I think that’s something that’s like seasons. You have different seasons where you have different power animals, so I’d be hard pressed to give you one that’s definitely guided me through my entire life.
Well, what would be your Patronus today?
I love orcas. I love the killer whale. To me, if I could come back as any animal it would be an orca. I just think it’s a remarkable species in terms of the way they treat their young, and the way that it’s a matriarchal society and the way the mother makes sure all her offspring are fed first. They are a community that we could learn a lot from. They’re something quite elevated in my estimation. I think the killer whale is probably the best.
Yeah, killer whales are the best.
And I think it stinks what we do to them as people putting them in these places where we watch them and take them from their families. I think that stinks.
For sure. I mean, obviously there’s the movie “Blackfish.”
Oh my god. That movie tore my heart out, and I thought — I wish I could be Jack London and write a novella spoken from the mind of a killer whale. And I thought, “What would the language be? How would I put that in English?” But what he did with the dog was so incredible, “White Fang.” I’d love to see a book like that the “White Fang” model from the killer whale.
You should totally write that. That’s something I would read.
It’s a dream, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about.
So how’d you bring out your inner jaguar?
My instinct was, the title of the movie is “Primal,” my power animal in this movie is the white jag, so if you take anybody, the most average man or the most average woman, if you scratch the surface of that person long enough, you’re gonna reach their inner jaguar. So that was what it was really about. Mind over matter. Bring it out. Bring the rage, bring the ferocity, bring the feral qualities of the jag into the performance.
You’ve gone up against a few different animals in your movies, so what’s worse: bees or a jaguar?
[Laughs] Not the bees!
I have to say man. Man is the problem. It’s not the animals. We should leave them alone ... This movie, the script really speaks to that. It’s not the animals that are the problem. It’s people, what they do to each other, what they do to animals, what they’ve done to the Earth, especially right here and now. Not that this is a message movie in any way. It’s meant to be fun, it’s meant to be entertainment, it’s meant to be high adventure and somewhat funny and absurd, but if there’s any message, it’s that we’re the problem. It’s not the animals.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.