Come you masters ofwar/You that build all the guns/You that built] the death planes/ You that build the big bombs/You that [title hehitul walls/You that hide behind desks/[just want you to kriow/l can see through your masks.
Bob Dylan. ‘Masters ofWar'
ook at Nicolas Cage. Just a moment. really look at him. He looks like a Russian American arms dealer for sure but why is this man a movie star'.’ Look at those hangdog features. thinning hair. the heavy lidded bewildered gaze and crooked smile cracking their way through fudge coloured lips. He is hardly the most prepossessing of film stars. A
strange anomaly of odd looking male character
actors from the film noir golden age. Cage is one part Fred MacMurray to two parts Ricardo Montalban but in his mind you know he is two parts Elvis to one part Rat Pack era Dino.
‘I used to own Dean Martin‘s car and now I live in his house but it's my house now.’ Cage exclaims in his typically tangential way. 'Before I was famous someone impounded the car and they treated her bad. I remember just wanting to get that car back by any means possible. Both the car and the house are coincidences. I didn‘t know it was his car when I bought it and it wasn‘t because it was his house that I bought the house.’ Cage stops for a moment to catch his breath and ponder Martin‘s direct legacy a little longer. then he starts to whisper conspiratorially in that familiar Southern drawl (despite the fact that he was in fact born in LA).
‘You know. it was about 3am one night and l was sleeping lightly and I heard this faint voice singing: “That’s amore." And I was like: “Please Dino. I‘m trying to sleep." Cage pauses for effect before cracking — ‘l‘m kidding man. But don‘t you think it's really weird that that was the theme song at the end of my film .‘Wmmstrtu-k'.”
Any chat with this mildly insane offspring of
the Coppola clan (Francis Ford Coppola and Talia Shire are his uncle and aunt respectively.
Sofia is his first cousin and that's just the tip of
the iceberg) always seems to contain these random convoluted trajectories and bizarre avoidance tactics. And yet now a month after Hurricane Katrina hit his beloved adopted second home of New Orleans (Cage has already donated Slm of his own money to the American Red Cross to help the victims of the tragedy) he seems more grounded than usual. there are no tired leather-clad rock‘n‘roll histrionics (as there were at junkets for the anaemic l)iVmei Code-inspired adventure film National 'l‘reasto'e). But then
again. that may have more to do with the type of
film he is currently promoting — a wholly un- American one. For Andrew (iattaea Niccol‘s Lord ofllltr is an
oddly savage satire based on the life and times of
Yuri ()rlov. not the prominent nuclear physicist. former Soviet dissident and human rights activist but the private gunrunner who armed ()sama Bin
‘WHEN I FIRST READ THE SCRIPT I WASN'T SURE I REALLY WANTED TO BE THIS CHARACTER BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID HE'D GET INTO MY HEAD TOO MUCH'
Laden and a handful of African despots with as many weapons as they could take throughout the 80s and 90s. Boasting an immensely witty script from Niccol (whose best known screenplays include The Truman Show and The 'I'ermiual) and a (:‘(md/ellas—style llashback schemata. 11ml of ll’ar sets out not to glorify or crucify its protagonist but to highlight some long forgotten. deeply worrying truths about the legal arms trade. Noticeably that while private gunrunners thrive. the world's biggest suppliers are the live permanent members of the UN Security Council — l'S. lIK. Russia. France and China. That the value of global authorised arms exports is $21 billion per year. that 639 million small arms in the world. or one for every ten people. are produced by over l()()() companies in at least ()8 countries. that In billion units of ammunition are produced each year — that's more than two new bullets for every man. woman and child on the planet — and that 80—90% of all illegal small arms start in the state-sanctioned trade. In other words. Lord of War is a good old-fashioned message movie which asks the simple question: who's the bad guy here‘.’
They are clearly all questions that Cage asked himself in preparation for the role of the film‘s fictional Yuri ()rlov character. a Ukrainian American emigre who goes from New York‘s Brighton Beach to the killing fields of west Africa and beyond with a little help of friends in the slowly disbanding Soviet military.
‘lt‘s one of those characters that I guess if you were to take .S'ear/at'e and replace the drugs with guns. he's a gunrunner and he‘s always figuring out where the political climate is in the world to get rich and sell the right amount of guns. He really has no ethics as to picking sides. He's just got his calculator.‘
Keen to talk about his rare showing in a politically discursive film (despite the fact that he is slated to appear in ()liver Stone‘s upcoming 9/] 1 movie). Cage starts cutting loose.
‘When I first read the script I wasn‘t sure I really wanted to be this character because I was afraid he‘d get into my head too much. The main In Lord of War Nicolas Cage (opposite) plays Ukrainian-American emigré Yuri Orlov, an
amoral arms dealer who ‘Iegally’ peddles arms to warlords across the world
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