“We brought you some cookies,” said a cast member, who was not Nicolas Cage, while we were waiting to interview Nicolas Cage.
It was a Saturday and there we were at the Fulton County Courthouse. The building’s generally closed on Saturdays, making it prime time for movies that want to film courthouse scenes without spending a lot of money. Movies like “Vengeance: A Love Story,” starring Nicolas Cage.
On the way to the set we passed Nicolas Cage in the hallway. OMG! Nicolas Cage!
Then we went to a little room to wait. The show was breaking for lunch but the main star had “made a beeline” for his trailer, we were told. Shoot, that’s what we’d do if we were Nicolas Cage.
Luckily, while waiting, we got to meet nearly everyone else involved with the project. The dramatic thriller, which just got done filming here, is about a woman who is brutally attacked on her way home one night. A slick defense attorney mesmerizes the jury and it looks like the punks who assaulted the victim might skate. A dedicated cop working the case decides to take matters into his own hands.
A dedicated cop played by Nicolas Cage.
“I love working with Nicolas Cage,” producer Michael Mendelsohn said. “He is a scholar, gentleman, and a talented actor.”
Bringing the project together took years. Once things finally got rolling, he said, “Nic looked at the script and decided he wanted to direct and play the lead.”
He and Johnny Martin, who is heading up the production team, have worked with their leading man in the past, in movies including “Lord of War,” “Drive Angry” and “Seeking Justice.”
“In a day and age where you have ‘Iron Man,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Thor,’ ‘Captain America,’ and Ant-Man, which are movies we greatly respect and have (multimillion dollar budgets), there is also an audience for classic cinema,” Mendelsohn said. “We were fortunate enough to attract Nic Cage to the project.”
There are key reasons why the movie, based on a Joyce Carol Oates novella by a similar name (“Rape: A Love Story”), is so important to them.
“As you’re seeing in a politically charged environment where we’e choosing our next president, there is a wave of dealing with ISIS where people believe government is not effective enough in combatting crime,” Mendelsohn said. “Both Johnny and I feel that criminals should pay the price. In a situation where criminals are protected by the process of law, and the bartering system of sentencing, there are audiences that want to see law and order restored – if not by the judicial system, by a police vigilante that we haven’t seen since Charlie Bronson and Clint Eastwood.”
By Nicolas Cage, in other words.
But first, a moment with the rest of the cast.
Anna Hutchison (“The Cabin in the Woods,” “Power Rangers: Jungle Fury”) plays the assaulted woman, Teena. She prepared for the intense role by reading about rape, survivors and assailants, by visiting a campus rape center and by reading Oates’ work.
“I wanted to be able to use my body as a vehicle to tell this story,” said Hutchison, her face covered in cosmetically applied bruises and cuts. “As a female I want to tell this story and I want to do this as truthfully and honestly as I could.”
Talitha Bateman, 14, who appeared in locally filmed “The Fifth Wave,” was selected from about 400 young actresses to play Teena’s daughter Bethie.
“Bethie is very sweet and she’s very independent but she does rely on her mom,” she said. “Later she realizes she has to flip and become the motherly figure. We have a lot in common in a lot of ways. I really like how strong she is.”
We met a few more cast members, including Kara Flowers, who attended law school at Georgia State University before launching an acting career that’s included roles in locally filmed “Let’s Be Cops,” “Red Road” and “Finding Carter.”
“I had to make a choice and chose acting,” she said, musing that she’d actually spent time at the Fulton County Courthouse during law school, and here she was again, as an actress. “It’s coming full circle.”
She plays a prosecutor.
“She’s a small-town woman of color where there’s a good ole boy system and women aren’t respected,” Flowers said. ” This case is an opportunity to get justice for this woman but also for herself.”
The lunch break was about over and cameras were about to start rolling again. And we had precious little time before Park Atlanta swept in and lit upon our car parked across the street, its maximum time on the meter about to run out.
With moments to spare, in breezed Nicolas Cage.
“It’s my first time working in Atlanta,” he said. “It’s going extremely well.”
Actors generally say nice things when we do set visits, particularly when they’re within earshot of studio execs, but there was something extra authentic about Nicolas Cage’s appraisal of Atlanta.
“This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had,” he said. “The people have been enormously friendly. I love the architecture. I’ve been out in Nevada, and I’m very happy to see the green that we have here.”
He was motivated to take on this project for a number of reasons. He said he always jumps at the chance to work with Mendelsohn, and was extremely moved by the story.
“The script really put the hook in me,” he said. “I thought it had a uniquely female perspective.”
He was also very much drawn to his character, John Dromoor.
“He’s like a samurai. He’s a warrior. He’s looking for a way to express his talents,” he said. The movie and the book upon which it is based, he said, explores the times in which “the legal system doesn’t work.”
“It’s almost like Nietzsche – it’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil,” he said, quoting a title by the philosopher.
The door cracked open. Filming was cranking up again. Nicolas Cage had time to pose for one (not very good) photo, then he was off. But still. Nicolas Cage!