A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice press junket in Los Angeles. The film follows Balthazar Blake (Nicolas Cage), a master sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan trying to defend the city from his arch-nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina). Balthazar can’t do it alone, so he recruits Dave Stutler (Jay Baruchel), a seemingly average guy who demonstrates hidden potential, as his reluctant protégé. The sorcerer gives his unwilling accomplice a crash course in the art and science of magic, and together, these unlikely partners work to stop the forces of darkness.
Participating in the junket were stars Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Jon Turtletaub. Below the jump are notes from the conference, straight from my trusty tape recorder to you.
On why The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was not filmed in 3D:
Jon Turteltaub: We went to Disney two years ago, and said, “This is a perfect 3D movie,” and they said, “No, that’s silly. Nobody is doing 3D and that’s a waste of money.”
Nic Cage: My dream was to make a movie that aspires to be like The Wizard of Oz, and that’s 2D so I think it could still work.
On working with green screen:
Nic Cage: Well, acting is imagination, and that’s what it’s all about. I actually enjoy working with green screen because I can imagine all of that stuff happening (chasing dragons, magic, wizardy stuff). I really cut my teeth on a movie I made called Adaptation where I had to imagine four page dialogue scenes with my twin brother who was nothing more than a tennis ball on a gaf stand. I was really up for it, but I do understand when actors say there isn’t anyone to talk to or react to. There is truth in that, but for me I’ve always enjoyed green screen.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides news:
Jerry Bruckheimer: It’s going great, we’re in Kauai; we’ve finished our first week and we’re into our second week. Rob Marshall (director) is doing an amazing job, and Johnny couldn’t be happier playing Captain Jack again. He fell right into the character, and he’s going to give you some new twists and turns that you’re going to love.
On filling the shoes of Mickey Mouse as the apprentice:
Jay Baruchel: There is a gravity to it that’s not lost on me. Like, when we were shooting the famous Fantasia sequence, every day I came to work thinking, “You really can’t mess this up.” When you’re paying homage to one of the more iconic sequences in film history, it’s like right up there with the people making out on the beach in From Here to Eternity, that’s like a big one, you know? So it’s like, I tried my best to do everything I had to do to pay homage to the character and sequence while looking for moments where I can kind of maybe do my own with it.
On Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake, and an actor:
Jon Turteltaub: Nic is a powerful presence as a person, he has an intensity – there is something very strong and masculine around Nic that you feel when you’re around him. It was really important this sorcerer be daunting; an intimidating figure. You always feel safest around the dangerous person that’s on your side, rather than the nice person that’s on your side. Nic was able to bring all of that without losing the sensitivity, the heart, and sense of goodness. That’s Nic, Nic as a person. Most actors do this; they draw on the elements themselves that feel right for the character, and they pick the spots to push a little bit more.
Jay Baruchel: For me it’s like, you can approach it one of two ways. When you work with someone that has hero status for you, and you can wilt in the presence of greatness and lose it all, or it makes you like, “Now I’m playing with the guys that I got into it for, the guys that made me want to be an actor, and now I have my chance. I need to bring my A game as hard as I possibly can.” That’s how it was with him, I got to show up on set everyday and get to work and have conversations with this guy who I’ve watched since I was little. I’ve just been a huge fan and in awe about everthing about him. I didn’t want to blow it; it made me want to work as hard as I possibly could to be just as good as he is.
Nicolas Cage on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice coming together:
Nic Cage: The reason this all happened for me, is I began having an interest in Arthurian mytholoy and the Grail cycle, particularly ancient England. I was trying to find a way to start a movie that resonated that in some way. At the same time, I’m eclectic – I like the midnight movies as well, but I wanted to make family movies that would entertain parents and their children. I think that’s one of the better ways I can apply myself as an actor. So, it made sense to me that if I could do a character relied on magic and not bullets, I could entertain the family. Jon, if you really look at his career, has always made really positive movies that never resorted to gratuitous violence and gunplay. That’s really hard to do in Hollywood, to pull that off. He’s done it, and made people very happy – so I knew he was the right director for it. With Jerry, we’ve made seven movies together. He always entertains the world Nobody can make a movie as exciting as Jerry Bruckheimer. You know when it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie that it’s going to have lots of chrome and gloss, it’s going to be sexy and big and it’s going to be fun. He put it on a fast track, and that’s how it happened.
Nicolas Cage on Jay Baruchel’s style:
Nic Cage: I’ve always believe that the greatest actors are the ones that have the voices that are unique. My heroes are like Bogart, and Cagney, and Eastwood, and Edward G. Robinson, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson – and Jay, has got a voice, and that’s hard to have. When you see How to Train Your Dragon, it just jumps off at you. He gets in your head; he’s going to be around forever.
On building a movie franchise:
Jerry Bruckheimer: It always comes down to the story you’re telling and the characters that are in it. That’s the key; what’s your theme, what’s your point of view on that particular story. It all start with a good idea, and that’s why The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a great idea. It’s based on something that’s classical – we built a whole movie around one sequence, basically. Then you have to populate it with a great director, great writers, and the actors are the ones that try to fulfil everyone’s vision of what we dreamed of when we were developing the project. That’s the easiest and hardest thing to do; it’s easy to come up with an idea but really hard to put it all together. When you finally do, it’s up to the audience. If they embrace the idea, you’ve got a franchise. If not, you don’t.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice makes its way into theaters July 14th.