As a crotch bomb explodes Nic Cage’s nut in the first act of Prisoners of Ghost Country, and Cage embarks on some manic gear that only he owns, it’s clear that Japanese author Sion Sono has found a creative soul mate. The visionary director behind groundbreaking genre films like The exhibition of love, Why don’t you play in hell, and Tokyo tribe threw Cage on his post-apocalyptic odyssey of the Western samurai and, perhaps expecting it, ended up with the human equivalent of gravitational force. The actor bends the genre to his will, and in Prisoners of Ghost Country, his presence becomes vital for Sono avoiding the simple pastiche.
Sono tells ServerPlay that he intends to work with Cage again – this time in a movie set in America – but for now, he’s more than happy to celebrate the film’s release, which will hit theaters. and on VOD on September 17th. In this short interview, conducted on Zoom with a translator, the director sheds light on the origin of his elementary film and how he worked with Cage to make it all work.
Polygon: What do you think is the big difference between Japanese action movies and Hollywood action movies?
These are : So I think the big difference you see in Japanese action movies … to come back to all Kurosawa movies, for example, or some Hong Kong action movies, is that it doesn’t There are basically no explosions or big guns. Rather, that’s how they use the body. The action is literally your body’s work, that’s the idea. Unlike American action movies, [where] it’s more real equipment and guns.
I grew up with American cinema, Hollywood films. So it was pretty organic for me [to make one]. Even when I was doing all these Japanese movies in the past, I was a bit of a foreigner in Japan, because my ideas and everything came from […] the influences that I got from those American Hollywood movies, European movies. So this time it was pretty natural for me. And it was even easier for me to get into that for the action stuff.
What movies swirled around your memories during the making of the movie?
I had a lot of films in mind when I was creating the world of Prisoners of Ghost Country. I put the essence of Blade runner, an essence of The mole of [director Alejandro] Jodorowsky and the satire of Federico Fellini. These classics and other movies that I grew up on. These could be in there.
Like in those movies, the costumes and design really bring the movie to life.
There are different sections that you see in the movie, like the bank scene, where the hero and the psycho character come in to rob the bank. This scene we created with a traditional Japanese festival tone with the costumes. And Ghost country is completely different. It’s like a refugee camp, with no Japanese elements inside. They’re stuck there. And the city of the samurai is like all the Kurosawa movies gathered in this city. So there was an East-West type feeling there.
I love the movie’s take on American culture – how did you end up with the character of the Governor, who dresses all in white, has a cowboy hat, and speaks with a Southern accent?
For Japanese people like me, the image of the Governor, I immediately thought it must be an image of this old man from KFC. So somehow the old white stuff is coming from there. I don’t really mean Colonel Sanders, the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy […] I’m not saying he’s a bad guy. It’s just the picture of that white suit.
How did you talk to Nic about portraying western action movies you loved? Were you watching his past roles?
There isn’t really a character that I tried to use in the movies that Nic Cage starred in. But the only thing is that Nic really likes Charles Bronson in his 70s movies. Nic and I talked about it a lot and had fun with it. And we decided that maybe we should bring some of Bronson’s older roles to that. So even on set, Nic would bring the soundtracks from the old Sergio Leone movies, and we would listen to him. So this part, we really had fun creating the character together.
Nic certainly seems ready for anything. The scene in which his bomb exploded and caused his testicle to explode seemed very painful. Was it a real bang?
Yes. The goal was to try to be as pragmatic as possible on the set. So for this testicle explosion scene, I felt sorry for Nic, but we didn’t really have a choice. My goal was to do it in a practical way, so that’s what happened. It looks very real.
Prisoners of Ghost Country is now in theaters and available for rental on Amazon, Apple, and other VOD platforms.