Even Nicolas Cage Thinks He Took This Face/Off Scene Too Far

Some of the best filmmaking happens when the cast and crew throw caution to the wind and really commit to an idea. When certain creators really give it their all, we get films like "Venom," "Adaptation," or "Evil Dead 2." Movies that have nothing in common except that you find yourself sitting slack-jawed and mystified about what you're watching, sometimes for good and some times for not.

"Face/Off" is one of those films. Directed by John Woo and starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, "Face/Off" begins with an absurd premise — that you can take off one person's face and seamlessly put it on another person — and only gets more wild from there. Playing the terrorist Castor Troy, Cage gives it his all, as does Travolta when it's his turn to play the villainous lead. (The heroic Sean Archer is, sadly, the more boring character of the pair.)

Cage is known for being an actor that gives it his all during every film he undertakes. Even for his many direct-to-video films, the actors steadfastly says he "never phoned it in." During the filming of "Face/Off" though, Cage admits that he might have gone too far.

What's your definition of "too far"?

"Face/Off" is rife with scenes that potentially come to mind upon seeing that sentence. Is Cage talking about an early scene as Castor Troy, when he's yelling "Fly, b****" at a pilot, clad in a swanky red-and-black silk ensemble and wielding golden guns? When's he's singing "ready for the big ride," and taunting our hero Sean Archer while being held at gunpoint? Or perhaps the scene where he dances and feels up a young choirgirl while dressed as a priest?

Apparently, it's none of the above. In a conversation with Entertainment Weekly, Cage said that it's the prison scene, where Sean Archer begins to inhabit his undercover role as Castor Troy. In that scene, Cage is playing Archer faking as Troy, and he has to instigate a riot.

"That was the scene in the jail cell where — god, it's such a trippy movie — where Sean Archer is pretending he's Castor Troy and so it was so... cubist," he said. "And I remember I was like, 'I'm Castor Troy!' And it went on and on, almost like a riot."

Producer Steven Reuther asked Cage if he could tone it down and be "more concise" with his acting. Director John Woo, however, loved the excess and let Cage fly free for the scene. For Cage, it was almost an out-of-body experience.

"There was a moment in there where I think I actually left my body," Cage claims. "I got scared, am I acting or is this real? I can see it if I look at the movie, that one moment, it's in my eyes."

Let Cage be Cage

John Woo loves to let his actors feel out the edges of their characters. He also enjoys grand bombastic personalities, like Inspector Tequila from "Hard Boiled" or Emil Fouchon from "Hard Target." "Face/Off" was another chance to lean on both ideas. Woo pointed toward a different scene with Cage as Archer as an example.

"After the face operation, when Nic Cage is seen taking off the bandages and looking in the mirror, he is getting pain, but laughing. He hates to look at himself and he smashed the mirror," Woo told Spliced. "Suddenly, while we're shooting, he turned and yelled and screamed at his doctor. That wasn't in the rehearsal. That came from his own instinct. At that moment, suddenly he feel like he need to scream at those people and I was shocked. It feels so great."

For Cage, going big on "Face/Off" and other films is just about keeping his "independent attitude." That attitude resulted in a most memorable villain in John Woo's best Hollywood action flick, so I can't say that was a bad decision. Hopefully for the potential sequel, director Adam Wingard can find a similar muse.