It’s his very first Western.
“I always thought I could wear the boots and the hat,” Cage, 59, tells us in a new interview. “You know, I grew up in California. I know people laugh about that, but that's about as west as you can get. I live in Nevada. It's not like I'm playing Hamlet. It's not like I'm in medieval England. So I thought it was a good match.
“And I have scratched my head as to why it took [so long]. I mean, I've been doing this since I was 15. I've been doing this almost 45 years. I’ve made over a hundred movies and this is the first time anyone really invited me to do [a Western]. I thought, ‘I might as well do it now before it's too late.’”
Cage plays Colton Briggs, a former infamously cold-blooded sharpshooter who has settled into the Quiet Life managing a mercantile shop and living at home with his wife (Kerry Knuppe) and daughter (Ryan Keira Armstrong). Briggs is thrust back into his gun-slinging ways, though, when a band of criminals invade his homestead and murder his wife — even bringing his kid along for vengeance.
The experience was everything Cage hoped for, he says, noting the one classic performance that influenced him in The Old Way.
“I loved it. I mean, I grew up watching [them]. My favorite Western performance is Charles Bronson [as Harmonica] in Once Upon a Time in the West. That's one of my favorite movies ever made, really, if not my favorite. And he was able to do so much with so little on that. There was just a majesty to his quietude, and a spookiness to his quietude. I wanted to try to [pay] homage to that, or get as close to that as I possibly could. I don't know if I did or not. Because he was quite remarkable at that. But it was always on my mind, his performance in that. It felt great. I mean, I even modeled the hat after his hat in that movie. It had to be perfectly balanced. I didn't wanna [have] one of those stupid 10-gallon cowboy hats.”
Even more so than the time-honored genre Cage was dipping his boots into for the first time, the veteran Leaving Las Vegas and Face/Off actor was drawn to the father-daughter story at the center of the Carl W. Lucas-scripted, Brett Donowho-directed film.
“The thing that really compelled me to make the movie was that relationship of two social misfits that happen to be father and daughter,” he says. “Yes, they are a family, but they both have this condition, which is never named, where they have an inability to feel. And at the same time, they have a propensity towards violence. So somehow these two misfits who are biological father and daughter on this tragedy and on this road trip, they learn to love, and that's what really brought me in.”
And yes, Cage admits he was reminded of that other time he played a violent social misfit father with a violent social misfit daughter, as Big Daddy opposite Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl in the 2010 comic book favorite Kick-Ass.
“It [crossed my mind] quite a bit after I made the movie,” he says. “As I said, what was in the script that compelled me to say yes was the father-daughter relationship. But then it occurred to me, ‘My gosh, I already did something like that with Kick-Ass with Chloë.' And, I thought, ‘Well, that worked… Let's try [it again].' And I'm glad I did it.”
The Old Way is now playing in select cities and premieres on video on demand Friday, Jan. 13.
Watch the trailer: