National Treasure

Some of Nicolas Cage’s most popular movies, “National Treasure” and “National Treasure: Book of Secrets,” (left) as well as “Face/Off,” (right) with John Travolta, feature him as the good guy.

“Primal,” the new film starring Nicolas Cage that opens in selected theaters Friday was filmed in Puerto Rico shortly after a hurricane had passed through the area. It left the area painfully hot and muggy. It was an uncomfortable environment, but one that helped Cage with his acting performance.

In the film, Cage plays Frank Walsh, a cranky and competent collector of rare and exotic animals. He finally cages his most precious cargo when he captures a priceless white jaguar that he intends to sell for big bucks. The problem is the ship he is using to transport the jaguar and a small animal menagerie has been commandeered by the United States government to transport a political assassin. The question becomes which is the most dangerous predator on the ship.

Most of the action takes place in the cramped confines of the ship, creating extremely humid spaces to work.

“We were in tight quarters in a place that was an oil rig that was falling apart that was made to look like a ship,” Cage said. “The claustrophobic feel helped all the actors with their performances to be in those tight quarters.”

Cage’s use of whatever he can to get his acting work right comes from years of experience. “Primal” is the latest in an extremely long list of credits for the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actor since he made his professional acting debut in the 1981 feature film “Best of Times.” Since then he has appeared in such productions as “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” “Face/Off,” “Con Air” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Along with “Primal,” he has eight films either ready for release or set to begin production.

There are a set of guidelines Cage uses when picking the films he wants to do, whether he’s playing a character based on a comic book or a treasure hunter. The first thing Cage decides is whether he believes he can bring something to the part to make the character come alive.

Secondly, Cage wants to make sure that he will be working with someone who can draw something more out of him, and with “Primal” that would be director Nick Powell. Cage and Powell previously worked together on the 2014 film “Outcast” so he knew that the director would help him make a film that would end up being good entertainment despite the slightly absurd idea of being trapped on a ship with a group of wild animals and a terrorist on a killing spree.

The role in “Primal” was so much fun for Cage to play that he would gladly take on the role again.

“I like the idea of Frank Walsh being a loner. He’s been in the jungle for a long time. He’s not really a people person. He’s got a lot of edge to him,” Cage said.

The place where he really got to show the inner workings of the character were during the numerous fight sequences with Kevin Durand, who plays the film’s villain. Cage was worried that Durand was so much bigger than him that the fight scenes would not look believable. He decided that Walsh would tap into his inner jaguar and that kind of feral energy would make the battles work.

In a small way, his character in “Primal” is similar to his role of Benjamin Franklin Gates in the “National Treasure” movies. Both men are experts in their fields and collectors of unusual items. Cage says that’s where the similarities end, however.

“Ben Gates is a more sophisticated person who is educated. This guy (Walsh) is bit of a loose cannon. He is overdrinking. He’s more the jungle and he’s not really that erudite,” Cage said.

The cast of “Primal” also includes Famke Janssen, LaMonica Garrett and Michael Imperiolib along with a cast of critters. The white jaguar was created using computers, but Cage who is a big lover of animals often found himself surrounded by real birds, monkeys and other animals.

He laughs when talking about how the monkeys would tug at his clothes while the cameras were rolling and he would just go with it. Cage is so in love with acing he doesn’t care if his co-stars are humans or animals.

“I have enjoyed all of the experiences I have had in cinema. I enjoy relying on my imagination and pretending there is a jag there,” Cage said. “I also enjoy the real contact. I have been blessed with terrific performers like Famke. All actors are my brothers and sisters and I love whatever they bring. That’s probably the best when you get to work with a great group of actors.”

Along with opening in theaters, “Primal” also will be available through video on demand starting Friday.

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