A decade-and-a-half removed from his Oscar-winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage was an actor on a treadmill of ever decreasing returns.
Years and years of cut-rate sci-fi, bargain basement action and lesser comic book fare had done a number on his reputation in Hollywood and among film fans. And the ongoing tabloid attention and tax problems didn’t help.
So on the cusp of turning 50, Cage took a year off.
“I knew I was going to be very selective about what I would do next,” Cage told the Orlando Sentinel, adding that he felt an instant connection to the title character in Joe, in theaters.
“In some ways he’s an amalgamation of different sorts of roles I’ve taken on in the past,” Cage says.
A quiet working class train wreck in rural Texas with a taste for alcohol and a violent streak that shows itself, despite his fervent efforts at restraint, Joe would mash up Cage’s tragic Leaving Las Vegas drunk and his Drive Angry avenger and put the actor through the ringer.
It’s hard not to see Cage himself in this guy — a man with demons, a substance abusing past, but a man with a strong work ethic and “a code,” kind-hearted enough to take a homeless kid onto his crew because the boy needs a break. Joe is a man in search of redemption.
“I always want to take negatives and turn them into positives,” Cage says. “Being blessed with this career and this life in the arts has enabled me to channel my dreams and my frustrations, my problems and my bad times, into something positive, I hope, on the screen.”
To him, Joe is “a man who is trying to succeed, and live a life of restraint. But life won’t let him. Life takes its toll. Yeah, something about that resonates with me.”