In the just-released thriller A Score to Settle, Nicolas Cage plays Frank Carver, a former low-level gangster hellbent on wreaking revenge on his fellow mobsters after serving 19 years for a crime he did not commit. Carver’s problem? Well, actually, he has a few. But top of the list is his chronic insomnia, which is both threatening his life and making it difficult for the ex-con to separate fantasy from reality.
“That gives the performance, and indeed the story, an enigmatic aspect to it,” says the Oscar winner. “Is this happening or isn’t it happening? He has a brain disease, which is making it impossible for him to sleep, and therefore the brain is degenerating, which is a factor in hallucinations and difficulty seeing things clearly. So, that was something I had to dial in to the performance, in the sense that I wanted there to be moments where he seemed in his own mind really on top of it, really sharp, really enthusiastic, but then, he’s actually quite slow, and quite fragile and uncertain.”
In between tracking down, and attempting to despatch, his former colleagues, Carver tries to bond with his drug-addict son, Joey, played by Noah Le Gros.
“When I read the script, I thought the movie had a ton of heart, particularly because of the relationship between the father and the son,” says Cage. “My [charcter’s] son is very upset that I wasn’t there for him to raise him after he had lost his mother. The lion’s share of the movie, I’m trying to repair my relationship with my son, and that is really why I did the movie. I mean, yes, it has moments in it where I’m on kind of a vendetta spree, where I want to get payback [from] the people who had me take the fall. But that wasn’t really the reason why I wanted to make the movie. I really felt that there was a true heartfelt pathos in their relationship between father and son. I took some time to just talk with Noah, and get to know him a little bit, about what his interests were. It turned out that he really was passionate about music, as am I, so we connected on that level.”
Speaking of music, A Score to Settle also features the rare sight of Cage singing, and playing the piano, in a scene where he performs the vaudeville song, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.”
“I didn’t learn piano prior to that,” says Cage. “I had to really get a teacher to teach me how to play that song, and it wasn’t the easiest song. My day job is to act, it’s not really to sing, but I have sung in other movies, like Wild at Heart. But this song was not the easiest song. So, to me, it didn’t matter that it was a little bit of a straining because the character is not a professional singer, he’s just someone who plays around with the piano and likes that song, because it meant something to his wife, who’s no longer alive in the movie. So, I didn’t think it had to be pitch perfect.”
We thought you did rather well. Any chance of a whole album of Nic Cage singing standards?
“Well, I appreciate that, I do, actually,” says Cage. “I know The New York Times, they didn’t seem to like my singing too much. But that’s okay, I don’t take it personally. But thank you. Because I do like music.”
A Score to Settle can now be seen in theaters, on Digital, and VOD.
Watch Cage sing “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” in the clip, above.