Writer/Director Andrew Niccol talks about his upcoming Nicholas Cage thirller, Lord of War
In Lions Gate's latest action adventure "Lord of War," Yuri Orlov (Nicholas Cage) is an international arms dealer who exploits the violence of human nature and sells guns to the world's most recognized corrupt leaders and dictators while always managing to outmaneuver the authorities and hide his true profession from his family.
Based on real events, the film spans over 20 years and follows Orlov's shady business dealings and shows what he's willing to do to make it as the leading arms trafficker in some of the most notorious deadliest war zones.
Rounding out the cast is Ethan Hawke who plays a relentless agent determined to bust Orlov, Jared Leto is his brother who in the beginning goes into the arms business with him, but his conscience gets the best of him, and Bridget Moynahan plays Nicholas Cage's trophy wife who knows her husband is into illegitimate dealings, but doesn't ask questions because she likes the life style he provides for her.
Movieweb.com got the chance to talk to writer and director Andrew Niccol about guns, violence, and why he wanted to explore the dark world of international arms business.
"I sort of had the timing from hell because we submitted the script a week before the latest war in Iraq. And for some reason Hollywood studios didn't want to touch it. They thought it was too controversial."
But, that didn't stop him from signing on such an impressive cast.
"Everyone took a pay cut to do it. So they came for the material so that was flattering. But, yeah we had to get made with foreign money."
When writing the script he didn't have a specific actor in mind for the lead. However, after the screenplay was complete he knew exactly who he wanted.
"As soon as I finished I thought who can make the devil look charming. It's Nicholas Cage."
Niccol explained he was intrigued by arms dealers because they don't have the same thought process as others. He described them as sociopaths and said it was difficult getting to understand where they're coming from and why they do what they do.
"You know you would say you're responsible for tens of hundreds of thousands of deaths and he would say I'm not responsible for any death because I never pull the trigger. It's only when he does pull the trigger that it becomes a nightmare for him."
"It's just a world that I was very interested in. I was interested these characters who can compartmentalize their lives like that you know. Toss away toy guns from their kid's toy chest and yet wreak this havoc on other families around the world and yet they manage to separate them somehow. And also there is so much attention paid to drug trafficking, but arms trafficking has a far more devastating effect on the world," he continued.
Niccol confessed that it's easier than you would think to get talk to these people. According to the director, it didn't take that much effort to get the military equipment he needed for a scene.
"You'd be surprised how much access you can have. For instance all the tanks you see in the film are by one guy in the Czech Republic. And I said you know I need 50 T-72's Soviet tanks. ‘And he said sure I've got those.' And I said I need them on Tuesday and he said ‘no problem. You know he said there was only one catch. In December I'm going to sell these to Libya so I need them back.' And he's serious. So all of those tanks that you see lined up are now in Libya."
But, there was a downside to shooting that scene Niccol explained.
"We have to call N.A.T.O. and tell them about that scene because it looked like a weapons building in the Czech Republic and anyone looking in a satellite photograph would go s***. What's going on in the Czech Republic. We didn't want anyone taking us out."
While doing research for the film, Niccol discovered just how disturbing and dark the life of an international arms dealer can be and how much he didn't like it.
"The world of arms trafficking is so absurd... You have two mortal enemies in two different nations go to an arms fair. The fact that it's called a fair. Like it's a carnival or something. It's already strange to me. And then they'll go to the same vendor. Buy the same ammunitions go back to their separate countries and come out of their corners fighting. It's just nuts."
Although he went into this movie not knowing anything really about guns, he now knows which one he likes best.
"My personal favorite gun is the Uzi. You can see why gang bangers would carry an Uzi machine pistol because it's so beautiful. It's small. You can stick it in your glove box and it's lethal."
Lord of War hits theaters September 16th.