Face/Off Star Reveals How Nicolas Cage Came Up With His Wildest Lines


It’s stating the obvious to say that John Woo’s action classic Face/Off wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good if it weren’t for the dual performances of Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. Sure, the high concept and incredible action would have remained exactly the same, but the stars elevate the material to the next level by delivering turns that barely teeter on the brink of all-out self-awareness.

The project was initially developed with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone in mind, and while that would arguably have been just as awesome, something about the Cage/Travolta dynamic just pops. The former gets to do his typical wild-eyed shtick with the latter as the straight man, before the titular procedure lets them showcase a new side to Castor Troy and Sean Archer.

One memorable scene unfolded on the Erewhon prison, where Castor is reunited with his brother Pollux, played by Alessandro Nivola. In an appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Nivola revealed how his onscreen sibling improvised the entire ‘sex sandwich’ exchange.

“I’d been watching that Terry Zwigoff documentary about R. Crumb, the artist. And I had also shown it to Nic, who just…his eyes lit up when he saw it. He was just like into it. We started getting together, doing like improvisations in his trailer, based on the Crumb brothers, and just like cracking ourselves up. Just making up the most absurd shit, talking about ‘sex sandwiches’, and just free-associating. His assistant would write it all down, and then we would send it to John Woo. And John Woo just loved it. Like, I couldn’t believe the stuff we were coming up with was just so random. He was looking at our pages, and he was like ‘Sex sandwich. Very funny’.”

face off

When Nicolas Cage wants to talk about sex sandwiches and elongate as many syllables as possible, you’ve just gotta let him do it. His best work comes with the greatest amount of creative expression, such is the uniqueness of his acting style, and the ludicrously over-the-top Castor Troy in Face/Off was the ideal conduit in exactly the right movie.