After a string of not-so-favorable reviews in recent years, Nicolas Cage returns to critical acclaim in Neon’s Pig, in which he plays a reclusive truffle hunter drawn into Portland when his porcine pet is stolen.
“It’s very nice to have enthusiastic response. It’s a little surprising, but very nice,” Cage told THR at the L.A. premiere on July 13. Buoyed by the response, he even started sending co-star Alex Wolff positive reviews of their onscreen relationship after Wolff had sworn off reading reactions. “I said, ‘You should look at this one because this should put some spring in your step.’”
And though it’s drawn comparisons to a certain Keanu Reeves vehicle, “I couldn’t think of a movie further from John Wick than Pig,” Cage says as he continues his journey into the indie realm, where he will likely stay. “I don’t know that I will ever go back to those Jerry Bruckheimer-type spectacles because I do think there’s a cult of fear in the studio system that’s a little stifling,” he adds. “I don’t feel that when I’m making an independent movie.”
Budgets aside, he was also drawn to the film for its commentary on the animal-human connection, saying, “I understood the profound connection we can have with our animal brothers and sisters. I know I rely heavily on my friendship with my cats, and I haven’t seen many movies about that, about this relationship between people and their animal friends.” And as for the film’s human relationships, Wolff, with whom Cage shares many of his scenes, calls working with the star “the best experience I’ve had — the best acting experience and the best personal experience,” which has translated to those review-reading sessions over FaceTime.
Those behind the scenes say all credit for the positive public reaction goes to Cage, who came to set already immersed in the character of a man struggling with grief and seeking solace in the woods.
“It’s kind of crazy because it’s like people are just realizing that Nic is a really good actor, which I thought we all knew for a very long time. I know he does very bombastic performances sometimes, but he’s a great actor and he’s been that way his entire career,” said director Michael Sarnoski. “I feel silly taking any sort of credit or having this movie take any sort of credit for that, but I’m happy that people are recognizing that in this film.”
Pig is now in theaters.
A version of this story first appeared in the July 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.