In “Pay the Ghost,” directed by Uli Edel, Sarah Wayne Callies plays the wife of Nicolas Cage, a college professor as they deal with the tragic disappearance of their son on Halloween. Of course, things are never easy when Cage is involved as the couple finds out a year after their son’s disappearance. The former “The Walking Dead” star recently sat down to discuss her latest projects as well as working with her famous co-star.
BILLY TATUM: Had you met either the director or Nicolas Cage before filming?
SARAH CALLIES: No, I had never met him, but I had seen “The Baader Meinhof Complex” and thought it was brilliant. I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t watching Nic Cage and being absolutely blown away by his work. I found out I was opposite Nic Cage in a movie and I was like “Yes!” It could be a dramatic reading of the phone book and I’m in.
B.T: So, how was it working with him?
S.C: It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. The amazing thing about Nic, I think, that makes him a great actor is that in the nicest way possible, he doesn’t give a (expletive) what anyone thinks about him. He doesn’t pick movies because he wants the critics to like him or because he wants to be in a $200 mil splashy, summer tentpole thing. He finds stories that he’s interested in or something he hasn’t explored before. He was talking to me about the film and how he was going to do it. He goes “I’m curious about the paganism in the movie and about the sort of rituals and mythology that surrounds this community that is by and large, very marginalized, very made fun of, and bastardized on every Halloween. He said I kind of want to dig into that a little bit. And I think that sense of really being unfazed by whether or not people fell for this movie really frees him up to make amazing choices as an actor. You know, he’s not doing something because he’s afraid. He’s not someone who says there’s not enough heroics, so I’m not going to do it or this person isn’t handsome, so I’m not going to do it. That’s not his thing. It’s so freeing and so easy for him. And so working with him becomes so much easier. What he’s doing is real and honest, so all I have to do is pay attention to him and respond to what he’s doing, which is a great joy. He’s also the most prepared person I’ve worked with in my entire life. He showed up at the table read, off book. We’re all going through pages reading our lines and he’s got his script closed because he knows every word of the movie.
B.T: That must have been inspiring.
S.C: I went home and didn’t leave my hotel room until I am as prepared as he is. I think he makes everybody around him work harder, not because he’s asking them to, but because of how devoted he is to what he does.
B.T: It sounds like he made quite an impression.
S.C: And I have to tell you, he really is (expletive) famous, too. And I know that that sounds ridiculous, but I’ve known a lot of people who are TV famous. And I know what it’s like to walk through a crowded place with Norman Reedus and it’s bananas and that’s fine. When we were shooting on the street in Toronto and it’s a small, independent film, right? So, we have zero money and we bought HALF of the street. So, we’re shooting on our half of the street and we rehearse the scene. It’s the scene where when we come out of the coffee shop and I tell him I see our son all the time and it’s a super-emotional scene. I’m not paying attention to anybody, but Nic. And between the time we rehearsed the scene and finished shooting is maybe three hours. When we started rehearsing it, there was no one on the other side of the street. It was in downtown and by the time we were done, there must’ve been close to a thousand people on the other side of the street screaming Nic’s name.
B.T: Had you ever seen anything like that?
S.C: I had never seen anything like that. You know, people would go on Twitter and say “It’s Nicolas Cage.” And we were only together for about a week or two, and he’s such a mellow dude and I look at him like an idiot and I go “You’re super famous.” And he goes “Yeah, yeah. Oh well.”
B.T: Was it hard to find chemistry with him?
S.C: I think, and I don’t compare myself to him in any way, but I think we’re both a little weird. You know, we’re both, I don’t know. I think we both kind of have things and behaviors not necessarily in the mainstream of life like the beautiful people in Hollywood. As we got to know each other, there was kind of a sense of “Oh, you’re not going to think I’m weird if I say this. You’re not going to judge me if I do that.” And I think what ended up happening is the kind of idiosyncrasies of who we are, that the chemistry started from that position. You know, it wasn’t like a sexy marriage between gorgeous Hollywood blonde and rock hard, twenty-five year old football player. It’s just a couple of strange people who make each other laugh a lot.
B.T: What do you have coming up?
S.C: I’m working on a new show on USA called “Colony.” It’s phenomenal. It’s my first time foray into the sci-fi stage. I absolutely love it. I’m super proud of it. Then, there’s another movie “The Other Side of the Door” that I shot in India last year and will be coming out next year as well. That’s it for right now. I’ve got a couple of projects in the works. Nothing with enough traction to talk to…haha.
B.T: Thanks so much for taking a moment to talk.
S.C: Thank you.
“Pay the Ghost” is in theaters nationwide and also on VOD.