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"Massive Talent" filmmakers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten explain why their favorite scene was cut from the movie.
It was a black-and-white sequence that pays homage to the silent film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."
Watch the deleted scene at the end of this story.
Despite all the acclaim for their Nicolas Cage movie "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent," for filmmakers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, it still stings that they couldn't keep one scene in the movie.
Though the movie itself has an off-the-wall premise — Cage plays a fictional version of himself who the CIA recruits to take down an arms dealer (Pedro Pascal) he's recently befriended — when it came to a scene inspired by 1920s silent movie "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," the studio that made the movie, Lionsgate, had to draw the line.
Originally in the script, towards the end of the movie, Cage has a final confrontation with his alter ego Nicky, who has been tormenting him the entire movie. To chronicle the showdown, the movie suddenly shifts to black-and-white and the sets and wardrobe are made up to look like Nic and Nicky are suddenly in "Dr. Caligari."
Nic then chases Nicky through a collection of scenes that pays homage to some of Cage's most memorable movies: They stand back-to-back with each other like in "Face/Off;" drive in a hot rod from "Gone in 60 Seconds;" walk down a corridor that are lined with plane seats from "Con Air;" and the sequence concludes in a hotel room reminiscent of Cage's Oscar-winning "Leaving Las Vegas."
Though Gormican, who is the movie's director and coscreenwriter with Etten, was able to shoot the sequence, it ultimately got left on the cutting room floor as the studio felt "audiences won't accept" the scene, the filmmakers told Insider.
"It was a six-month battle," Gormican told Insider on a phone call alongside Etten. "In a movie filled with big wins, that was a tough one."
The filmmakers say they shot the scene in secret
Looking back on the creation of the scene, both Gormican and Etten felt it was necessary for the movie.
After researching Cage for the script, they learned through interviews the actor had done over his career that he's a big fan of German expressionist films, particularly "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." The filmmakers didn't just make the silent-film classic a running joke through "Massive Talent," but felt it was a perfect way to conclude Nic and Nicky's interaction.
"In 'Dr. Caligari,' you have the doctor and then you have this sleepwalker, Cesare, and he controls him. He makes him do things," Gormican said. "So we thought, this is really interesting because that's sort of the Nick/Nicky relationship. Nicky is this figure that's controlling Nick through his youth, vitality, optimism and movie stardom. So for us, it was an interesting parallel."
When they finally got the script to Cage, he loved the scene.
"I kept saying to Lionsgate, 'This is the most important thing to Nic. This is one of the reasons why he did the film,'" Gormican said. "And I guess they didn't really believe us."
The filmmakers say there were indications Lionsgate wasn't as enthusiastic about the scene as they were.
"That they even let us film that entire sequence in the first place is kind of a miracle," Etten said.
"I kind of hid the sequence for the most part while I was shooting," Gormican revealed. "It was peak pre-vaccine COVID so the oversight shall we say was lax. I was able to build the sets and sort of hide the scope of what I was shooting until the last minute."
Cage had the 'most fun of the entire shoot' while shooting the scene, says the filmmakers
Unable to completely copy the look of "Dr. Caligari" or of any of the Cage movie references in fear of copyright infringement, Gormican and his production designer Kevin Kavanaugh ("The Dark Knight Rises," "Nightcrawler") crafted practical sets loosely inspired by the movies.
The results are exquisitely crafted shots that make you feel as if Nick and Nicky have been thrust into the silent-film era, but maneuvering within Cage's filmography.
For the "Face/Off" shot, Gormican said they used cardboard cutouts and painted them black to represent shadows. This was done for most of the shots in the entire sequence.
Then there's the eye makeup on Nick and Nicky, which pays homage to how the characters look in "Dr. Caligari."
In the "Gone in 60 Seconds" shot, a car was created that would represent the GT 500 Mustang Cage drove in the 2000 blockbuster. It was built on rollers, Gormican said, so they could push it on the set.
Then above the set, 30,000-watt light bulbs were spinning within a zoetrope to create a sense that the car was speeding faster than it really was.
Then there were plane seats made to represent "Con Air." They are lining a hallway that's similar to a set from "Dr. Caligari."
And, finally, Nick and Nicky confront one another in a room made up to look like the one Cage's alcoholic character occupies in "Leaving Las Vegas, a performance that won Cage the best actor Oscar in 1996.
The room features large playing cards on the wall and bottles all over the room.
Looking back on the making of the sequence, Gormican said Cage was having the time of his life.
"I could tell he was having the most fun of the entire shoot," he said.
Now with the sequence finished, all that was left was editing it into the movie. But Lionsgate was never going to let that happen.
The 'very savvy' thing Nicolas Cage did to make sure the scene would see the light of day
During post-production, while putting the final touches on the movie, Gormican and Etten said there was a side discussion between them and the studio on the fate of the "Dr. Caligari" scene.
"The studio's point of view was audiences won't accept it," Gormican said. "They felt if people were asked what scene shouldn't be in the movie, most are going to point to the black-and-white scene."
"However, our argument was don't we need this story-wise? How do we wrap up this relationship arch if we don't see that?" Etten said. He added that Lionsgate also didn't like the scene because Nick was supposed to kill Nicky at the end of it.
Despite making their case, Lionsgate won out and cut the scene from the movie.
In hindsight, the filmmakers believe the movie still works without the "Dr. Caligari" sequence, but they said it was Cage who made sure the scene would one day see the light of day.
"He got up at the movie's premiere at South By Southwest and said, 'There's an amazing scene in this movie that's not in the movie,' and by making it known in the largest possible way he ensured that this scene would live," Gormican said. "It was a very savvy thing to do."
The "Dr. Caligari" deleted scene is included as a bonus feature in the digital and Blu-ray/DVD release of "Massive Talent," which is available on Tuesday.
Here it is:
Read the original article on Insider