Magical Feelings of East Meets West: Sion Sono on Prisoners of the Ghostland | Interviews

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But the casting of Cage serves as a harbinger of the film’s gonzo style; the actor’s long been notorious for playing eccentric, crazy-heart characters in adventurous genre fare, and he’s doubled down on such madhouse career maneuvers in recent years, from Panos Cosmatos’ deep-red acid-trip “Mandy” and Richard Stanley’s loony “Color Out of Space” adaptation to the upcoming “Willy’s Wonderland,” in which he’ll battle demonic animatronics in a Chuck E. Cheese-esque family fun center. 

“Ghostland” is ultimately a shotgun marriage between the outré sensibilities of director and star—neither of whom are showing signs of mellowing with age.

Note: This interview was conducted through a translator and has been edited for consistency.  

I know you previously had wanted to make your Hollywood debut with “Lords of Chaos,” a decade ago. Does it mean something different now to be making a film in English than it would have meant at the time?

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Compared to back 10 years ago, with “Lords of Chaos,” my feeling and excitement about wanting to make a Hollywood movie was not different. That’s the same feeling. But this one, “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” even though it’s with Nicolas Cage and is my English-language film debut, [ended up] shooting in Japan. It was actually a pretty funny, weird feeling, given the places that we wanted to shoot the film over however many years. I was like, “Is this really my first so-called American Hollywood movie?” 

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” feels like a particularly incredible debut to be making in English, because it’s mashing up all these Western, samurai, and thriller genres in a way that really speaks to that idea of “East meets West” cross-cultural exchange. How did you decide what to draw from, and what were some of the genres that influenced you?

First of all, I’d like to explain that we were planning to shoot in Mexico, to create a type of classic, Spaghetti Western tone. But I had a heart attack, and that made it not quite possible to go outside the country. Everyone, including Nicolas Cage, said, “How about shooting in Japan?” Everyone seemed to like that, and so we ended up doing that. 

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