Film interview: Cage gets serious on the trail of a real-life chiller of a killer

Nicolas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens in The Frozen Ground.

Nicolas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens in The Frozen Ground.

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With the likes of Face/Off, Kick Ass and Gone In 60 Seconds under his belt, it comes as a surprise to hear Nicolas Cage condemn on-screen carnage.

“I can’t stand violence,” says the 49-year-old, fixing me with an unflinching and penetrating stare.

“If you look carefully at my filmography, when I have violent moments, usually - not always - it’s couched in a fantasy-type world. There’s a supernatural aspect to it that takes you out of the edge of real life.”

His latest movie, however, is very much focused on reality. The Frozen Ground is based on the events surrounding Alaska’s most notorious serial killer, Robert Hansen, who is currently serving 461 years for murdering at least 17 women.

“This job, I didn’t take it lightly, because it’s [based on] real life. I didn’t want to approach it with any fireworks. I wanted it to be very direct,” says Cage, who plays Alaska State Trooper Jack Halcombe.

He reveals that the character is largely based on Detective Glen Flothe, who was responsible for putting Hansen behind bars in 1983.

A little over 30 years ago, Flothe and a team of investigators linked several unsolved murders in Alaska, while a criminal psychological profile provided by the FBI led them to Hansen as a possible suspect.

Flothe contacted a teenage prostitute by the name of Cindy Paulson. She had previously claimed to have escaped Hansen as he tried to load her into his Piper Cub plane bound for the wilderness, where he planned to hunt her like game.

Though her story didn’t stand up against the well-respected Hansen’s alibi at the time, Flothe convinced Cindy to submit testimony. This helped secure a search warrant that revealed indisputable and incriminating evidence against Hansen.

“Whenever you play someone who is a real hero, it’s an incredible amount of responsibility,” says Cage. “And I wanted to portray the courage of the troopers as there’s an enormous amount of integrity in the way they treat one another and the way they treat people. I wanted to get that across, that there is such a thing as good.”

In the movie, Hansen is depicted by John Cusack, while Cindy is played by former Disney High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens.

“I was quite captivated by her while we were filming,” says Cage. “I could see she had all the depth and emotional content and feeling that you would need to make that character come to life, and I think this is going to be great for her.”

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