Based on a true story of survival, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage stars Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) and Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea) in this gripping, wartime action drama directed by Mario Van Peebles (New Jack City).
After delivering one of the atomic bombs that would eventually end World War II, the Navy cruiser USS Indianapolis is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. Left with no option but to abandon ship, Captain Charles McWay (Cage) and hundreds of his crew are left stranded in shark-infested waters…
To coincide with the film’s release, we hear first hand about making the film from leading man Nicolas Cage and director Mario Van Peebles…
On Casting Cage…
Van Peebles: I’ve always been a fan of Nic Cage. He and I acted together in Cotton Club, I had a little teeny role, he had a much larger role and I’d been wanting to work again with Nic for a while. Producer Richard Rionda talked to me about his experience working with Nic and how he thought Nic would be right for the captain. He’s got that sense of command, this wicked sense of humour and is super professional and on the ball.
Nic Cage has navigated this industry and it’s not by luck, he’s been around and he’s paid his dues and, like me, he’s still in the game and we were like ‘this is the one!’ Let’s work together on this!
Nicolas Cage: One of my dreams or first loves is the ocean and my dream has always been to do a movie that takes place at sea. I haven’t been able to get that to happen yet. I almost did a picture with Ron Howard called The Sea Wolf, that didn’t work out, I almost did The Perfect Storm but that didn’t work, so I was like ‘I’m really frustrated here’. I want to play Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, I’ve got to get on the water! Richard said “it just so happens that I have a script.”
On the Supporting Cast…
Van Peebles: What about all these guys in the water? What about the men? Well here’s the thing, the truth is that those guys were young, they were 18 years old, some of them were 17 years old, some were 23 years old. We’ve got Nic doing it, and he’s great, he’s going to kick ass with this role. Let’s see if we can get a young talented cast to play the sailors, and we did. Usually you edit the movie and you’re going through it and there’s always one performance that you’re like ‘we could have done better’ but man, the performances are good!
They saw Nic as their Captain, as their leader on set and that mirrored what they did off the set, and that mirrored the respect he had with them and the command and sense of unity. There’s a beginning piece I like where Nic first talks to his crew and he says, ‘for those of you that are new on board, I’m your captain’. That’s the only way we’ll survive this. It’s a hell of challenge for this captain to have, in essence, a lot of new guys, a lot of new kids and the responsibility and emotional weight of that.
On the History…
Nicolas Cage: I first heard about the story of the Indianapolis from the classic monologue that Robert Shaw did in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, his wonderful blockbuster. I was so impressed at the drama that Shaw was able to convey just with his words, he put me in the ocean with those sharks. The way he would talk about the screams of the other sailors and the way he ended it with ‘so anyway we delivered the bomb’. That had a huge impact on my psyche as a young man going into Jaws and I wanted to learn about it, I wanted to know about the tragedy.
My impression upon meeting the survivors was that they were remarkably strong individuals. I mean the fact that they’re still with us having survived that event, that tragedy and well into their nineties, these are very strong, wilful people. I wanted to honour them.
Van Peebles: The idea that we could take this piece of history that happened in 1945 and do honour to that story, that narrative and that spirit was an awesome challenge and I think the movie will deliver on that.
On Working Together…
Van Peebles: I think as a director I give my actors what I want to receive and that’s a lot of communication, a lot of input and try to encourage a culture of cooperation, an environment in which they can do their best work.
The more I direct, the more I let go of the ego part of it and go ‘wow look at this gift we were given’. This actor really brings a quality, let’s let him or her be the best version of the themselves, in fact lets treat the whole narrative, let the whole movie be the best version of itself and that means: what Mike Mendelson brings, what Richard Rionda brings, or Tim Cavanaugh or Nic Cage brings, all these things and that whole experience is the film USS Indianapolis.
Nicolas Cage: I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working with Mario, I think he’s a great director, he’s made a lot of outstanding movies for a long time and I’m glad I’m working on a terrific script with him. So, I’m thrilled about that.
Lionsgate UK presents USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage on Digital Download 19th December and Blu-ray & DVD from 9th January, 2017