Acclaimed Japanese director Sion Sono’s English language debut Prisoners of the Ghostland is out September 17 in select theaters, on demand, and digital. The wild Western stars Nicolas Cage in the lead role, and also features Bill Moseley and Sofia Boutella.
“In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber (Nicolas Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing,” says the official synopsis. “The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Prisoners of the Ghostland star Bill Moseley about the film’s production, working with Nicolas Cage, and more.
Tyler Treese: Your career is just so synonymous with the horror genre. So how exciting was it to do something a bit different by playing The Governor and do this wild, crazy Western?
Bill Moseley: I don’t know if it was a dream come true because I don’t think I ever dreamed that wildly [laughs], but it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun and it was really a great experience, both on camera and off.
When you read a script like this and it’s so wild, what’s going through your head? Are you like, “What did I get involved with,” or is it exciting as an actor?
Actually, when I read the script, I was thinking, “Man, that’s a lot of, that’s a lot of technical stuff for The Governor to say.” [laughs] That was my first [thought] after the idea of working with Sion Sono in Japan with Nic Cage and Sofia Boutella. After all of that, which is a lot of frosting for that cake, then I looked at the script and I was going like, “Geez, I got a lot to memorize.” So I started about a month and a half before I got to Maibara, Japan, where we shot the movie. Actually, my wife and I had scheduled a trip up Mekong River from Vietnam to Cambodia, right before I went down to Maibara to shoot the movie.
So I was walking up and down the deck of our little riverboat pounding those lines about the different buttons on Nic Cage’s suit [laughs]. So, that was a concern. Also when I got to Japan, I still was a little uncertain about how to play or who was The Governor. I met Sion at a wardrobe fitting and I put on the suit and I was thinking, boy, this looks good. They had sent me about 40 measurements that they wanted, so they constructed this perfect suit for me. I put on the white hat. Then they brought out the red gloves and they put the red gloves on me and I thought, okay, I know what I am. I am like the embodiment of capitalistic evil. The white suit, but I have blood on my hands. As soon as I pulled those red gloves, Sion looked at me and smiled and went, “Governor.”. So I was like, OK, I gotcha. So, that made everything a lot easier because I was more focused.
What about The Governor interested you the most in the script?
I don’t mind playing characters that are evil and occasionally nasty. I like this because it was a little more refined than say Chop Top or Otis. Those are a little raw-looking characters. So I like the idea of being kind of the king, I guess. It’s good to be the king as they said. So that certainly appealed to me. The fact also that along with The Governor comes 30 geishas and there were 30 geishas on the set and they all looked great. So that was certainly a bonus. My bodyguard was talk Tak Sakaguchi, one of the greatest martial artists in Japan.
So that was also hot fun. So the thing was, as I say, it’s good to be the king and also I’m kind of trying to trick Nicolas Cage. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna work with Nicolas Cage? I was a little nervous at first, but, man, he was such a great guy both on screen and off. He really is fearlessly, non-self conscious. He goes for it and, and that’s the way I like to do it. He’s just in the story. He’s not about what’s my better side and all that kind of [stuff] the Hollywood actor concern get in the way of really kicking some butt. So I love working with him.
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Awesome. I did want to ask, working with someone like Cage, did you feel like that brought out the best performance in you? Can you speak to just working off him and the kind of back and forth you have?
Absolutely. It wasn’t necessarily in our exchanges, just the fact that he’s there, that he’s like the tentpole of the production in terms of the name actor, and what a great example. He was really a gentleman, a really good actor, knew his stuff. Showed up prepared, and just absolutely when you have somebody like that as your lead person, it can’t be helped but to make you pick up your game. So absolutely I think he was a real inspiration. It was a relief too, that he was really my kind of actor. It was a relief personally for me because I didn’t have to worry about interpersonal stuff or somebody’s school of acting versus someone else’s. All of those things that just really get in the way of doing a good job. He just made it simple, easy, and fun to work.
You mentioned Chop Top and Otis. So I did wanna touch on some of your horror stuff. In The Devil’s Rejects, you got to work with wrestling legend Diamond Dallas Page. I’d love to hear about your experiences working with him.
That’s a good question. He was fun. At one point, uh, I get thrown out the window at Charlie’s Fun Ranch, and I come out of the window and I roll up to Diamond Dallas’ feet. I get up on my hands and knees. He’s supposed to kick me in the ribs. So he did kick me in the ribs and it hurt. Because I didn’t have a pad. So I said “ow,” and so they said, “okay, okay, let’s do one more take and get you a pad this time.” So I got a pad but the pad was kind of like a piece of plywood [laughs]. Then we did another take and he kicked me again thinking he could kick a little harder because I had a pad now, but it just really hurt. It hurt more. I cherished that. Fortunately, the pain subsided after a few months, but [I cherished] that I was kicked in the ribs by a heavyweight champion.
Very cool. I saw that you used to be a writer and you contributed to National Lampoon amongst some other magazines. Did you have a favorite piece from your writing days?
I did a lot of interviews with scientists in a magazine called Omni and any of the Omni interviews. Peter Hagelstein, Carlton Gajdusek, Linus Pauling. I think if you just Google, “Moseley Omni interviews,” you’ll probably come up with some of those. So those are pretty cool. I also wrote a cool poem for Dance Magazine called “In Full Swing. That was what I did. I worked for seven or eight years as a freelance writer after starting my career in Boston as a copywriter at an ad agency. So somehow that led to freelance writing in New York, which then led to Chop Top, which led to a 30-year career in the horror business [laughs] So I’m sure there’s logic in there somewhere.
What a wild career, and when we talk about wild, Sion is such a unique director. I wanted to ask, were there any surprises working with him or was it more of a traditional filming experience?
We didn’t talk much because I’m not sure how much English he knows. I hardly know any Japanese. I can say, arigato and Shinkansen because I’m a big train guy, that’s the bullet train. So we communicated through a translator if there was specific instructions, but for the most part, we communicated through smiles and friendly gestures, thumbs up and smiles. If he frowned, that wasn’t good [laughs].
Which was very interesting because it just shows you that in movie making and in a lot of the arts, the spoken language and I suppose the written language too, isn’t always that necessary. I basically understood, I got the general idea if I was doing something not enough or too much. I found it was not an impediment at all to enjoying the work and doing the best work that the director wanted from me.