Nicolas Cage’s son Weston talks to us about playing a wicked Russian and his dad’s explosive style

Weston Cage Coppola—son of Nicolas Cage, and great-nephew of Francis Ford Coppola—plays a shit-eating Russian villain in the action-thriller Assault on VA-33 (now on digital release). He sits down for a chat, politely tolerating Luke Buckmaster obsessing over his father.

It’s an intense line of dialogue, in an intense conversation, during an intense altercation, taking place in an intense setting, spoken by an intense bad guy—because villains with thick Russian accents are….intense. A bloodied American general is tied to a chair, breaking the news to this villain that his brother is dead—his corpse chilling out in a freezer somewhere outside Moscow.

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The Russian, a terrorist named Adrian Rabikov who has infiltrated a hospital and taken hostages—in a scene from the workmanlike action-thriller Assault on VA-33—erupts into white hot rage. He yells “MY BROTHER IS NOT DEAD! I WAS RUSSIAN MILITARY AND I WILL PUSH YOUR MIND TO THE LIMITS IF HE IS DEAD!”

It all happened so quickly. Adrian was calm, measured, controlled. Then BAM: he’s a jacked-up ball of feral fury, loogies flying out of his mouth mid-monologue.

Nicholas Cage is famous for stepping on the gas like this, having mastered the art of ‘man, that escalated’. The great actor is relevant in this conversation because the performer delivering this diabolically drooly performance as Rabikov is his son, Weston Cage Coppola. Was his father’s explosive style an inspiration?

“Definitely,” Coppola tells me over a Zoom call from his home in LA. “My dad has one of the best abilities to ignite like that from zero to a thousand. And I was going from zero to a thousand with Adrian, because he doesn’t like inconvenience or misunderstanding. He can be so calm killing somebody but then… he gets so angry and has those tantrums, those moments when he explodes.”

One critic called Coppola’s accent “surprisingly convincing”; another “surprisingly compelling.” One joker said it’s “zeriously zilly.” I can confirm that it is indeed a very good accent; I may have assumed Rabikov might even have been played by a Russian if I hadn’t gone into the film knowing otherwise. Coppola was inspired in part by his Ukranian sensei (he has a master level in Russian martial arts) who talks in a way that’s “so logical it’s almost soothing.”

Says Coppola: “With the Scandianavian accents, Swedish or Norweigna speakers want to put a little “oh” or “er” in their speech. So when they talk like this (he puts on an accent) ‘they’re like yo, this is very good-er.’ You’ve got to find those spaces. I constantly had Russian in the back of my mind…There were some moments there when I couldn’t even understand what I was saying, because it sounded so Russian.”

Assault on VA-33 is the kind of low-rent genre film that wouldn’t look out of place in Nicolas Cage’s oeuvre. This is not a criticism; in fact I love Cage’s attitude: that no film is too small; no part is above him; every role presents opportunities to experiment.

If I sound a little obsessed with Nicolas Cage, and not the subject I am interviewing, I hope and trust Weston can forgive me because I am, in fact, completely obsessed with Nicolas Cage. I have always been a fan, but my infatuation span into overdrive three years ago, when I attended a 14 hour Nic Cage marathon and emerged from it a changed man (some have mentioned the words “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe what happened to me) with a new-found purpose: to watch every one of his films and own as many as possible.

Cage’s films may not be consistently good, but they are consistently his. There is also his sheer work ethic, which seems to be driven by a belief that rather than picking and choosing roles it’s better to keep busy, keep moving, keep exploring, keep creating.

“I think that’s the way to be: to be as prolific as possible,” says Coppola. “To be your own Renaissance. To do as much as you can. Da Vinci is still spoken about after writing three pages a day… to be so focused and concentrated that there’s not as much time for problems. To be in flow.

“My father’s a master of focus and concentration. He’s really helped me with that. My dad’s level of consciousness—he’s a very elevated being, and he’s always inspired me. When he describes what to look for in a scene, for example, or the importance of delivery and tonality, or knowing your character’s faith, or their voice— these are the kinds of things he’s really shown me.”

Cage also inspired Weston musically, learning to play the mandolin for his role in the 2001 war romance Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Says Coppola: “He’s a genius. He learned it in 30 days. Plays it really well, too.” That insight, to be honest, has little to do with anything—but it’s such a cute detail, I couldn’t resist squeezing it in.

It’s clear that both father and son think deeply about their roles—even in films like Assault on VA-33, which aren’t exactly complex ruminations on the nature of the human psyche. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have deep elements, or be drawn from deeply creative places.

“ I was trying to go like the Dictator. I was thinking it was like the Golden Horde, that we were the Mongols or something in the old invasions, and we took over that little hospital,” reflects Coppola.

“I was tapping into the Cossack mentality: the warriors. I was really going for it. I had to do a lot of meditation to get that character out of me…I was taking hot baths and meditating, because my mind was going there a little bit, thinking about things.”

Assault on VA-33 is now available on digital release, to rent or buy through Google Play or iTunes.