Jun 23, 2023

Exclusive: Director Yuval Adler Says Nicolas Cage Brought Serious Punk to Sympathy for the Devil

Director Yuval Adler on working with Nicolas Cage and Joel Kinnaman in his wild new dark comedy thriller.

“It can't all just be Barbie and Oppenheimer,” chuckled director Yuval Adler of why it’s an ideal time for his comedy thriller, Sympathy for the Devil, to hit the screen. “If you like something punky. That's our film.”

Here’s to punky. And Nicolas Cage, for that matter. The actor brings a wicked kind of mania to Adler’s new film about an unhinged carjacker (Cage) and the man he puts through hell, David (Joel Kinnaman of The Killing and Suicide Squad). Cage plays a mysterious passenger who enters David’s car, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to drive. The offbeat nighttime road trip in and around Las Vegas ultimately turns into a wild game of cat and mouse. Not everything is at it seems.

“It’s a fun ride,” said Adler of the film. “There's something existentialist about it, and something about identity and the past, and how the past can come for you. Those two things were deeply interesting to me as a filmmaker. I hope people see that it’s a really fun thriller with a dark sense of humor, and powerful performances from two great actors.”

The director shared more about Sympathy for the Devil in this exclusive MovieWeb interview.

The premise for Sympathy for the Devil should generate interest. Somewhat stoic David is on his way to a Las Vegas hospital to be with his wife, who is in labor. When a gun-toting, red-haired lunatic carjacks him and begins barking out orders, David is beyond perplexed. Nicolas Cage and Joel Kinnaman work well alongside each other in the film written by Luke Paradise.

“The film is divided into three parts,” explained director Yuval Adler. “It takes place in one night and we have three environments. One part is inside the car, one is outside in Las Vegas at night, and one part is in a diner.”

Related: Sympathy for the Devil Review: Nicolas Cage Is Completely Unhinged In This Highway-to-Hell Thriller

He went to say that the film was greenlit very quickly, and his biggest challenge was not having much time to prep. “We had to figure out how to do those drives with a volume setup. And the whole fire scene… I mean, you could see the trailer where Nick's character goes nuts and starts throwing Molotov cocktails. It's very hard to shoot with fire, and that was the first for me to try to control. We weren't a big, huge film. We're an indie film.”

He said what he appreciated about the script was how clean and precise the story was and that it was mainly about these two guys, and the wild energy Cage brought to it:

I also liked the wicked sense of humor that was there from the beginning, and Nick did a lot to elevate it, but there was something about the dark humor that really got to me. Nick kind of pushed it to the next level, and that's where we connected. He would do stuff, and I'd be behind the monitor, giggling like a kid, and he would say that I'm giggling, and it would go on and on.

To be sure, Nicolas Cage is unhinged here in a powerhouse performance that will surely delight his fan base. He’s not as over-the-top as we found in Renfield, but there’s plenty of Cage sass and spunk in Sympathy for the Devil.

“There was stuff all over the place [with Nicolas Cage], and you would get these amazing moments that he came up with on the spot,” shared Adler. “We had a lot of fun with it because the film is both a thriller — tense and everything like that — but it also has this level of humor that we really liked.”

Related: Exclusive: Sympathy for the Devil Cinematographer Steve Holleran Puts Nic Cage in Sin City

Working with Nicolas Cage proved to be illuminating if not unforgettable. Adler said the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actor was, “really a fanatic in the best sense of the word,” noting, in particular, how Cage spent five to six weeks prepping for the role prior to the shoot. “I would get 10,000 texts from him during the day or emails. ‘What about this line? Can we do this?’ or ‘What about this,’” said Adler. “I've never seen anything like that. Nicolas Cage is 100% there and coming up with stuff. He constantly has ideas. It's like a volcano. That was amazing.”

As for Cage’s costar, Joel Kinnaman, Adler admitted that Sympathy for the Devil may not have come to life if it weren’t for Kinnaman. “I worked with Joel in a previous film, and we became friends and wanted to work together. That's how this film came together. And Joel had to be something he’s usually not, this unassuming substitute teacher type look.”

Quite a turn from Kinnaman’s Suicide Squad role. “But he actually became this normal guy here, and he’s standing in for the audience, looking at Nick,” said Adler. “We experience the film through Joel’s eyes. I really hope audiences enjoy the thrills.”

Sympathy for the Devil, from RLJE Films, will be released on July 28 only in theaters.

GREG ARCHER's reviews and interviews with TV and film personalities have appeared in USA Today Network, Huffington Post, The Advocate, and other media outlets. ​

Yuval AdlerSympathy for the Devil,