Speaking at a Zurich Film Festival press conference, the director hailed Nicolas Cage’s work on his new film Joe.

Joe director David Gordon Green is being hailed for showing a new side of Nicolas Cage on screen, in a poignant and restrained role as Joe, an ex-convict who becomes a surrogate father to a young man (Tye Sheridan) from a troubled home.

Speaking at a Zurich Film Festival press conference this week, Green said: “I have been a huge fan of [Nic Cage] throughout his career.It’s an incredible and eccentric career that intrigues me. I like people who don’t make obvious decisions with their careers… He’s been an action hero and he’s also won an Oscar.”

Joe marks Cage’s most raw dramatic work since 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas. “I wanted somebody who could have dramatic sensitivity to connect with the story of fatherhood that the film ultimately represents,” the director explained.

The day Cage read the screenplay, he called Green immediately. “Usually you sit and waiting for the phone to ring for a month or two waiting before you hear an actor to say ‘maybe.’ But Nic was in Las Vegas, and he said, I don’t know where you are but I want to fly in and talk to you about this. I’m going to get on a plane tomorrow.’ That’s never happened, that’s amazing,” Green recalled at his press conference in Zurich.

He was in Austin, Texas, location scouting on Prince Avalanche at the time, so Cage came scouting with him. “He helped me pick out a few locations and dodge a few bullets on the other movie. We just talked about Joe for a few days, and ate a lot of seafood and had a few drinks and we both just got enthusiastic about making it.”

He had a lot of praise for Cage’s bravery and trust in working on Joe. “There was never a lack of excitement and a lack of willingness for any idea. There was never an idea he said no to. In fact the scene where he was supposed to hold a snake for a prop, that was actually a venomous cottonmouth snake, he’s got no protection on and it would have killed him if it bit him. And that was his idea to hold it!”

Cage also shows off his own tattoos for the first time on screen. Green said: “I wanted to strip it down to be a very exposed performance. And you don’t usually that level of enthusiasm from an actor with that much experience.”