In honor of Face/Off’s 20th anniversary, Shortlist published an oral history on the making of the film that cineastes everywhere agree is the best movie ever made, full stop, it’s all been downhill since. And while a lot of the revelations weren’t exactly revelatory — of course it took years to get the project off the ground, you can’t rush perfection — there is one juicy tidbit that has us looking at the film in a new light.
Did you know that Face/Off is not, in fact, about hockey? Because apparently Johnny Depp didn’t! At one point when the film was in the hands of its second potential director, Marco Brambilla (Demolition Man), he wanted to skew the cast younger. Paramount at the time was trying to make a star out of the then-27-year-old Depp, which makes sense. At that point in his career, he was a rock-solid indie darling with films like Edward Scissorhands and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to his credit. So the studio said that Nic Cage could only star if Depp played opposite him. Which was just folly — you can’t place limits on Nic Cage. Nobody puts Nic Cage in a cage unless it’s a Nic Cage cage.
Nicolas Cage caged in a Nicolas Cage cage pic.twitter.com/Az6C0ZDmcP— meme god (@MEMESG0D) February 19, 2017
Anyhoo, when Depp finally got around to actually reading the script, he realized that inexplicably it was NOT about hockey. And with that as his justification, he turned down the part. Because apparently the whole face-swapping bit wasn’t a problem, it was the lack of beefy men on skates. So he was out, and so was Brambilla, and that paved the way for the film we know and love today! A film directed by muthaf**king John Woo. A film starring John Travolta and his chin. A film with doves, and boats, and non-verbal communications of emotion.
Also, fun fact: I don’t believe Depp has yet starred in a hockey film!