There aren’t any cannons or explosions (at least of the gunpowder kind) in Gore Verbinski’s first post-Pirates of the Caribbean film. And that suits the soft-spoken director just fine. ”[After Pirates] I just wanted to turn down the amplitude and do a film that dealt with characters on a more human level,” says Verbinski, who ultimately found his Everyman story line in Steven Conrad’s dark and slightly surreal family drama.
The writer’s second screenplay in over a decade — Verbinski hypothesizes, ”I think he had his taste of Hollywood [with 1993’s Wrestling Ernest Hemingway] and it took 12 years for him to clean his palate” — the film revolves around Nicolas Cage’s morose weather prognosticator Dave Spritz. A divorced father of two and frequent target of Big Gulp-throwing passersby, the Chicago-based on-air personality finally sees a way to escape the mediocrity of his life when he’s offered a big-time job opportunity. Less than happy for Dave, however, are his ailing, Pulitzer Prize-winning father (Michael Caine), his soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife (Hope Davis), and his precocious kids — one of whom bizarrely hooks her dad on archery throughout the course of the film. ”He was actually getting too good at it,” laughs Verbinski of Cage’s bow-and-arrow skills. ”When we filmed the scenes where he was learning how to shoot, we had to intentionally make it look like he didn’t know what he was doing.”