Filmmaker Sion Sono has delivered audiences a number of ambitious genre films over the years, finding ways to blend together unexpected themes and narratives to create entirely original adventures. His latest effort, Prisoners of the Ghostland, enlisted Nicolas Cage as its hero, but Cage isn't the only fan-favorite genre performer in the effort, as the actor goes toe to toe with The Devil's Rejects star Bill Moseley as "The Governor." Bringing the new project to life saw a number of challenges for Moseley, as it was Sono's first English-language film and put him up against Cage, though Moseley brought his A-game to give just as colorful and memorable a performance as Cage's. Prisoners of the Ghostland hits theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD on September 17th.
Prisoners of the Ghostland is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman -- and his own path to redemption.
ComicBook.com caught up with Moseley to talk joining the new film, transcending the language barrier, and his favorite member of The Munsters.
ComicBook.com: Going back to the origins of how you got involved with this, what was your connection to the director's work and how did this opportunity come about?
Bill Moseley: I had seen Tag before, just because I'm a fan of Asian, extreme cinema, (Takashi) Miike and (Kim Jee-woon's) I Saw the Devil. And I'm always happy to find new, cool movies. I remember seeing somebody recommended Tag, so I remember just seeing the opening five minutes of that, just going, "Oh, my God." So I knew Sion, not that well, but I had my buddy Reza Sixo Safai, one of the co-authors of the script and also one of the producers on the movie and we're pals, and he had seen me in 3 from Hell. That ended up really being the entree. He had recommended me for The Governor and Sion apparently was a fan of mine, which is always good to hear, so that was the origin of getting the part.
It's interesting, you mention this wave of extreme, Asian cinema from the '90s and '00s, at a time where you really had to seek out filmmakers like Takashi Miike and then track down every movie they've done. They weren't in video stores and, if they were, they were on the bottom shelf, covered in dust. But now with streaming services and access, people like Miike or Sion Sono's entire body of work can be accessed relatively easily compared to in previous decades.
Well, it's always fun when you discover a new director and then you just get into his or her filmography and just grab after everything you can find. And with Sion, it's amazing. I certainly did that with Miike. With Sion, it was amazing because, after Tag, I went right to Suicide Club, Tokyo Tribe, Antiporno, Why Don't You Play in Hell?, and then my favorite, which really blew my mind, which was a Cold Fish.
So to hear that he was a fan of mine via Reza and via the casting process, really, it was a great honor to hear that. I was very touched and excited about that and, of course, the screenplay is just amazing. The story is incredible. And the idea of ... I had been to Japan back in, I think 2006 or 2007. It was right after we wrapped Repo! The Genetic Opera, so I had a little cash and I took the family to Japan for a Christmas, but I hadn't been back since. I'd only been there once. And it's one of my favorite places on Earth, so the idea of shooting there with Sion and Nic Cage and Sophia Boutella, I was a big fan of her from The Mummy and from Atomic Blonde. Her scene in Atomic Blonde is incredible. I said, "Look, whatever it takes, get me in there. I totally I'm ready for it."
There's going to be some logistical challenges, some production complications that you're dealing with when you have a filmmaker who's not speaking verbally the same language as you. So what were the unexpected gifts of working with a filmmaker where you can't necessarily communicate verbally and you have to find other avenues to convey what you want to do while also learning what he wants to do with this film?
I didn't really know exactly ... I didn't really have a complete bead on the character until I was there in Japan in Miabara. Miabara was the town on Lake Biwa, which is where the Green Gargantua emerges from in The War of Gargantuas. So I was really excited about that. Just parenthetically, I'm a big Kaiju fan. Working with Sion, he was there when I put on the white suit for the first time, for The Governor's wardrobe, and he was looking at me and he was giving me a critical eye and I was standing there in my white cowboy hat. Everything was there. And then the wardrobe person came in with the red gloves, and once I put on those blood-red gloves and Sion stepped back and looked at me and went, "Governor." I was like, "Okay, I did it."
I am the embodiment of Western evil; the cowboy, the white suit, but the blood on the hands, and that was the communication. It wasn't really written. It was just that sense of, "Yes, that's who you are." So after that, even though there was certainly a language barrier, I don't speak Japanese, I could just tell that it was working when he would smile and move on. If there was a special note, there certainly was a translator. Sometimes the translation was a little off, and so I would go off in a different direction, but for the most part, we got her done. He liked what I was doing and that was pretty much it. It was actually pretty simple. There wasn't really a big communication gap that in any way affected the performance.
A lot of movies you've been in, no matter how much or little screen time you get, you deliver these larger-than-life characters that are often frightening, yet also have some comedy or silliness to them. Nicolas Cage also has a history of delivering huge characters, regardless of their intentions. Can you talk about what it was like working with him, given you've both delivered such big and memorable characters?
I had met him a couple of times. I met him at Rob Zombie's wedding years earlier. Just a cursory, "Hi, this is Bill." "This is Nic." "Hello, how are you?" I also had met him once again on the set of Rob's fake trailer for Grindhouse, "Werewolf Women of the SS." He played Fu Manchu at the very end of that little minute-and-a-half gem. I'd seen him in the makeup trailer, but I certainly didn't know the guy by any stretch. I was a little nervous in terms of he is an Oscar winner and he's a big guy.
I was a little worried about how he would react to me, to tell you the truth, because sometimes you can be over-awed, but I just thought that he was really a good actor, very focused, knew his stuff, not at all self-conscious in terms of just being in the moment, being in the same scene. Everything was very easy just to be in the story. I wasn't distracted by him. There was a sense of maturity that everything was going to be fine and that just being in a scene with him certainly had me up my game, although I like to go for it, too. I didn't have to do too much other than just be my character, say my line, and connecting with him was easy and fun.
You mentioned Rob Zombie, who you've worked with a number of times, and he's working on a The Munsters movie that hasn't revealed its cast yet. I don't want to try to get you to spoil any casting announcements or anything like that, but, regardless of your involvement in that project, do you have a favorite Munster?
Grandpa. Although, I've got say, I've been at a couple of conventions recently with (Eddie Munster actor) Butch Patrick, and I've had a great time with Butch. He's a wonderful guy. When we were actually in Indianapolis about a month ago, Butch took me for a ride in The Munsters' coach. He has The Munsters' coach, which has a 451 Chevy engine in it. Goes like hell, so amazing. So I'm going to have to say Butch. Butch is now my favorite Munster.
Well, Bill, thanks for taking the time to chat and I look forward to hearing any potential updates about this new The Munsters.
My pleasure, Patrick, and do keep in mind that I have a comic book out. Cursed Cornfield that I did with Szymon Kudranski.
Oh, very cool. And is that on shelves now?
It's not. It's on my shelf, but I only printed a hundred copies.
Prisoners of the Ghostland hits theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD on September 17th. Head to the official Cursed Cornfield website to learn more about the comic book.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.