In ‘Apprentice,’ Cage back in comfort zone 

After playing a corrupt New Orleans cop in Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and a father who thrusts his adolescent daughter into a life of vigilante violence in “Kick-Ass,” Nicolas Cage was eager to return to what he calls his comfort zone.

To do so, he turned to old friends Jon Turteltaub, who directed him in two “National Treasure” adventures, and Midas-like producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the creative engineers behind “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” a family-friendly fantasy opening Wednesday.

“When you go outside your comfort zone, you could be going toward a place you might belong, even if you’re afraid of it,” says Cage, 46. “The opening scene in ‘Kick-Ass,’ where I have to shoot my daughter, scared me. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to recover from that in terms of my quote-unquote image.

“But going in new directions is good because it makes you think. I believe I have enough range to play all sorts of characters. In ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice,’ I felt quite at home in my role. People haven’t seen me play a wizard before, so it was a first, but it’s a movie that children and parents can experience together. There’s not a high body count. That’s important.”

In his latest collaboration with Disney, Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a student of the Arthurian legend Merlin searching for a modern-day apprentice to master the art of sorcery. (Cage, who affects a long, unkempt mane for the part, calls Blake an “ancient rock star.”)

He finds an apt pupil in Dave Stutler, a nerdy New Yorker played by the gangly Jay Baruchel, who cautiously agrees to the training.

Cage, a onetime comic-book collector, admits he is drawn to the supernatural because it allows him to indulge his wildest impulses and the comic energy that naturally flows from them.

“There have been other movies that deal with wizards and magic, but ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ has real energy and style,” he says. “With Jerry producing and Jay as my apprentice, we also wanted to bring out the comedy in the story, to give it enough humor to connect with big audiences and kids.

“While a fine dramatic actor, Jay has a physical, slapstick style, not unlike a young Jerry Lewis. We play off that well together. We have to fight in these big battles, and all of them take place in the background — the normal, nonmagical folks don’t know about them. But this isn’t ‘Harry Potter.’ It’s lighter and funnier, something I was totally committed to from the start.”

IF YOU GO

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Starring Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Toby Kebbell
Written by Matt Lopez, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
Directed by Jon Turteltaub
Rated PG
Running time 1 hour 48 minutes

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