Pig director Michael Sarnoski: 'People bring a lot to a Nic Cage movie'

Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff in Pig

Nicolas Cage and Alex Wolff in EIFF opener Pig

The Edinburgh International Film Festival makes a very welcome return with opening movie Pig, starring Nicolas Cage. Ahead of its European premiere, we speak to the director and producer about resisting violence and subverting expectations

'It's a movie about meeting other people and acknowledging their grief and their inner world,' says debut director Michael Sarnoski of Pig. 'So it felt authentic for us to see things through Rob's eyes, but also for the audience to come to understand him gradually on a deeper level. We were very aware that people bring a lot to a Nic Cage movie; they have expectations, and we were keen to see how those expectations would shade their watching. We didn't set out to subvert anything, we just wanted to make this character study; so if we did flip things round on the audience, then that was just an accidental side-effect.'

Cage plays Rob, a truffle hunter in search of his missing pig; it's a role which might sound like Farmer John Wick, but the film subverts audience expectations in a surprising way. Sarnoski shares a story credit on Pig with the film's producer, Vanessa Block, who notes that while audiences know Cage well from The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off, they should be prepared to see a very different side of the star here. 'Nic has an association with action, so I think there was an expectation that this was going to be an action-driven thriller,' she says. 'It's much more of a meditative drama, and that subversion of expectation creates a lot of intrigue.'

Rob's journey takes him from his grungy backwoods farm to the upscale restaurants of Portland and beyond, traveling in a flashy yellow sports car driven by the sympathetic Amir (Hereditary's Alex Wolff), whose father Darius (Adam Arkin, son of Alan) knew Rob during his peak as a successful chef. 'Each of the three men in the film represents a different facet of the normal response to loss and trauma,' says Block. 'Rob is a solipsistic type who leaves everything behind, Amir has responded with some masochism, and his father Darius takes on a more sadistic quality; so that trifecta worked on a character level. There's an element of noir about this man travelling back into his past, and peeling back the layers of who he was, and is.'

Sarnoski continues: 'It's become a media expectation that people think that the story will be resolved by violence; I'm not saying that I'm commenting on that obsession with violence, but it is something that we can't deny. I'm glad that people end up feeling so close to these characters. I enjoy a movie where, by the end, I feel that I've made a friend, especially if initially they might seem like the kind of friend you would not want to make.'

Pig, Festival Theatre, Wednesday 18 August, 7pm; general release in cinemas from Friday 20 August.

Pig

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • UK
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Michael Sarnoski
  • Cast: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin

A truffle hunter who lives alone in the Oregonian wilderness must return to his past in Portland in search of his beloved foraging pig after she is kidnapped.