The oral history of Face/Off

Inverse took a deep dive into the surreal history of Face/Off, speaking to various cast and crew (but notably not John Woo, Nicolas Cage, or John Travolta) about their experiences of the 1997 blockbuster:

MICHAEL COLLEARY, SCREENWRITER: Face/Off was always a pleasure.

MIKE WERB, SCREENWRITER: We were aiming to pay off our student loans. It was the decade of the big spec sales. We initially set out to write a piece set in prison. We were very influenced by James Cagney’s last great gangster movie, White Heat, and the sequence that takes place in prison.

MICHAEL COLLEARY: I did a little research in the library, back in those pre-historic days, about the Attica Riot. What if a guy goes undercover into a prison and there’s this huge riot? He’s a law enforcement officer and he’s stuck in there under a fake identity. How about a prison in the future?

MIKE WERB: Once we said, Why can’t the good guy be the bad guy and why can’t the bad guy be the good guy?, then we were trying to figure out how to make that work without doing things that had been done before: good and evil identical twins, some sort of voodoo, personality swap. Melding that with the futuristic prison, we thought, Well, facial surgery. I had been frightened as a child when my aunt Sunny used to announce that she had to go “take her face off.” To a 7-year-old, it was terrifying.

I love Face/Off because it’s buckwild, full of nonsensical action, and I loved seeing John Travolta do a Nicolas Cage impression for most of the film. It’s so 90’s it hurts and all for the better. I also love that it’s part of the Disney conglomerate universe; it’s one of the least “Disney” movie you can think of.

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