Into the Woods: Nick Nolte as Clay Banning
Angel Has Fallen not only takes Mike Banning into his darkest hour but also his hidden past
Angel Has Fallen not only takes Mike Banning into his darkest hour but also his hidden past. Things take a wild switchback into turbulent father-son territory when Banning looks for refuge in the last place on earth he ever thought he'd go- his long-estranged father's off-the-grid cabin. Here he has to confront a man he has never understood or had the chance to question: the Vietnam veteran who walked out on him as a boy and retreated from his PTSD and paranoia into life as a lone survivalist in the woods.
Creating a sometimes comical, but always compelling, contrast with Butler's Mike Banning is the casting of Nick Nolte, known for his portraits of characters with tough hides but convoluted innards. Here, he brings a sense of frayed dignity to a man not quite sure if he's ready for redemption.
"There's a fascinating contrast between Mike and his dad because Mike is driven to keep running into war and his dad is still trying to run from it," notes Waugh. "What Nick brings is so much more than comic relief. His dynamic with Gerry is very tense and funny, but also very moving. There was a kind of magic that happened between them, and Nick is such a giving person that his passion inspired the entire crew, and me."
Butler greatly enjoyed the raw and original relationship that erupts between the two characters—both fiercely stubborn, uncompromising men who push all of each other's buttons. "All along, it's been a deep regret in Mike's life that he never really had a father, but now that he needs his father that means he also has to put up with him," laughs Butler. "He and Clay think they are cut from different cloth, but now that they're forced together, it allows them to see their connection. And Nick was so brilliantly weird and charismatic as Clay, he gave the relationship just the spark of intensity it needed."
Nolte came aboard because he loved the idea of putting such a damaged, complicated, razor-tongued character—one who reflects a reality for some veterans—in the middle of the hardcore action. "I was interested in the challenge of this role," Nolte explains, "and I was also drawn to working with Gerard. That turned out to be a bigger treat than I even imagined it would be because he really is at the top of his game right now."
For Butler, Nolte's commitment to a man who has never learned to trust was a thing of beauty. "For someone to have been in the business this long and still bring that gorgeous, childlike energy where he's always excited about the scene and gives all he can is amazing. In that first scene at the cabin, you can feel so much going on inside Nick all at once: he's broken, grief-stricken, excited, questioning, wondering, fearful, judging, hoping and more. You can see Clay's whole life and struggles coming through in just the way Nick moves his face. As our characters grew closer, we also bonded in a big way."
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