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Sion Sono Explains How His Heart Attack And Karaoking Doors Songs With Nic Cage Shaped ‘Prisoners Of The Ghostland’

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In an artist’s life, there are a handful of pivotal events with the potential to alter their worldview, and with it, their creative output. Getting married, having children, losing a loved one, finding religion — they all have their way of changing a person, ushering their body of work into a new, distinct era. Sion Sono, the Japanese filmmaker known for gleefully profane paeans to sex and violence cranked out at a pace suggesting he’s eliminated the need for sleep, recently faced one such crisis point.

While preparing in 2019 for principal photography on his latest film Prisoners of the Ghostland — his characteristically outré, Nicolas Cage-starring English-language debut, in theaters and online this Friday — Sono experienced a heart attack requiring immediate hospitalization and a risky emergency surgery. Those presuming that a brush with death would slow the notorious workhorse down or diminish his indulgent spirit have another thing coming, however. Though he’s trying to dial down the reckless abandon a smidgen, he still lives like a guy who’d like nothing more than to croak on set, preferably during a take, ideally on camera, with instructions left behind on what to do with the footage.

“During the shoot of Ghostland, I was still smoking and drinking a little,” Sono tells Decider from his home in Tokyo, with an assist from translator and producing partner Ko Mori. “I lived the same, and then when I saw my doctor, he was furious. But I was shooting a movie! That’s my life. I can’t just change it.”

Self-improvement doesn’t happen overnight, and working nonstop for twenty-five years can get a person set in their habits. Sono has established himself as one of the major names in modern Japanese cinema on merit of his tireless work ethic and matching insatiability for baser pleasures. Early successes like Suicide Club and Love Exposure brought him the infamy he sought; the former tracked a rash of group suicides through an underworld of skin-flensings to a subterranean bowling alley, while the latter took four hours to tell the epic origin of an upskirt photography expert. As time went by, his perversions grew more refined and purposeful without softening the provocation, hitting a high point in 2014’s gonzo hip-hop gangster musical Tokyo Tribe.

In its unrestrained mash-up of genres, its idiosyncratic vision of a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and all its testicle humor, that film is the apparent blueprint for Prisoners of the Ghostland, which repackages the transgressive Sono Touch for a Stateside audience. Cage, who anointed this project with the hotly contested title of the craziest movie he’s ever done, plays a criminal tasked with retrieving a Governor’s adopted graddaughter from the surreal dark dimension in which she’s being held. If he’s unsuccessful, the bombs strapped to his family jewels will detonate. It’s the single wildest import to grace Stateside cineplexes this year, but for Sono, it was also the ideal entry point for a new viewership.”I’ve been wanting to do an English-language film ever since around fifteen years ago,” he says. “But the projects in the past never fit with a Western audience, even though I wanted to do this at some point, hopefully sooner than later. Finally, the time was right.”

At first, everything came together in a perfectly felicitous manner. A lifetime spent devouring the output of Hollywood and European film industries left Sono feeling confident that he could emulate their tone and feel for his global hybrid of styles, and he found a spiritual connection in fellow madman Cage. “I met up with Nic for the first time in Tokyo, before filming,” Sono recalls. “When we met up, we went for drinks and discussed some of my films, we talked about Antiporno, and I was pleased to find that he knew my work quite well. We thought a lot of the same things. Later on, we went for a little karaoke, did some songs by The Doors.”

Prisoners of the Ghostland
Photo: Sundance

After what must have been history’s most incredible rendition of “Break on Through,” they got into specifics of vision. Sono knew his star had a fearless taste for the weird, and wanted to coax out the same heroism with a hint of malevolence that Cage flashed as a loverboy con-on-the-run in Wild at Heart. “When we discussed the script originally, we were supposed to shoot in Mexico, in more of a spaghetti Western style, Sergio Leone in its look,” Sono says. “We talked about the hero as a sort of Charles Bronson figure, not a pure soul. But then I had the heart attack, and Nic suggested we instead shoot in Japan. So then, I thought we could make a move to samurai action, in part. The project organically turned into more of an East-West mashup. Cowboys, outlaws, with rōnin included as well.”

As Sono tells it, the relocation to his home nation represents the one meaningful alteration motivated by the cardiac event that almost finished him. On set, it was business as usual, the production ranking among the larger and more extravagant in his maximalist filmography. He forged onward as if refusing to let his own veins and arteries win. “No big change, after the attack,” he says. “In fact, more changes probably came because of the pandemic than anything happening to me personally. That’s the reason that I haven’t made much after Ghostland in the last two years. That’s what’s holding me back. As for the the heart attack, that led to our shooting in Japan and inspired me to add samurai elements. So to my heart, I say: thank you!”

To keep things in perspective, his concept of not having made much includes a feature shot over eight days in 2020 and a short produced under lockdown for the omnibus film State of Emergency. Stopping just short of denial, he’s not at all fazed by a health scare that would’ve reoriented a less monomaniacally driven filmmaker. He’s not easing up for anyone or anything, and joining forces with a star of Cage’s caliber may shoot his career into its next phase, maybe his highest-profile yet. In the gloriously demented cinematic universe lorded over by Sion Sono, continuation is all the victory he needs. He’d prefer not to die any time soon, but he’d rather fill his remaining years on this Earth with as much productivity as humanly possible.

“It’s true that I’d like to shoot as many films as possible in my time on this planet, especially now that I’ve had my English-language debut,” he says. “I want to shoot more in America, maybe in Europe, everywhere I can. I’d like to take every opportunity. So, maybe if I want to do that, I’ll need to hold off on some of the things I like. I just don’t want to stop making movies.”

Charles Bramesco (@intothecrevassse) is a film and television critic living in Brooklyn. In addition to Decider, his work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Nylon, Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vox, and plenty of other semi-reputable publications. His favorite film is Boogie Nights.

Where to watch Prisoners Of The Ghostland

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What Time Will ‘Riverdale’ Season 6 Be on Netflix?

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The season finale of Riverdale aired in late July on The CW. Notice we said season finale? Thankfully, the beloved series will return for a seventh season, but, unfortunately, Season 7 will be the final installment of Riverdale.

If you already streamed the current season, make sure to read Alex Zalben’s interview with Riverdale showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on Decider. If you’re waiting to binge Season 6 on Netflix, well, you better clear your calendar because all 22 episodes are about to drop on the streamer. What time will the sixth season of Riverdale debut on Netflix? What time does Netflix release shows? Here’s everything you need to know.

WHEN IS THE RIVERDALE SEASON 6 NETFLIX RELEASE DATE?

Riverdale Season 6 premieres Sunday, August 7 on Netflix.

HOW MANY EPISODES ARE IN RIVERDALE SEASON 6?

The sixth season of Riverdale consists of 22 episodes.

WHAT TIME DOES NETFLIX RELEASE NEW SHOWS?

Netflix releases new episodes at 3:00 a.m. ET/12:00 a.m. PT.

WHAT TIME WILL RIVERDALE SEASON 6 BE ON NETFLIX?

Netflix is based out of California, so Riverdale Season 6 will be available to stream at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) beginning Sunday, August 7. If the clock strikes 12:00 (or 3:00 a.m. for folks on the East Coast) and you don’t see the new episodes, give it a moment, hit refresh, and then enjoy the show!

WILL THERE BE A SEASON 7 OF RIVERDALE?

Yes! Decider recently covered that very topic.

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Actress Anne Heche Suffers Severe Burns After Crashing Car Into Los Angeles Home

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Actress Anne Heche, known for her roles in such films as Donnie Brasco, Volcano and I Know What You Did Last Summer, was involved in a fiery car crash in the Mar Vista area of Los Angeles on Friday.

According to TMZ, Heche was driving a blue Mini Cooper and had first crashed into the garage of an apartment complex. Residents of the apartment complex tried to get her out of the vehicle but she backed up and sped off.

Footage of Heche speeding down the streets of her neighborhood had been obtained by TMZ as well as her initial encounter at the apartment complex.

In the first clip, you can hear her car crash towards the end. It has been reported that the actress crashed into someone’s home, causing her vehicle and the house to erupt into flames. Heche suffered severe burns and was resisting being taken away in a stretcher. You can also view footage of this via the TMZ article.

It has not been confirmed whether alcohol has been involved in the incident since her condition prevents doctors from performing any tests to determine if she was driving under the influence. She is currently intubated in the hospital but expected to live.

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These are the vulgar license-plate requests the DMV has rejected

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Stay CL4SSY, New York!

The state Department of Motor Vehicles nixed 3,752 requests for vanity license plates in the last three years because it deemed them too raunchy, radical or simply ridiculous.

New York’s personalized plates go for $60 initially, and then $31.25 annually for renewal. You can get any plate as long as no one else has it and it’s not offensive.

Odds are a request for a plate that marks a wedding anniversary or shows your allegiance to a team — like METS86 — will pass muster with the DMV gatekeepers.

Vulgarity won’t get you to first base.

So plates with the phrase LFGM — the acronym for Pete Alonso’s “Let’s F–king Go Mets” rallying cry — did not make the cut.

And you won’t see anyone driving around with the custom plates MILFDAD, AS5M4N and WLHUNG.

Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
Crude meanings such as “MILFDAD” are unacceptable by the DMV.
New York DMV
NYC123
New York state Department of Motor Vehicles denied more than 3.5 thousand requests for license plates deemed inappropriate.
New York DMV
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
“AS5M4N” was rejected for referring to “Ass man.”
New York DMV

The DMV also put NICEBUNS, FATFANNY, GOTAPOOP and BENDOVER in the rear-view mirror.

One player unsuccessfully tried to score the plate YESDADDY, to no avail.

The DMV also shot down such dark requests as DEADGIRL, GENOC1DE, S8TAN, DETONATE and MURDERM3.

“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
“SUM8ITCH” is not allowed.
New York DMV
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
The DMV thoroughly nixed a request for “CNNLIES.”
New York DMV
BOOBIE is prohibited.
BOOBIE is prohibited.
New York DMV

Getting political is a dead end too — FJOEBIDN, FDTRUMP and CNNLIES were nixed.

LUDEDUDE, NARCO, GOT METH and BLUNT also went up in smoke.

Staten Island attorney Bill Dertinger said his blue 1995 Jaguar SJS was tagged with ESQLTD after his company and his 2014 Porsche had the plate GHOSTGTS because the sleek sportscar was white.

“The plates can make you stand out — which can be a curse or a blessing,” the 54-year-old Dertinger said. “Make sure you don’t cut anybody off.”

A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
A man attempted to sneak in “YESDADDY” onto his license plate.
New York DMV
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
The DMV stopped a request for “FJOEBIDEN.”
New York DMV
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
The DMV also rejects any license plates referring to politics.
New York DMV

There must be a New York Jets fan playing referee at the DMV because a request for the seemingly innocent plate GASE was sidelined. Ex-Jets head coach Adam Gase had an offensive 9-23 win-loss record during his forgettable two-year tenure.

The DMV would not reveal who gives the final yea or nay.

“The DMV reviews all custom license plate requests and works hard to ensure that any combinations that may be considered objectionable are rejected,” said agency spokesman Tim O’Brien.

“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
“GLOCKS” referring to guns is not accepted by the DMV.
New York DMV
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
“FLYMOFO” is not approved by the DMV.
New York DMV

He said guidelines on what plate combinations are restricted can be found on the DMV website: https://dmv.ny.gov/learn-about-personalized-plates. Approximately 50,000 personalized and custom plates are sold per year, O’Brien said.

Bagged Tags

The state DMV has rejected 3,752 requests for custom license plates in the last three years because it deemed them potentially offensive. Here are some:

YESDADDY

FJOEBIDN

FDTRUMP

GLOCKS

FLYMOFO

BOOBIE

AS5M4N

BUDLIGHT

DEADGIRL

SUM8ITCH

GENOC1DE

S8TAN

CNNLIES

DETONATE

MURDERM3

MILFDAD

WLHUNG

Source: NYS DMV

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