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Post Info TOPIC: 'You've got to be able to break the wall' - interview from 2007


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Date: 4:03 PM, 10/01/10
'You've got to be able to break the wall' - interview from 2007


'You've got to be able to break the wall'

Nicolas Cage took his name from a comic book, and now he's finally playing his first superhero. So why is he feeling so unfulfilled and restless?
Dorian Lynskey The Guardian, Friday 16 February 2007
Back when he was Nicolas Coppola, and casting directors were more interested in talking about his uncle Francis than giving him work, Nicolas Cage set himself an ultimatum. "I kept getting rejected," he says in a slow, musical drawl, like a lizard sunning himself on a rock. "And it got to me, so I wound up in the hospital with hepatitis and mononucleosis. It was horrible. And I said to myself, I'm not doing this again. I'll do one more audition and if I don't get it, I'm done. A lot of my friends from Napa Valley were going up to Alaska and working on the crab boats and coming back with $25,000 and buying sports cars. I thought, I'm going to go and do that. So that was the plan. Sort of a Melville-like existence at sea if I didn't get the job as an actor. And then I did, and everything was changed."

Indeed it was. During the 1980s, in films such as Birdy and Raising Arizona, Cage made his name with a series of eccentric, exaggerated performances that were larger than life: too large, sometimes, for the movies to contain. David Lynch called him "the jazz musician of actors". In 1989's Vampire's Kiss, he famously demonstrated his dedication to his craft by eating a live ****roach - an incident so central to Cage lore, that, if he had dropped dead before his Oscar-winning performance in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas, his tombstone would probably have read: "Here lies Nicolas Cage. He once ate a live ****roach."

Instead, contrary to expectations, he became a bona fide movie star. After Leaving Las Vegas, he signed up for The Rock, one of Jerry Bruckheimer's wham-bam, macho action spectaculars, and followed it with the similarly high-octane Con Air and Face/Off. In 1999, Sean Penn, demonstrating his famous charm, tact and good humour, told the New York Times: "Nic Cage is no longer an actor. He could be again, but now he's more like a performer." But that was a false distinction. Customising his dialogue and character traits, Cage attacked his popcorn roles with infectious relish. At his blockbuster best, opposite John Travolta in Face/Off, for example, he generates a manic electricity that you don't get from, say, Vin Diesel.

In his latest film, Ghost Rider, a Marvel Comics adaptation about a demonically possessed biker with a flaming skull for a head, everything unpredictable stems from its star. You can spot the Cageisms a mile off - like the way his character cheers himself up with jelly beans, Carpenters records and videos of chimps doing karate. In one scene, he drinks a pot of coffee straight from the hotplate. "That happened because my mother was teaching mentally challenged adults how to dance, and there was one man she told me about who took a hot scalding pot of coffee and just drank the whole thing down in one gulp and didn't think about it." He sculpts a pot out of the air with his big, expressive hands and his face lights up. "And I thought, well, that's amazing. I've got to put that in a movie."

Today, the fifth floor of Claridge's is dominated by an efficient publicity machine, at the centre of which, in a dark, stylish suit and a dyed-black, swept-back mane of hair, sits 43-year-old Nicolas Cage. He looks like a hip mob lawyer, the kind of character he might have fun with on screen. As the interview starts, he shifts from a chair to a sofa. "I've been moving around the room trying to get fresh perspective," he explains. It's a little thing - a self-consciously actorly thing - but it beats the barely concealed boredom of most actors on an all-day junket. It shows a desire to remain interested, and interesting.

To that end, he is happy to stray off topic, except when the publicist pops his head around the door, prompting a stiff little speech about Ghost Rider being "fun" and "spooky" but with "a pretty cool message". Weirdly for such an avowed comic-book buff, it is Cage's first superhero film. He was mooted to play the Green Goblin in Spider-Man but that clashed with his Oscar-nominated role as twin brothers in Spike Jonze's Adaptation. At one point during Superman's long journey through development hell, he was attached to play the role for Tim Burton. "I was going to play up his feelings of being an outsider, the alien aspect. And when I saw this version of Superman I realised they wanted a much more traditional, nostalgic approach."

It's typical of Cage to see Superman not as an all-American hero but as a stranded extraterrestrial. As a kid, his favourite characters were Ghost Rider and the Hulk. "What's interesting about them is they're monsters and yet they're good. At the time I was having nightmares, and Ghost Rider was a way of getting control of the bad dreams - to have them for you instead of against you."

He says the bad dreams were inspired by scary movies -"nothing out of the ordinary" - but it was a troubled household. His mother, dancer Joy Vogelsang, was a schizophrenic who spent much of Cage's youth in mental institutions; he was raised by his father August, a literature professor. The turbulent Coppola blood that almost drove his uncle mad making Apocalypse Now froths in his veins, too. Many years later, Cage discovered that the children of schizophrenic people were often manic overachievers. "For me, acting was a way of taking destructive energy and doing something productive with it, and in that way it was quite a life saver," he says, pitching forward enthusiastically. "Instead of turning it on myself or on somebody else, I put it on film and created characters to express anger or express sadness."

When he started acting, he seemed driven to push harder, to go further. After considering the surname Blue, he settled on Cage, after the Marvel character Luke Cage, and fashioned himself a volatile outsider persona. His life was already a kind of performance. In his teens, he did funny, reckless things. He had sex in a Los Angeles street, inspired by the Beatles' song Why Don't We Do It in the Road. He bought a Camaro and went about smashing it up by driving into dustbins. When he was 18, he was on a date in an LA deli called Canter's when he decided to "take the volume way up" and smashed a ketchup bottle against the far wall. "They love that now," he says, smiling. "They hated it for a long time and wouldn't let me in. I went in recently and they said thanks for all the press."

Most people have a mischievous inner voice that urges them to do stupid, inappropriate things. Was he just obeying his? "Oh yeah. Oh yeah! There's no question that I had a Tourette's-like lack of inhibition in me. You've got to have some of that if you want to be interesting as an artist. You've got to be able to break the wall. That's part of it." Was he doing this stuff for fun or to prove something? "It was both. It was a fine line between the two. How much of it was for the art and how much was just for the excitement of it would be hard to break apart."

Cage says he started to turn the corner while making 1987's Moonstruck. Director Norman Jewison phoned him on Christmas Eve 1986 to tell him it wasn't working out. "I was trying to be Jean Marais in Jean Cocteau's The Beauty and the Beast," says Cage, as if this were a perfectly sensible strategy for a romantic comedy co-starring Cher. "And Norman thought it was bizarre. I knew I had to soften the performance or I was going to be fired."

How does he feel when he watches one of his old performances now? Entertained? Embarrassed? Confused? "It's all of the above. Sometimes I think I can't believe I got away with that, I can't believe I wasn't fired, but boy, that was kind of interesting. Sometimes I'm unsure. I don't usually stay tuned."

He remembers one time at Martin Sheen's house, back when he was friends with Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez, before he started acting. "Marty came into the room and said, 'The only thing that matters is: did you like the people you worked with? Did you like where you were?' And I thought, well, that's not quite right, is it? It's about work, it's about doing a great job, it's about amazing performances. But this is a man who had a heart attack on Apocalypse Now and had found a way to live his life where he's happier. And it occurred to me that he's right. In the big scheme of things that is all that matters." But those words took a few years to kick in? He smiles faintly. "Yeah, they did."

It's tempting to slot Cage into a traditional Hollywood narrative: Wild Man Grows Up. Outwardly, he seems settled. After stormy marriages to Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie Presley, he now lives with his third wife, Alice Kim, and their 23-month-old son, Kal-El, who takes his name from Superman (Cage also has a 15-year-old son, Weston, by actress Christina Fulton). He collects art and reads philosophy (he is keen to get this across). He doesn't smash condiments or gobble insects any more. But he bristles at the idea that he has become safe. It's true that alongside the lucrative, $20m-a-pop dreck (National Treasure, Gone in 60 Seconds), he has taken his fair share of risks, often dropping his fee accordingly. Some paid off artistically but not commercially (Bringing Out the Dead, The Weather Man, Lord of War); some were outright misfires (Captain Corelli's Mandolin, The Wicker Man). But they were risks all the same. "I do feel a sense of duty to keep trying to push the envelope," he says, but at the same time he worries - excessively, I think - that only action movies will survive the shortened attention spans of the MySpace/YouTube/PSP generation. "It's almost like when silent films went talkie," he frets, his brow rumpling. "I will have to continue finding very succinct ways of putting my drama into adventure-based movies."

Perhaps he's looking to explain his current disillusionment with acting. He has an extraordinary number of films in the pipeline - the Internet Movie Database lists nine, seven of which he is also producing - but he sounds restless. "I may stay doing this for a while longer. I don't really know just yet. I may have other interests I want to pursue. I've done this for 43 years now." He corrects himself. "I mean, I've acted professionally since I was 16." What an interesting slip of the tongue. Maybe he really does feel as if his whole life has been a performance.

Anyway, something has changed. "The biggest problem for me was feeling that as I became more balanced and a better man that I wouldn't have the fire to create from. Or even the desire to do it any more. Because what's the point of showing oneself on camera if you've moved on to bigger and better things in your mind? I think what makes people fascinating is conflict, it's drama, it's the human condition. Nobody wants to watch perfection. How many people went to see [Dalai Lama biopic] Kundun? People want to see the monkey. They don't want to see the eagle. We all want to watch the train wreck."

Now that Cage is, by his own admission, not the train wreck he once was, he seems slightly adrift. What would he do if he gave up acting? Put his feet up? Work for charity? Finally explore the crab boats of Alaska? "Well, there is living," he says with a flicker of laughter. "There's not just acting about life. Picasso said art is a lie that tells the truth. What if you just want to tell the truth and not lie about it?"



Faery Queen of Cagealot Castle

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Posts: 8403
Date: 1:20 AM, 10/03/10
RE: 'You've got to be able to break the wall' - interview from 2007

Lady T.... This interview has one of my favourite Nic quotes and favourite Nic pics of all time. starry

I don't know why but this pic of him in simple black T and jeans is just so...... And coupled with that quote "Picasso said art is a lie that tells the truth. What if you just want to tell the truth and not lie about it?" I think it's the natural looks and intelligence.... heart.gif




The Changeling

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Posts: 1288
Date: 1:52 AM, 10/03/10
RE: 'You've got to be able to break the wall' - interview from 2007

He does have a mind that makes ya want to know just exactly what makes him tick....doesn't he?


"Love one another but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls"
~~~~ Khalil Gibran ~~~~

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