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Post Info TOPIC: Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood samurai - Rolling Stone - 11/16/95


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Date: 11:27 PM, 12/27/10
Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood samurai - Rolling Stone - 11/16/95

Another one from Cagefactor, this one is truly awesome.

Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood samurai.

By: Schruers, Fred, Rolling Stone, 0035791X, 11/16/95, Issue 721



Nicolas Cage reaches on tiptoe to the top of a tall cabinet and in the same motion - schlang - unsheathes a glinting, leg-long samurai sword. It hums like an unholy tuning fork as he stands spraddled, deep-set eyes aglow. Uh, yeah, Nic, whatever you want to do. He slaps the swinging door open as an invitation to the kitchen, which suddenly seems quite tiny. The only handy perishable turns out to be a wrinkling green pepper that - tossed into range - twice gives up chunks to his two-handed slashes. When his visitor whiffs once, then razors the wounded pepper cleanly down the middle, Cage punches the air: "You got it!"

"Everything," Laura Dern's Lula once said to Cage's Sailor, "is weird on top and wild at heart." Cage - a 31-year-old actor as worthy, we're now starting to understand, as almost anyone active in the trade - is only occasionally weird on top. But he's still got the other half of the equation covered. We watched him begin 1995 as the terrifyingly pumped-up "goombah thug" Little Junior Brown in Barber Schroeder's Kiss of Death. This month he brings us into the bleak wintry light of the down-spiraling suicidal, alcoholic Ben in Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas. In her song of the same name, Sheryl Crow was riffing off the semiautobiographical novel by
John O'Brien, who killed himself a few weeks after signing the deal for the Figgis film version. Cage has been doing masterly work, regrettably undercelebrated, for almost 15 years now. But still we think of him as Crazy Nic, the guy who ate the bug in Vampire's Kiss, had his teeth pulled for Birdy, got slapped silly by Cher in Moonstruck and, oh, yes, seven months ago married actress Patricia Arquette - at her request and despite the fact that he'd  been out of touch with her for eight years - before any skeptical voice could say, "Snap out of it,"

"Listen, I'm gonna ask you something," Arquette, 27, recalls saying before popping the question. His affirmative response was so immediate, she had to point out that she was serious. "Yeah, I know," said Cage. "I'm serious, too." Close study finds Cage an inveterate truth teller. Ask the familiar question - if not an actor, what would he be? - and there's no posturing in the response. "If it wasn't for this, I would probably be in some kind of trouble," he says. "But the way things turned out for me, I've been given a gift, and I treat it as something sacred."
Figgis won't even listen to the end of that question. "No," he almost barks "No. Some people can only be performers because their temperament is not suited to anything else. Nic has to be an artist; his brain is in a constant turmoil of interpretation. Very rare. He's uncanny in his choices I never don't believe him. And he makes a bad film watchable."

True enough, though we could talk about the unfunny comedy Trapped in Paradise ("A disaster on a lot of levels," says Cage) or the unthrilling adventure Firebirds. But the mark of the Nicholson-scale greats is that we ignore their clinkers and turn up eagerly for their next movie, such as the recent cult smash Red Rock West. For Cages upcoming mainstream gig, a thriller set at Alcatraz called The Rock, Cage has obtained some insurance: He's working alongside Sean Connery. Cage says he'll portray "really kind of a nerd - not the action guy." He almost visibly snuggles in with the idea - his wussy explosives technician playing off Connery"s gruff ex-con. "Just that voice alone," Cage says of the burring Connery, "to be able to act with his rhythms. I could have a lot of fun working with that." Mr. Not the Action Guy looks pretty convincing resheathing the sword before sitting once again at the long table in his wood-paneled dining room.

Talk turns to the latter-day samurai and novelist Yukio Mishima and his slightly botched hara-kiri - he got the sidestroke, faltered on the upward dagger cut. "So he's considered kind of a failure, which really in my mind is kind of unfair," says Cage. "I mean, does anybody ever stay focused when they're doing that to themselves?" It's worth pondering for Cage, who just played one of the truly intriguing ritual deaths ever rendered on film: 112 minutes of slow. ravaging pickling in vodka gin, tequila and dozen shades of amber hooch, ushered in by the ever-more-certain sense that Ben, despite a chance at operatically unconditional love (in the person of Elisabeth Shue's wonderfully played hooker, Sera), is
dead set on leaving Las Vegas only in a box "The thing about the movie that I questioned to some extent is, are people going to get in step with a man who is just not going to try?' asks Cage. "Who is not even going to make an attempt to be with this woman, who, whatever her walk in life is, is a true love?" In the opening sequence of Leaving Las Vegas, to the accompaniment of Michael MacDonald's grainy-voiced, slow-swinging take on 'Lonely Teardrops," we see Cage ditty-bopping down the aisle of a liquor store, swaying from the waist as - with a
drunkard's sauced-just-so precision -be loads a shopping cart with bottle after bottle.

'Nic did his wonderful body improv stuff that he does," says Figgis. "He's a dancer, a natural. It was meant to be seen much later in the picture, but we put it in as the opening shot because in one image it establishes that this man is charming, he's pretty energetic, and he's an alcoholic." "And yet he's happy," says Cage. "A man who has made the decision to die is not really fighting anymore. Ben had let go. It's like We're going down the river, and you can try to hold on, but if you just let go, you're riding, you're floating you're up, you're smiling.' And that seemed to be the way to do it and not have the lines become maudlin. I wanted Ben to be a sort of study in crumbled elegance: at one time probably the life of the party, a real star socially; great way with words, real command of the language; and a sense of style - the watch he wears, the way he dresses And he's gone to a point now where it's all startingto decay." "When you're an actress," says Shue, "You're very aware of the men you hope to work with, because usually your parts are going to be supportive of those men, and so you become extremely picky. And Nic's incredible
freedom and range has inspired me over the years. As out there as he is, he's also out there in terms of his emotions and depth of feeling. The humor he brings to Ben is so devastating because it comes from pain. And the tenderness. . . I love it that there are moments in film history where there is one person who can play a part
and one person only."

Cage was 17 and still going by the name he was born with when we first saw him in the role of the overshadowed Smokey in Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish. "That was a hard experience for me because I was still Nicolas Coppola," says Cage, "and I felt the pressure from the other actors like 'He's just here because
Francis is his uncle.' And once Francis made me do 42 takes - a scene looking at a watch - and I've never had to do 42 takes again in my whole career. I know that that was like some kind of strange trial that I had to go through." Cages' mantra for his upbringing in the Coppola dan is "I'm grateful," but that's a hard-won realization. As the youngest of three sons born to academician August Coppola, Francis' brother, Cage missed the best years of Augusts' marriage to dancer Joy Vogelsang Cage was only 6 and living in his birthplace of Long Beach, Calif., when Joys' spates of chronic depression led to her first institutionalization. "I'm sure it had a huge impact on me,' he says, "In some ways it still does. But there was a root of sorts that I could draw from because she is so unlike anybody
else. When she went into those places where she thought she was seeing things, she really was seeing things - you talk to any specialist in that sort of illness, and they'll say it's really happening, You can only wonder what she came up against or what she saw. Her insight is pretty deep. I used to freak out that it was go ing to happen to me, you know, but everybody who I asked about it said that if it was going to happen, it would have happened when you were in your teens. "She's OK now,' says Cage, who sees Joy often. "But being a child and having visited her in those places, walking down that long hallway and the crazy people grabbing at you - 'Oh, we're going to see Mom'- it obviously, when I look at some of the characters, impacted the work. If it wasn't for her, I don't think I would have been able to act. I was just lucky that whatever was looking out for me gave me the ability to be a
catalyst and to convert it into something productive. Since I was 6 1 had invented an imaginary world where I could go to and be these other characters. That's probably where I started acting. I remember sitting on the living room floor and watching TV and trying to Figure out how to get inside the TV - to become one of those characters in the TV. I had a very active imagination, and it was my protector in that I think I had a wonderful childhood" Not long ago, Cage asked his maternal grandmother, Louise Vogelsang (known to the family as Divi), if she still had the old
TV tucked away in a garage at the humble Hollywood compound where Joy lived with Divi for some years (she now has her own place nearby). "Oh, shoot," Cage said when Divi guessed not. But it did turn up, and Cage recently had it and a vintage family phonograph fetched for his downtown Los Angeles apartment Cage still traces his own fascination with Robert Mitchum to a mind game Joy played with August. Perhaps mindful of Cage's theatrically droopy eyes, his father "actually thought that I was Mitchum's kid," says Cage. "I guess my mother, to get a rise
out of my dad, would tell him things like 'Well, Nicky isn't your's I lived with that for 30 years. There's a beautiful old photograph of Robert Mitchurn, and it says, 'To Joy, love and kisses, Bob.' Obviously nothing happened; she was just a young lady in a dance group, and Mitchurn was around, and she got an autographed picture.
But my dad used to always bring him up. So consequently I became a Mitchurn fan. I'd watch his movies and say, 'What is it about this guy that my father finds so interesting?' You know: 'Should I study him?'" August himself was worth studying, His urge to provide "creative stimulus" led to episodes like the time "Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a box of crayons and a stack of paper plates,' says Cage "My brother and I were going to draw our dinner on paper plates. And it got pretty deluded - we got a little angry. "My family has always been very competitive," says Cage. "I mean, there's been a competitive edge on Francis' side ever since I could remember - like any creative individual can fluctuate between being, you know, a very warm man to being, you know, kind of dark." Cage says he was in high school when his "father decided he wanted to go away for a year, and I was doing
very well in school, and he told me that I was going to live with Francis and his wife, Eleanor, in Napa Valley for a year. And Francis' son Roman was there; we're very close, so my father thought it would be a good idea."

After a childhood of relative stringency on his dad's teaching salary, Cage found himself amid wealth. "I always felt a certain Wuthering Heights kind of drive toward . . . I've had a strange relationship with money, because I've seen it from an early age and seen the powerful effects of money. And even when I was a little child, spending summers in Francis' grand old Victorian, the beautiful architecture and the smells of the old wood, I had a motivation to go out and get it for myself. Maybe buying this house was a way of recapturing my fantasy." Cage leads a brief tour of the house, a gray clapboard Victorian leviathan once occupied by est founder Werner Erhard. Hilly, picturesque Pacific Heights surrounds it, but the lower windows are effectively opaque, decorated by stained-glass nature scenes "It's the opposite of a view," says Cage "i think of it as a womb, an inner sanctum of not
being able to look out but being totally safe inside a world that is completely my own that ! can escape to. I love sea creatures, and I love animals in the jungles, so I had the stained glass designed after that." A monumental stone warriors face enfolds the tiny fireplace, into which Cage recently "threw a couple bricks of
Black Cat firecrackers - and put my Nine Inch Nails way up as they were exploding," Upstairs is a cozily sculptural double bed, a large aquarium and a bunkerlike study where you can sit in Erhard's motorized leather recli ner and tweak an array of gizmos and screens. "Yeah," says Cage simply with a they-think-I'm-weird roll of the eyes. Although Cage keeps an apartment in an old building amid the "seedy, dilapidated beauty" of downtown Los Angeles, he says, "This was the first place I bought with some idea that I was actually going to live here - because I'm a family
man. I try to set up different worlds. I always fight with this feeling of being trapped, of being stuck in one place. It's kind of like I'm a shark, and I've got to move, or I'll die I think that comes from starting in acting at 17, living my life in hotels, then finding myself back at home, thinking, 'Well, now what do I do; where do I go?' Always wanting to keep moving," The actor's mission of "shape shifting" began in 1983 when, after a couple of early acting sorties, he set out in earnest on his film career by changing his name to Cage. He was still fresh from his often recounted days as the least hip kid at Beverly Hills High School (he dropped out, got an equivalency diploma but fore-went college). The girls who were used to dating Porsche-owning guys didn't care to ride the bus with him, and he was so trifled with that he once dressed up as a sunglasses-wearing stranger named Roy Richards
to tell the tough guys to quit picking on his cousin Nic. "I want to get taken for myself," he told Divi as he sat at her table cooking up a surname. "Vogel" had its moment be fore he went for the last name of composer John Cage, who was much admired by August He chose the name in time to turn up to read for Martha Coolidge's Valley Girl, and as the James Deanish Randy, he began to carve out his territory. Contrarian that he is, Cage equipped himself with a tattoo - a lizard about 8 inches long accessorized with a top hat, cane and wax flute of the sort kids get on Halloween. Although it was etched somewhat discreetly on his back, it made a statement. "It was a stupid rationalization - like I will never have to take my shirt off again in a movie - at a time when I felt like I could have fallen into the trap of being the 'beefcake hunk' bullshit," he says. "More important, I was claiming
my own body and my own right as a man over myself in a circumstance where my father would see it. He went, 'Oh, my God,' and his face turned white. It was a good moment. Like a metamorphosis." But Cage had plenty more skins to grow and shed. As the brutal Mad Dog Coll in Coppola's Cotton Club, Cage took a Method approach in emulation of such heroes as Robert De Niro. Cage was "behaving like a guy who listened to early Who music and wanted to he a rebel, a punk rocker, an outlaw of some sort, and didn't really know how to act I don't need to do that now, but because I went through that period, it still comes back to bite at me sometimes" As a shellshocked Vietnam vet in Birdy, Cage took the occasion to have his still-intact wisdom teeth pulled (not, per the legend, having other ones
knocked out), then went bucktoothed and goofy for the part of Kathleen Turner's husband in Peggy Sue Got Married. Loyal Uncle Francis fought off the studio execs with the promise that he would fix Cage in the editing, but Cages' Charlie Bodell remains one of mainstream cinema's notorious grotesques.

Trapped for weeks in a hotel room in Santa Rosa, Calif, Cage and costar and fellow upstart Jim Carrey ensnared frightened room-service waiters in prop-gun
video scenarios and began a still-thriving friendship and actor's lab. (Another great friend since Cages' school days is Crispin Glover. "He just goes to his own drummer,' says Cage, "and those are the kinds of people that I think ultimately come up with something that stays.") Cage began circling the American icon of Elvis (mixed, perhaps, with murderer Charles Starkweather) by playing the charming hayseed who weds Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona and became part of director David Lynch's brilliant flowering in Wild at Heart. Curious missteps such as
a libidinous Big Easy painter in Zandalee led Divi to ask, "Nicky, why don't you make something that me and my friends can go to and hugh?" Thus began what Cage calls his "sunshine trilogy": Honeymoon in Vegas, Guarding Tess (his tribute to Divi, who shares fond cantankerousness with his co-star Shirley Mac-Lame) and It Could Happen to You. And then, the unfortunate Trapped in Paradise, shot during the coldest winter in the history of Canada. Cage says he was "very frustrated in the middle of the snow and the shoot" and was thinking, "I just don't want to make
movies like Trapped anymore. I can't do it anymore." Then Kiss of Death came up. "My agent at the time said, 'You can't support David Caruso in a movie,'" says Cage. "And I thought, 'Well, you're wrong, be cause I think David's a good actor, Bar-bet Schroeder is one of my favorite directors, and I really want to play this part.' To me it was like, finally, I was going to be able to get the stink off of me of that last experience, to blow out of this state of schmaltz that I can't stand." In preparation for Kiss of Death, Cage tucked away eight meals a day, pumped iron till his torso was like so much marbled beef and entered the brutal asthmatic's world of Little
Junior Brown. Cage would take part of his inspiration from his son, Weston, 4, who was born out of wedlock to then girlfriend Christina Fulton and who, like Junior, is an asthma sufferer. "In no way would I want my child to model Little Junior as something to be," says Cage. "But it was part of being able to play the dichotomy of the man who  had asthma yet was this very strong, albeit nightmarish character. He needs to be violent to survive. It's not unlike the jungle. "I'm just trying to get to the purity of the character, and it's much simpler now than it used to be," says Cage. "Now I'm kind of back to trying to be more truthful, not thinking so much that 'Oh, this will be shocking.' But I realized on Kiss of Death that by the end of the day, you're nauseous with it - threatening one guy with a cigarette or punching somebody to death. I just thought, 'I don't want to go there anymore' - don't
want to go to that shitty little corner of my mind where I could actually see myself contemplating this behavior."

Earlier in the day, after serving up a platter of delicious lobster that got cracked and consumed over some childhood history, Cage had spoken of his need for rituals In Los Angeles that meant his new surfing fixation; here in Pacific Heights it means a workout - which he has now missed. "But a cigar can be a good ritual," says
Cage. "I wish I had one. Wanna walk?" On the way down the hill to a tobacconist, he discusses the other bookend of his year's free work: "Ben is self-destructive. The hard thing to do was to manifest the physical deterioration of an alcoholic to that acute a point. I guess John O'Brien, who wrote the book, had a very sad life; his father apparently felt that the book was a suicide note. One day his family all came to the set, and it was kind of a spooky day. I Was wearing the exact same watch that John actually wore, which I had no idea of, and coincidences
like that seemed to seep t hrough the veil of what was real and what wasn't. It was a very emotional thing. They were crying. "A lot of tragedies are looked down upon now because of the lack of commerciality, you know," says Cage. "But as Mike Figgis says, it's an essential part of our culture because it prepares us for these rites of passage. Maybe by some definition my cousin's death [Francis' son Gian Carlo was killed in a boating accident in 1986] impacted my decision to do this movie, although it's an entirely different situation. It got me thinking
about death at a very early age. "At the time that I was going through the movie, I was also at the end of my relationship with my exgirlfriend," says Cage, "and so I was going through my own private wringer, anyway. In a lot of ways that fueled the performance. So I have Kristin Zang to thank for that. She and I were not happy at that point, and it just went right into the character. Fortunately we managed to become friends after my getting married and all." Cigars now secured, Cage leads the way to a coffee shop. Aside from a couple of handshakes and
autographs, he's largely left in peace as he sits in his black leather coat at a sidewalk table, relating the tale of his mythic romance; 'It does sound, from the outside looking at it, like some really strange thing some kind of off-the-wall insanity," he says. "And yet it just felt really right." Cage runs it down - sighting Arquette one night in Canters Dell, in Los Angeles in 1987, brashly informing her they'd get married one day, insisting she set him on a quest. She scribbled her demands out on the spot: J.D. Salinger's autograph, a black orchid and
a Bob's Big Boy statue - a Caddy-size piece of fiberglass sculpture. The next day he came to her doorstep with a signed Salinger letter (costing a couple grand from an autograph shop), which he set in a cigar box with an apricotand a sweet Dominican cigar. The day after that he pulled up to her window on his motorcycle, whipped out a purple orchid and spray-painted it black to leave on the stoop. "I almost got the Bob's Big Boy last night," he told her. "I'm going back tonight with the right took." "Look, stop," said Arquette. "I'll go away with you." Trying for Cuba, they got as far as Mexico, then went on a Sailor-and-Lula run through the States before breaking apart after three weeks. They both still cherished a notion, but, says Arquette, "his success was scary to me - I couldn't touch him." She hooked up with a businessman and had a child, Enzo, now 6 years old. Then, after filming True Romance and Behind Rangoon, Arquette was once more in Canters for soup when Cage walked in. Arquette, who can take on an Elizabethan tone, was struck again by "his grandeur and his wildness and his sense of honor." One evening in March, Arquette was sitting at her house with a girlfriend and the woman's fiance when, abruptly, she said, "I'm gonna call Nic, and I'm gonna ask him to marry me." Even in a Hollywood movie, you can't make up this stuff. Cage and Arquette were married on top of a cliff by the Pacific in Carmel, Calif., two weeks later. She remembers "stormy skies, crashing waves, dark woods - and everything out of focus except Nic in the center with this light all around him." They formed a quartet with the lady preacher and the local chief of police, who was their witness. "There was no doubt in my mind," says Cage, "that this woman was my equal and that I was meant to
he with her from long ago. It never really left I mean, we only went out for three weeks and went on with our lives and had these kind of extreme adventures completely exempt of one another that always somehow managed to
keep us in sync, along with this parallel connection in that she came from a creative family that would enact characters and skits, and I can remember the exact same thing happening in my family with my brothers [Christopher Coppola directed Cage in the little-seen Deadfall, in 1993; brother Marc is a San Francisco DJ]. We
married each other, we're both from the same tribe, which is interesting to me, and I'm happy."

Cage and Arquette
are looking for the fight project in which to work together, and, of course, they're each other's favorite actor. And who's to dispute his wife's contention that our subject is, as she says, "the ballsiest actor around"? "This city gets great light," says Cage, wrapping his coat tighter for the walk home in the early evening cool The cigars will he finished by the fireplace. "It's funny, last night I had had images," he says. "I remember I used to be very arrogant. I used to say that when I die, it's going to be really messy because I believe in the Japanese samurai code, which is, the more blood, the more nirvana you would obtain in the other life - that you would reach a higher state. And so I would try to be some sort of modem samurai m my thinking and brag that I wanted a car accident, just torn apart all over the street. Which is a frightening thing to say, you know, because now I'm
a father, and I don't want anything like that to happen. "But I accidentally ran over a black cat once in my truck, and my boy was with me, and, you know, I didn't want him to see it," says Cage. "The cat lurched in front of my wheel, and from the rearview nirror I could see it jumping in the street and, like, doing all kinds of flips
and stuff, and I thought, 'I don't want Weston to see a mangled cat.' He was only 2. It's too much; it's too violent. "That image stuck with me," says Cage. "You know, I love Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix because there was something so free about their music I always wished I could do it with acting, but I'm not able to, really. I'm
limited to a certain set of rules, to a script. Still, I can have wild dreams of making something really far-out of a character - but unless he's crazy like in Vampire's Kiss, it's hard to get abstract. Yet if that law applies in music, why can't I do that? Why can't I go forward in the abstract? The weird image that I have in the back of
my mind is of the cat jumping up and down. How can I express that?" Cage's cigar - like the fire inside the grant stone head at the wall -glows faintly in what's become an almost night-dark room. "That image came back to me last night," he says. Only the faintest translucence comes through the stained glass, but he walks over to stand and peer out. "I was sleeping, and there was that cat jumping in the rearview mirror again."



Faery Queen of Cagealot Castle

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Posts: 8403
Date: 2:55 PM, 12/28/10
RE: Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood samurai - Rolling Stone - 11/16/95

YES!! This is sublime Nic vintage! starry
a must for our interview archives... a treat however many times you read it and for those who have never read it before. Thankyou for posting Lady True!

Altough the article is about so much more than 'Leaving Las Vegas', I am very struck by these comments by Mike Figgis and Elisabeth Shue:

"No. Some people can only be performers because their temperament is not suited to anything else. Nic has to be an artist; his brain is in a constant turmoil of interpretation. Very rare. He's uncanny in his choices I never don't believe him. And he makes a bad film watchable."

"When you're an actress," says Shue, "You're very aware of the men you hope to work with, because usually your parts are going to be supportive of those men, and so you become extremely picky. And Nic's incredible
freedom and range has inspired me over the years. As out there as he is, he's also out there in terms of his emotions and depth of feeling. The humor he brings to Ben is so devastating because it comes from pain. And the tenderness. . . I love it that there are moments in film history where there is one person who can play a part
and one person only."

And also it is very touching to see the references to Nic's grandmother Divi, Louise Vogelsang, ..may she rest in peace. lotus




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