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FEATURE: UN-CAGED . . .
 



 

Nicolas Cage is an actor seriously dedicated to his craft. So much so that during the filming of the 1989 Vampire’s Kiss he famously ate a live cockroach . . .

In fact the Knowing star gobbled down two cockroaches. Apparently the actor was quite full of himself at the time and fought a lot with the film’s director, Robert Bierman. Bierman however got his revenge by making Cage do the scene twice. “Every muscle in my body didn't want to do it, but I did it anyway,” Cage says. He went through with it because he saw it as a “business decision.”

“I’ve seen this movie in the theatre,” Cage explains. “When people see that cockroach go in my mouth it’s like the bus blowing up in Speed. I mean people really react and it’s like worth two million dollars in the special effect and all I do is eat a bug. So, it’s good business, but, Bierman got the shot in the first take and still he made me do it again. So I ate two bugs, but he used the first take.”

In fact Cage is so dedicated to acting that he’s willing to – gasp! – take a pay cut to play roles he desperately wants to or sees as a challenge. So it was that he was willing to accept a “mere” $2 million for his dual role as twins in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation (2002) after commanding a whopping $20 million for his part in Windtalkers that same year.

The son of comparative literature professor August Coppola (a brother of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola) and dancer/choreographer Joy Vogelsang, Cage changed his name early in his career to make his own reputation, not wanting to coast along on his famous uncle's coattails. Cage (ever the comic book nut) took the name “Cage” from a comic book character named Luke Cage, the “first black superhero.” Famously director Tim Burton once cast Cage in his doomed Superman project. Cage even did fittings of the costume! When asked on The Tonight Show which superpowers he would prefer to have, Cage said flight – which is kind of peculiar for someone who apparently suffers from vertigo . . .

Cage’s passion for acting also reached a personal high when he smashed a street-vendor's remote-control car to achieve the sense of rage needed for his gangster character in The Cotton Club. “There's a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic,” he later admitted sheepishly.

Cage should know because his own career has been pretty schizophrenic so far. An unlikely star to say the least his career kicked off with roles in small indie dramas made outside the Hollywood system. Initially studying theatre at Beverly Hills High (though he dropped out at 17), he got a bit part in Fast Times at Ridgemont High in 1982 – most of his part was cut though, which led him to resorting to a job selling popcorn at a movie theatre, thinking that would be the closest he would ever come to a career in the movies. Fortunately a job reading lines with auditioners for his uncle Francis Ford Coppola's Rumble Fish landed him a role in that film in 1983. Shortly after he got a role as a punk-rocker in Valley Girl and his career was finally launched.

With his “ever-present hangdog countenance” (as one critic called it) Cage was one of the 1980s’ least-likely stars, appearing in films such as Racing With the Moon, The Cotton Club, Birdy (all 1984), The Boy in Blue (1986), and Peggy Sue Got Married (also 1986, as Kathleen Turner's boyfriend and husband), directed by his uncle.

"Cage's career has been pretty schizophrenic thus far!"

His two 1987 performances in Raising Arizona and opposite Cher in Moonstruck followed. He flirted with action hero status in the war drama Fire Birds (1990), but his eccentric role as an Elvis-like drifter in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart in 1990 probably fitted him better. More eccentric parts followed in Zandalee (1991, as a “sex-crazed creep” as one observer put it), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), Amos & Andrew, Deadfall (both 1993, the latter directed by his brother Christopher Coppola), Guarding Tess, Red Rock West, Trapped in Paradise (all 1994), and the remake of Kiss of Death (1995).

In 1995 Cage won an Oscar for his party animal performance in Leaving Las Vegas, and the following year his career catapulted into the megastar sphere when producer Jerry Bruckheimer cast him as an action hero in The Rock alongside Sean Connery in 1996. (Bruckheimer was quite fond of casting indie stars such as Steve Buscemi in his action blockbusters.)

Two more action hero roles followed with Face/Off and Con Air (both in 1997). Cage’s paycheques also exploded: he got $240,000 for Leaving Las Vegas, $4 million for The Rock, $6 million for Face/Off and $16 million for Snake Eyes (1998) and $20 million for Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000, again for Bruckheimer). Still Cage took an $18 million salary cut to work with legendary director Martin Scorsese in Bringing out the Dead, for which he was paid $2 million.

But Cage isn’t famous for just his acting career or his mild eccentricities (such as for instance living in a fake castle on the outskirts of L.A. and wanting to import an authentic one from overseas). His name has also been romantically linked to various well-known actresses and celebrities and in true Hollywood style he has been married twice before his current marriage with Alice Kim whom he met at a sushi bar where she was a waitress. She was only 20-years-old at the time they married. Cage was 40 – twice her age.

Most famously he was briefly married to Elvis’ daughter Lisa Marie Presley for less than two years. Before that he was married to Patricia Arquette for about five years (they had one child). Mild eccentricities? Patricia Arquette thought him pretty weird: he proposed to her on the day he met her in the early 1980s. Arquette thought he was a bit peculiar, but played along with his antics by creating a list of things Cage would have to do to win her. When he started to work his way through the list, Arquette grew scared and avoided him. They met again many years later and later went on to marry.

He was also engaged to Kristen Zang and his name has been romantically linked to those of Jenny Wright (whom he dated for two years) and then Uma Thurman. After a relationship of several years with Kristina Fulton, a model, they split and share custody of a son, Weston Coppola Cage (born 1992).

There seems to be no stopping Cage – he’s quite a busy man and seems to have been fully booked for the past few years, appearing in Lord of War, The Weather Man, World Trade Center, Ant Bully (voice only) and The Wicker Man in the space of a year and a half or so.

In Ghost Rider Cage finally got a chance to play a comic book hero, and one close to the, um, skin at that: Cage has a Ghost Rider tattoo on his arm which actually had to be removed with cosmetics to play the role.

In Knowing, his latest flick, Cage stars as a professor who stumbles on terrifying predictions about the future - and sets out to prevent them from coming true.

Next for the actor is Kick-Ass, a movie adaptation of the violent comic book by Mark Millar upon whose graphic novel last year's unexpected hit Wanted (starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy) were very loosely based. Kick-Ass is about a young teenager comic book fan who so desperately wants to become a real-life superhero that he dresses up in a gimp uniform to battle crime but - because he doesn't have any real superpowers - just get beaten to an inch of his life most of the time. Nicolas Cage will play a former cop who, in his quest to bring down an evil drug lord who has trained his 11-year-old daughter to be the ruthless vigilante Hit Girl.

Next in the the pipeline is the actor lending his voice talents to Astro Boy and G-Force for 2009 and appearing in The Dance, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Season of the Witch for 2010. In The Sorcerer's Apprentice Cage plays a sorcerer (Cage) who leaves his workshop in the hands of his apprentice (Jay Baruchel), who gets into trouble when the broomstick he's tasked to do his chores for him somehow develops a mind of its own. In Season of the Witch Cage is one of a group of 14th-century knights who transport a suspected witch to a monastery, where monks deduce her powers could be the source of the Black Plague.

Busy dude. Middle age doesn’t seem have caught up with Cage . . . yet.


 



 

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