As much as you think a Nicolas Cage would be a complete asshole in person, nothing could be further from the truth. In my interview with him at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills not too long ago, Cage was beyond accommodating, some might say charming. Of course, this is the game: the journalist and the celebrity – don’t think that I didn’t realize that if we were to have met under any other circumstances, Cage would have surely been more than happy to tell me to go fuck myself. But the celebrity interview is a subtle dance with specific rules: the hunter lobs softballs and the hunted whacks them all out of the stadium. And thus, I find myself taking coffee and biscotti with Nic Cage – one damn nice guy – except for his choice of clothes. Specifically his shiny white snakeskin leather motorbike jacket complete with fringe dangling from the sleeves. I can assure you, this was not an ironic ensemble. Did I mention his cowboy boots were an exact match to the jacket?
Hello. How are you?
All right, you know. People have been really kind.
Well, let’s get right into it: what made you want to become an actor?
I think it was that scene in East of Eden when James Dean is trying to give the money to Raymond Massey on his birthday and Raymond Massey, who plays his father, says, “I don’t want it.” It was—I mean I was 15 and I was in an art house theater and I just felt so much from that, that it moved me more than any other rock song or painting or piece of classical music ever. It was just, “That’s what I want to do.” I don’t know why that scene either, I just felt like I could relate to it somehow.
Do you get to keep any of the props from your movies?
[Laughs] Naw, I’m beginning to now, but I regret not starting sooner. I’m in that phase where I wish I had the fake wooden hand from “Moonstruck” and the snakeskin jacket from “Wild at Heart.” For some reason, I was giving all that stuff away at the time. I felt like it was like an actor shedding his skin, you know—“OK, I’m done with that, let’s move on.”
What are your thoughts on the statements that have been made about you by some of your peers—specifically Sean Penn? Criticisms like how you’re not making more substantial movies like Leaving Las Vegas.
Well, I’m really happy with the career I have. I’m happy with the choices that I’ve made. I feel lucky that I can make all kinds of movies—I can make action films, I can make comedies, I can make dramas. I never wanted to—one of the things I’ve always found really odious is a pretentious actor who thinks that they’re wearing a beret and smoking their imported cigarette and they’re cooler than everybody ‘cause they make only art films. I like art films and I make ‘em—I also like action movies and I make those too. I just wanna do everything.
How do you feel when you hear things like that as well as what the press has to say about you?
Reviews, as we all know, have to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s all subjective. it’s all a matter of taste and opinion. As long as I’m happy with the material, I feel like that’s the first thing that’s really important.
What was the deal with you and Lisa Presley? Can you talk about that was all about? It seemed like it was over before it even began. And just the Presley name – it carries a lot of weight.
Actually I understand the need for that question and I don’t judge it. I just personally want to keep that part of my life private just like anybody else would, you know? It’s like I realize it’s the neighborhood and we all want to know and it’s like that Tom Waits song, “What’s He Building in There” [laughs]. Also in the neighborhood, though, we all want our privacy. I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with the press and I think there’s an understanding—for some reason I think I’ve been able to slide below the radar—I don’t know why, but I feel pretty good about it. Now the fans on the other hand can sometimes get a little uncontrollable – those encounters are always interesting.
What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve ever had with a fan?
Umm. [Long pause]. I was actually—I think the person would actually fall into the stalker category—um, I was being stalked by a mime [laughs]. Silent but deadly, you know. The mime would just be on the set [of 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead] and I think that was the weirdest.
How did a mime get on the set?
I have no idea and I’m not sure how the matter was taken care of, but the powers that be, the producers or whoever, did something about it and I haven’t seen the mime since. I can tell you though that whenever I see a mime on the street or something, I reach for my cell phone and prepare for mime shenanigans.