Being on the high wire
Nicholas Cage opens up about his time in Hollywood and his latest film in an exclusive interview on the sets of "Ghost Rider" in Australia.
A TRUE-BLUE L.A. BOY: Nicholas Cage knew early that cinema was his line. Photo: AFP
A peripheral member of the early 1980s Brat Pack, he ought to have gone the way of Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez and infamous Andrew McCarthy. But he has become one of the most celebrated actors of his generation. Oscar-winner and acclaimed personality Nicolas Cage in a candid chat during an outdoor shoot for "Ghost Rider" in Bacchus Marsh, Melbourne, Australia.
HOW would you describe your childhood?
I was a true blue L.A boy. We led a decidedly middle-class life, unlike our extended wealthy Bay Area relatives or my fellow students at Beverly Hills High School. And, like many youngsters today, I hated going to school.
What inspired your entry into Hollywood?
I guess I always loved acting and appreciated the finer aspects of cinema. Even as a kid, I used to imitate actors. One day after watching "East Of Eden", I connected with James Dean's defiant attitude. At the back of my mind, I remembered that my dad would be proud of me if I were of that stature. That was when I decided that cinema was for me.
Immediately I enrolled in the Young Conservatory, part of San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre. But my family returned to Southern California, where I attended Beverly Hills High School. I had to join another theatre school. I hated going to school and valued work experience more than academic education. That's when I began looking for acting roles and appeared in the TV show "Best Of Times" while still at school. Then I got many offers and eventually changed my name to Nicolas Cage (inspired by Luke Cage, a black comic hero) from Nicholas Coppalas.
Has Hollywood changed you as a person?
I don't think it has changed me essentially as a person. But, yes, now I am in a position to help more people. The most comforting factor is that I am a role model to many around the world and can inspire them to achieve greater heights.
Being in and out of three marriages is not necessarily being a good role model though...
(Laughs) That is my personal life. It is the media who swoops in on us and exhibits everything. There should be some restraint in reporting news that may not go down well, especially with youngsters. In saying that, I also stand by my doings and own up to my mistakes. I am very happy with Alice Kim (a 20-year-old Japanese sushi waitress whom he married) and we are enjoying our time together. I would like to apologise to all my fans that have been offended by my break-ups. (Pauses for a while) Sometimes it's best not to be in unhappy marriages I guess.
How was the Oscar experience?
I won the Best Actor in 1995 for my performance as a suicidal alcoholic in "Leaving Las Vegas". It was a nervous yet very validating experience to be enamoured with praises and the love of my audiences and critics.
When you made you directorial debut with "Sonny", why did you choose to cast James Franco?
He was an energetic and enthusiastic person. He shared my passion for the script and also a motivated intensity in his profession. Someone who could be open, someone I could care about with a face that I could read a story on. I saw someone who could be impulsive and crazy in a nice way.
Is your satisfaction the same when you do big action movies as opposed to smaller futuristic work?
Well, I think that they're both different. It's kind of like myself as a person. At one time when I decided to do action films people told me, "You can't do it. You're not that type. It's not going to work." So, that made me think, "Well, that's not comfortable, maybe I should try it. What can I do with it?" So, I did it and I'm glad that I did it and I'll probably do it again.
I did other things that seemed like challenges for me because I like being on the high wire. I like being at that place where you could either fall or stand and that's where I think that you really have a shot at doing something truthful and creative and hence the futuristic films.
Do you think the "Ghost Rider" with its fiery skull and blazing hair could change your respectable image?
(Laughs) I won't be THAT face. There will be other effects, facial expressions and camera angles that will help elevate the viewing experience for the audience without compromising on my image. Besides my image is audience-generated and may be I will reinvent myself.
So what can the audience expect?
A thoroughly amazing movie with all the ingredients of good Hollywood cinema. Since it's based on a very popular book, I am sure people will relate to the visual version too. I am putting in a lot of work and enjoying the shoot, hope my fans watch the movie and appreciate it too.
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