The Untold Truth Of Nicolas Cage

There are certain actors where you can easily track their path from promising newcomer to superstardom. Actors like Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Johnny Depp were at the forefront of a host of hotshot newcomers making waves in the '80s and '90s based on their acting choices and leading man roles. But a more unusual candidate for the position of Hollywood's next leading superstar was actor Nicolas Cage. 

Cage broke on to the scene with notable roles in such '80s movies as "Valley Girl," "Raising Arizona," and "Moonstruck." He followed up those character-driven roles with crowd-pleasing blockbusters in the '90s, including "The Rock," "Con Air," and "Face/Off." And yet, despite his well-established Hollywood leading man status, there always seemed to be something remarkably offbeat about Cage's acting and film choices. After falling off the A-list for a bit in the last decade, the actor has seen a career resurgence in the past few years with well-received indie films on a variety of unusual subjects. And new audiences have freshly discovered Cage's impressive backlog of more than 100 movies from the past 40 years, leaving them curious about this charismatic star. 

Well, if you want to know more about Nicolas Cage, here's the untold truth about one of Hollywood's most talented actors.

Nicolas Cage stands by his work

While Nicolas Cage has one of the most acclaimed and prolific bodies of work among any living actor, his star was perceived to have faded in the 2010s. That was the time when the actor started doing seemingly random movies of varying quality in the direct-to-video market.

Fans were surprised to see the former A-lister who'd appeared in so many leading Hollywood films stooping to the task of doing low-budget schlock that would struggle to get a release in theaters. But Cage himself refuses to consider such movies as beneath him, declaring that he was happy to get work to pay off his debts (GQ puts it in the millions), and he in turn always gave his 100% to all his roles no matter what the budget of the movie. 

"When I was doing four movies a year, back to back to back, I still had to find something in them to be able to give it my all," the actor told GQ. "[The VOD movies] didn't work, all of them. ... But I never phoned it in." According to Cage, there was a misconception at the time that he was picking roles that paid without caring about how the movies themselves turned out, when in fact he did care about doing his best work in each and every role he took on.  

Discovering Johnny Depp

Hollywood is full of stories of unknown actors getting their big break in the most unusual places. But the film industry being the competitive place that it is, rarely do such stories feature already-established actors giving the newcomers a leg up. Nicolas Cage was one such actor who was already a star when he discovered a promising new talent in the shape of young Johnny Depp.

The story goes that when Depp first entered the entertainment industry, his dream was to become a famous musician rather than an actor. At the time, Depp lived in the same building as Nicolas Cage, and the two struck up a friendship. "[Depp] was at the point in his career where he was selling pens or something to get by," Cage told The New York Times Magazine in 2019, adding, "We were good friends, and we would play 'Monopoly,' and he was winning a game, and I was watching him, and I said, 'Why don't you just try acting?'"

The suggestion did not go down well with Depp at first, who didn't see himself as a thespian. That was when Cage went a step further by hooking Depp up with his own film agent. One of the first jobs that the agent sent Depp was an audition for a role in a little horror flick called ... "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Depp aced the audition, got the role, and thus began his own journey to Hollywood superstardom.

Number 1 fan of Superman

A big part of being a comic book fan is collecting memorabilia related to your favorite comic characters. For the average fan, this could mean buying a T-shirt with the Batman logo on the chest. But richer fans like Nicolas Cage go a step further and celebrate their fandom by buying memorabilia worth millions of dollars. 

Cage has always been open about his love for comic books. The actor had a valuable collection of rare and vintage comics that he amassed over many years. The crown jewel of the collection was a near-mint condition copy of "Action Comics No. 1," featuring the first appearance of Superman. Given the importance of the Man of Steel in the superhero genre, the significance of the Man of Steel's first comic could not be overstated in the collectors community. Unfortunately, the comic was stolen from Cage back in 2000. 

But the story does not end there. The missing comic was eventually recovered after more than a decade had elapsed when a buyer purchased the contents of a nondescript storage locker in Southern California. Unfortunately, Cage had to sell the freshly recovered piece of comic history to pay off his debts at the time. The comic then created a new record when it sold for $2,161,000 in an online auction. 

Outbidding Leonardo DiCaprio

While Nicolas Cage is an avid superhero fan, he collects far more than just comic books. As he amassed greater fortunes thanks to a string of leading roles in blockbuster movies, the actor went on a bit of a splurging spree, buying up houses in foreign locales, exotic wildlife, and rare artifacts.

The question of ownership of one such rare artifact saw Cage going head-to-head against none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. The item in question was the skull of a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar, a cousin of the T-Rex. According to The Telegraph, Cage won the skull only after a fierce bidding war against DiCaprio, in the end shelling out $276,000 to add the skull to his private collection. 

But the story doesn't end there. Some six years later, it appeared that the skull had been supplied to the auction house through illegal means. After discovering this fact, Cage elected to return the skull to the proper authorities rather than try to assert his own claim over the item since he paid for it (and never got his money back). Perhaps those "National Treasure" films Cage did were an attempt to make up for the real-life disappointments the actor has experienced when it comes to procuring precious artifacts.    

A tomb fit for a king

Nicolas Cage loves buying stuff ... for this life and the next. To that end, there is a pyramid tomb in New Orleans earmarked as the final resting place for Cage when the actor is ready to shed his mortal coil.

The nine-foot mausoleum is shaped like a pyramid, with the Latin words 'omnia ab uno' (meaning "everything from one") emblazoned across the front. Far from being an impulsive buy to be forgotten shortly afterwards, Cage seems quite serious about being entombed inside the pyramid for eternity. The actor has been spotted visiting the site of his would-be grave on occasion, presumably making sure everything is in order for when he has to finally use it.     

What makes this particular purchase specially intriguing is that Cage has never publicly commented on his reasons for buying such an outlandish tomb for himself. Fan theories have ranged from the tomb being a tribute to Cage's "National Treasure" franchise to a sign of the actor's interest in Voodoo mythology. At this point, the conspiracy theories surrounding Cage's final resting place are more intriguing than whatever the real reason might eventually turn out to be.  

Extreme acting

If you first became aware of Nicolas Cage through internet memes, you would know that the actor is famous for his extremely forceful acting, even in scenes that don't seem to merit such force. While this has occasionally led to accusations of overacting, the truth is Cage sincerely believes in his maximalist style of performance rather than using it as a showboating exercise.

This same style has pushed Cage in extreme directions in other bizarre ways as well. For the 1984 drama film "Birdy," Cage elected to have some of his teeth removed in order to better portray the role of a war veteran suffering from severe facial injuries. (In fairness, Cage still had some baby teeth, so these would grow back.) Cage also wore the bandages that his character wore in the movie at all times during filming, resulting in severe acne and ingrowing hair on his damaged skin.      

Then there was 1989's "Vampire's Kiss," in which Cage played the role of an ambitious literary agent who falls in love with a vampire. In one scene, Cage's character eats a live cockroach. If you're learned anything about the actor by now, it won't be surprising to know that was a real cockroach which Cage ate on his own insistence in order to make the scene feel real for the audience. And now we can't help but wonder if Cage ever considered setting his face on fire while playing Ghost Rider.

Nicolas Cage was almost in Dumb & Dumber

While Nicolas Cage is primarily known as a drama and action star, the actor has also displayed a unique sense of comedy in his more light-hearted roles and even in some of his darker dramas. Still, there is one major comedy role that came Cage's way that the actor voluntarily choose to let go of.  

Back in the '90s, Jim Carrey was a fast-rising comedy star. He had an ambitious new project in the works called "Dumb & Dumber," where Carrey would have to be paired opposite another actor playing the role of his best friend Harry. Rather than going for a fellow comic, Carrey wanted a serious actor to play Harry so they could actually play off each other instead of competing over who gets to be funnier.

As it turns out, Cage was an actor Carrey thought could ably play the other half of the now-iconic duo of Harry and Lloyd. "I know Jim wanted me to be in [the film] with him," Cage told GQ. "But I wanted to do a little movie called 'Leaving Las Vegas' instead." It was probably a wise choice, as that's the film that won Cage his Oscar. But while the actor missed out on the chance to star in an iconic comedy film back then, the actor has indicated he is looking forward to doing more comic roles in the future.    

A new style of acting

Much has been written about the unusual and often downright bizarre acting choices Nicolas Cage makes in all his roles. The man can go from whispering to shouting in an instant for seemingly no reason, and his frequent bouts of hysterical laughter in the middle of tense scenes have led to many memes being created.  

Yet despite the seemingly random nature of such acting choices, there appears to be a method to the madness of Nicolas Cage that devoted fans have spent years poring over. This method has actually been confirmed by Cage himself to be a part of a style of acting that he created for himself. The actor has referred to this style in the past as "nouveau shamanic" and also "Western kabuki."

"Nouveau shamanic is nothing other than trying to augment your imagination to get to the performance without feeling like you're faking it," Cage explained in an interview with The New York Times magazine. He described the style of acting as being conducive to opening up your imagination so as to make you genuinely believe in the scene you are about do. According to Cage, an important part of the process is finding physical items called "power objects" that can trick your brain into imagining the scene is part of reality.   

Nicolas Cage's dream role

Nicolas Cage is known for both acting harder than anyone else onscreen and also working more often than most leading men. From small-time crooks to a treasure hunger to a demon biker, Cage has played a variety of action-adventure roles that have enthralled audiences for decades. 

But there still remains one particular role in the adventure genre that Cage has yet to do, one he describes as his dream role. The character of Captain Nemo ‚ÄĒ who appears in Jules Verne's classic novels¬†"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas" and "The Mysterious Island" and has previously been played by luminaries such as James Mason, Patrick Stewart, and Michael Caine ‚ÄĒ has long been at the top of Cage's wish list of characters he wants to portray.¬†

The actor made his wish known during a Reddit AMA session when he was asked about his dream role. "I would like to play Jules Verne's Captain Nemo," Cage wrote in response (via NME), further explaining that he wants the role "because of the character's love of the ocean I share that with him." Considering the popularity of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, it would be awesome to see Cage play a similar sea-faring adventurer role.  

A real-life treasure hunt

The more variety of roles an actor plays, the more difficult is it for them to find something to relate to for each character. While Nicolas Cage has played scores of characters in his long career, one that appears to be close to his heart is treasure hunter and cryptographer Benjamin Franklin Gates from the "National Treasure" series.

Why is this character more relatable for Cage? Because the actor is an amateur treasure hunter in real life. His ultimate goal is to find the Holy Grail of all treasures, the literal Holy Grail itself.    

"You read a book [about the Holy Grail], and in it, there's a reference to another book, and then you buy that book," Cage explained in his interview with The New York Times, "and then you attach the references. For me it was all about where was the grail? Was it here? Was it there? Is it at Glastonbury? Does it exist?" The actor's hunt led him all over the world following clues from scripture and historical tomes. Ultimately, Cage concluded that the Holy Grail is a metaphor for the Earth itself. Which quite frankly sounds like one of those "the real treasure was the friends we made along the way" trope endings that coming-of-age movies use. 

A very naked intruder

Nicolas Cage's professional career seems to be a magnet for some of the most bizarre stories Hollywood has ever told. Is it any surprise that the actor's personal life has also seen a similar bizarreness on occasion? Like the time Cage woke up in the middle of the night to find a naked intruder at the foot of his bed eating a fudgesicle.

If you were hoping to get a clearer explanation for the matter, sorry to disappoint you. The "naked intruder" incident doesn't really have much in the way of an expanded backstory according to Cage. "It was 2 in the morning," the actor explained at the Toronto film festival (via Reuters). "I was living in Orange County at the time. ... I opened my eyes, and there was a naked man wearing my leather jacket eating a Fudgesicle in front of my bed."

Describing the incident as "horrifying," Cage related how he managed to talk the man, who suffered from mental problems, into leaving his house as the police arrived. Cage did not press charges against the intruder, but the incident unsettled him enough to shift himself and his family to a new house in the Bahamas.   

The best of both comic book worlds

It's no secret that Nicolas Cage is a huge comics fan. Interestingly, while audiences know him best as a Marvel actor thanks to "Ghost Rider," Cage has displayed a greater love for DC Comics over a longer period. Apart from buying the first "Superman" comic for a huge sum, Cage has also named his son "Kal-El" in honor of the Last Son of Krypton.

In fact, Cage was all set to put his own spin on Superman with none other than filmmaker Tim Burton, who'd already delivered a giant win for DC with the live-action "Batman" movies starring Michael Keaton. Cage's superhero caper was going to be called "Superman Lives," and although the project was ultimately shelved, a documentary was made about the unmade movie, and test footage of Cage's costume can be seen online.

It was several decades later in 2018 that Cage finally got the chance to play Superman when he voiced the character in "Teen Titans Go! To the Movies." That same year, Cage also voiced a variant of Spider-Man called Spider-Man Noir in the critically acclaimed "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." In other words, the man loves superheroes.

Nicolas Cage got real with death

With so many over-the-top performances to choose from, it can be difficult to remember just how good Nicolas Cage is at selling a quieter, more understated performance when the occasion demands it. One such instance came when Cage was picked by Martin Scorsese to play the role of an insomniac paramedic in 1999's underrated "Bringing Out the Dead."

As was his habit, Cage took his preparation for the role very seriously, going on ride-alongs with real paramedics. While previous efforts to get into character ‚ÄĒ like pulling his own teeth for a role ‚ÄĒ had been relatively easier to accomplish, Cage confessed that he found the ride-alongs particularly terrifying because of how closely paramedics have to deal with death on a daily basis. In fact, during one occasion, Cage was helping the paramedics deal with a young adult who had been shot in his posterior.¬†

The patient appeared to be choking on a piece of gum lodged in his throat. It fell to Cage to remove the gum, at which the patient recovered his senses. "He's looking at me," Cage said of the patient during an interview with GQ. "I don't know if he thought he was hallucinating or what, but he recognized me." Looking back on his time with the paramedics, Cage stated that he learned a few things that were "pretty hardcore" about the horrors they face everyday.