Nicolas Cage gave an interview to the New York Times and, like the man himself, it is suitably unhinged. The absolutely bonkers Q&A contains more Cageiness than previously thought possible, so much of it that the Times felt the need to summarize its own profile. In the piece, a game Cage pontificates at length about how he drew acting inspiration from animals, his metaphorical and literal quest for the Holy Grail, and how he feels his movies will be remembered.
Nic Cage aficionados have frequently looked at some of the 55-year-old's stranger acting choices and wondered what well he's pulling from. He gave a bit of a peek behind the curtain and said he's drawn inspiration, for one, from exotic animals he owned. He told interviewer David Marchese he sourced his movements as Ghost Rider from a pair of king cobras he kept as pets.
"They would try to hypnotize you by going side to side, and when I did Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, that’s something my character does before he attacks," he said.
Cage said he doesn't feel he's alone among actors in sourcing from the animal kingdom. "Actually, I thought Heath Ledger was doing some reptilian stuff as the Joker, with the tongue darting out all the time." That performance in 2009's The Dark Knight won Ledger a posthumous Oscar.
Cage also explained away some of his more notorious purchases—the first issue of Action Comics, a dinosaur skull that had to be returned to its country of origin—as an indulgence in "personal interest and my honest enjoyment of the history." He started out explaining his affinity for rare goods and real estate (he bought castles in both England and Germany) as a quest for knowledge that became a literal quest for the Holy Grail, like a real-life White Goodman, saying, "It's a metaphor, but that actually happened, though."
"I started following mythology, and I was finding properties that aligned with that. It was almost like National Treasure," he said. "I became like a kite with a string but no anchor. No one could understand what I was talking about. And I thought people would rather see me as an orangutan than as an eagle meditating on the mountaintop anyway."
"It’s like when you build a library," he continued. "You read a book, and in it there’s a reference to another book, and then you buy that book, and then you attach the references. For me it was all about where was the grail?"
Ultimately, Cage returned to metaphor and found that the entirety of the planet was a receptacle for Christ's blood. "What I ultimately found is: What is the Grail but Earth itself?" he said.
Cage answered an inquiry about his history with Johnny Depp by insisting he got the one-year-older-than-him friend into acting. Nic rented an apartment to the future Captain Jack Sparrow when Depp “was at the point in his career where he was selling pens or something to get by. He would take my money and buy cocktails but wouldn’t tell me about it. He admitted it later.”
Playing Monopoly in the early '80s, Cage suggested that the unsure, hopeful-musician try acting. Cage's agent got Depp a Nightmare on Elm Street audition, yielding Depp's film '84 debut. “He got the part that day. Overnight sensations don’t happen. But it happened with him,” Cage said.
The always-busy actor—the Times tallied 20 Cage movies in the last two years—still has time to hear about how the world views him. He knows his choices, both in acting and otherwise, have turned him into a meme. However, he thinks time will be kind to his work. "Earlier in my career I was very specific in my concept of who I wanted to be. I saw myself as a surrealist," he said. "I think time is a friend. Many of my movies that were mocked are enjoying a renaissance. So I’m hopeful that time will be on my side." Elsewhere he said, "I’ve taken risks. But there has been a collision between the acting experiments and the memeification extrapolated from them. That has not been intentional."
Of course, all this looking back might lead readers to believe Cage is hanging it up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nic thinks he's on top of his game and still has a dream role to tackle. "Captain Nemo," he revealed. "My first love, even before my parents, was the ocean. When I read Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the depiction of Nemo was that he was also in love with the ocean. He had freedom, and he lived in a palace that was also a submarine, playing the organ. To me, that was a beautiful life."