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From Nicolas Coppola to Nicolas Cage

December 2, 2023
Notes
Transcript
This week I’m joined by Zach Schonfeld to discuss his new book, How Coppola Became Cage. Zach’s look at the early years of Nicolas Cage’s career is deeply researched, featuring interviews with directors like David Lynch (Wild at Heart), Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas), and Cage’s own brother, Christopher Coppola (Deadfall). We talked about Cage’s mythmaking, his anger at being accused of benefitting from nepotism, and his befuddlement at becoming a meme, among other topics. If you’re a fan of the Raising Arizona star or need a Christmas gift for the Vampire’s Kiss fan in your life, How Coppola Became Cage is a must-have. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:06

    Welcome back to the Bull Work Coast of Hollywood. My name is Sunny culture editor at the Bulwark, and I’m very pleased to be joined today by Zach Schoenfeld. Now Zach is the author of the new book, how Copila became cage. It’s a fascinating look at the We could say first half, maybe first third of Nicholas Kage’s career. And, lots of new interviews, lots of fascinating stuff here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    Really excited to have you on today, Zach. Thanks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:31

    Thank you. Thank you for having me on the show.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:33

    So I wanna I wanna talk about, a a a moment that comes up in your discussion of Peggy Sue got married, with, a, a guy, the name is Paul Gurion. I forget exactly what his his role was on the film.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:49

    The producer.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:50

    The producer. Thank you. And he, he you were you’re you’re talking to him about something that happened on on set, having to do with, you know, who Nick cage wanted to work with and and how it was going. And you’re you’re asking them about, you know, how how dramatic it was and and whether or not something actually happened. And it there’s there’s this moment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:14

    I just wanna read it from the book. Here’s here’s Gurean. I’m saying it doesn’t matter if it’s true. Curien insists his voice rising and frustration. It’s a world of make believe if the lines sound better, they’re the ones that will be used.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:27

    You’re trying to find out what is true in a world that functions only on what is necessary. And that’s that’s the end of the quote there. I I I wanna bring this up because this really does feel like the crux of so many of these Hollywood history books. Right? Hollywood is a land of make believe, the land of land of myth making.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:45

    It’s a land where, you know, if it if it sounds good, print it. And the the whole point of a book like this is to puncture that.
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:53

    Yeah. I’m so I’m glad you highlighted that quote because I think that, quote, encompasses both that quote encompasses why this book was so challenging because, I was really trying to demythologize Nicholas Kage because there’s there’s a lot of mythology around him. There are these legends and these stories surrounding him. Like, oh, like, I heard he got his teeth pulled out to play the lead role in in Bernie or I heard he swallowed a live cockroach for vampire’s kiss. And, some of those stories are true.
  • Speaker 2
    0:02:29

    Some of those stories are false. Some of those stories are half true. But he throughout the course of his career, Kate has had a tendency to build up this mythos around himself, exaggerate, you know, try to try to place himself among the Hollywood legends that he grew up worshiping like Marlon Brando and Robert Tenero and Chino. And so I, you know, a lot of the reporting process of this book was all about trying like, reading stories that KHS told about himself, and then trying to fact check that. For instance, you know, he lives talk about the the famous teeth of him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:09

    Sorry. The famous story of him getting his teeth pulled in Bernie, you know, early in his career, he told interviewers that in order to play a Vietnam war veteran, he got his teeth pulled out in order to experience the pain that his character experienced being injured in the war. Now the story wasn’t really true. Later, he admitted that he did have his teeth pulled out while he was making that film, but they were baby teeth that needed to be pulled for dental reasons. And he just kind of used that dental procedure, as fodder to, like, build up this, the story about how intense he is as an actor.
  • Speaker 2
    0:03:45

    And then there there’s another story in the book. Well, the story from Peggy so you got married that that you were talking about I believe that that’s where I’m talking about. He cage has said over the years that his uncle who directed the film, France Fortola, defended him against the studio because they wanted to they wanted to have him fired because his performance in Peggy’s suit got married so wacky and so out there. And he he does this this high pitched nasally voice that really disturbed people on set. And Kage, over the years, Kage has repeatedly told a story about how the studio heads at TriStar wanted to remove him from the film and have him replaced, and Francis Ford Copola went to bat and had to cook a big spaghetti dinner for these, like, suits that try to calm them down and tell them, like, look, my nephew is doing the film, like, like, let him let him cook, basically.
  • Speaker 2
    0:04:41

    And, and so when I interviewed The producer of Peggy, who got married, he basically, what he told me was, like, I don’t think anyone was really trying to fire Nick. Like, I don’t think that’s true. That that that’s not the way I remember it. But it doesn’t matter if it’s true because it’s a great story, and that’s the story that people are gonna tell. And that’s kind of That’s the way Hollywood history works.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:05

    Like, so many of the stories that get passed down are, essentially apocryphal. Like, are they true? I don’t know. Like, all the stories of crazy stuff that Marlon Brando did when he was making the godfather or apocalypse now. I’m sure they’re somewhat exaggerated, but their amazing story.
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:22

    That they stick at people’s memory.
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:25

    And, I mean, look, again, this is this is one reason why I love reading books like this. And love having the authors on to talk about them is because puncturing that mythology, is it’s interesting to see what the it’s not just interesting to see what the true story is. It’s interesting to see what people think audiences want to hear. I mean, that is That’s
  • Speaker 2
    0:05:46

    the
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:46

    fascinating thing about Nicholas cage, who is, you know, he as you say, he’s built up this mythos about himself, he wants people to think he is difficult to work with for some reason. Like, he he this is the early stages of his career. There are several moments in this book. Peggy Sue got married, but, some some of the other early ones as well, where He is saying I’m on the verge of being fired. And, like, that’s that’s a weird thing to cultivate about yourself.
  • Speaker 2
    0:06:11

    It is, but it’s also so so much of the reputation that he was trying to build up was this this extremely intense actor who challenges the line between art and commerce, and, you know, his performances were so out there, especially early in his career, that they made like, his performances made studio heads uncomfortable. They, sometimes made the directors of the films that he was in he was proud of the fact that he would try these kind of out there eccentric performance styles that you know, people weren’t always down with. I mean, he clashed with Norman Juison when he was doing when he was starring in Moonstruck, Norman Juison was director of Moonstruck, and cage, he saw his character in Moonstruck as being very similar to the beast from Beauty and the beast. And Obviously, this was before the Disney version of beauty and the beast. So cage was drawing influence from the Jean cocktail.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:13

    Nineteen forty eight, Beauty and the Beast. And he, apparently, in the early dailies of Moon struck cage, was doing this, like, Grough beast like voice, inspired by Jean Marie’s performance in in that film. And Norman Juison, was, like, cut it out. This is, like, what are you doing? This voice isn’t working.
  • Speaker 2
    0:07:34

    So K Kage was proud of the fact that, like, some of his creative choices made his collaborators uncomfortable just because of how experimental he was being.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:44

    Alright. Let’s let’s talk about, the let’s talk about the title of this how Copila became Caged because, you know, I’m when I was growing up, you know, in the when I would be getting it first getting into films in in the mid nineties, late nineties. Right? The whole Nicholas cage is Francis Ford Copila’s, nephew thing, is it’s it’s a little bit of trivia that, like, people know, but it’s not the first thing they think of. And I I feel like the early part of his career that you’re talking about here that was the defining thing for a lot of people when they were thinking about him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:18

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:19

    And and I I’m I’m curious, to get your take on you know, what did what did the people you talked to, say about his trying to move away from that that reputation?
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:28

    Well, he had a lot of resentment and frustration with the fact that very early in his career when he was starting off, people would dismiss him as what we would now call a nepo baby because his name was Nicholas Copila. His very first film role was in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, he was still credited as Nicholas Copola. And when he was doing that film, The other actors would tease him, and they would say things like, I love the smell of Nicholas in the morning, obviously, referencing apocalypse now. They would you know, people would make fun of him for being, a copala. And I the insinuation is that he got a free ride.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:12

    Like he was just coasting on his uncle’s coattails. The reality is that cage did not grow he did not have a super privileged extravagant upbringing. His father was a literature professor and his his mom struggled with mental illness and was institutionalized for a large stretch of his childhood. So I think Kage had a lot of bitterness about the fact that people thought that he had this, like, super privileged, fancy childhood because he’s related to Francesport Copola, but he didn’t. Like, when he was in high school at Beverly Hills high, he couldn’t afford to have his own car, and that was humiliating for him.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:51

    So he he had a lot of resentment about the fact that, like, his uncle was this fancy, you know, celebrated world class filmmaker and people dismissed him as this, you know, privileged child coasting on his uncle’s fame. He wanted to separate himself from that. He wanted to, really chart his own path And cage, you know, he he talks he he early in his career, he bragged a lot about the fact that when he auditioned for valley girl, which is the first movie that he he did under the name Nicholas Kage. The director, Martha Coolidge, had no idea that he was related to Frances for Topola, despite the fact that she actually worked with Popola at Zoa Trope studios. And so he landed that role in Valley Girl on his own merits without anyone without the director knowing who he was.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:43

    So it was really important it was really important to cage that he prove not only to the world, but to himself that he could make it on his own merits.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:56

    Yeah. But then, of course, he does work with
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:59

    Right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:10:59

    Francis Ford Copola several times.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:02

    So it’s there’s this contradiction there. Like, on one hand, changed his name because he didn’t want people to know that he is Cobble’s nephew. But then he did a supporting role in rumblefish, and then he worked with Cobble again in the cotton club, and then he obviously starred in Peggy Sue got married. So he’d I mean, he changed his name because he was insecure about people thinking that he benefited from being a Copila, but then he did benefit from being a Copila. He he was in three of Copila’s movies, which, obviously, boosted his career very early on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:34

    Yeah. I mean, it’s always interesting to think about, you know, what what might have been, and, who who’s to say Alright. So the, I another another thing that’s very interesting in your book is is, especially early on in Hayge’s career, you know, he styles himself as a method actor, a lot in the mold of Robert De Niro or a Marlon Brando, but it was this weird exaggerated form of method that is like Again, it’s kind of like the mythologized version of me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:07

    Yeah. It’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:08

    like when when you say to somebody, like, oh, he’s a method actor, so he lived on on the streets for six weeks. You know, that that’s not that’s not really what method is.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:18

    No. It’s kind of like the American bastardization of method acting. Right. It’s it’s method acting grew out of, Stynoslowski’s theater teachings in nineteenth century Russia, which which, was much more about, like, forming an emotional with your character so that you can experience the emotions that your character is going through. But I think in the sixties and seventies in Hollywood, they’re emerged this new crass idea of method acting that was like, oh, you need to live in character for twenty four seven during during the time that you’re making this movie and, you know, as I mentioned, Kage was very influenced by these stories that he heard about his, like, his his, his, idles, Marlon Brando and pacino.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:15

    You know, there’s, like, a story about pacino when he was making Circico. He went so deep into his character that he’s he went around arresting people and pretending to be a cop. Kage thought that he needed to do stunts like that in order to give a great performance. Or he just wanted to do stunts like that because it made for a great story, and it helped him build up this reputation. I think the most the most infamous example and the, obviously, the book delves into the stories of the cotton club.
  • Speaker 2
    0:13:47

    Which was one of the Copola movies that Kitch starred in. When he was only nineteen when he was doing the cotton club, He was very young. He was still starting out, and he was very enamored with the idea of taking method acting to an extreme. And he took it too far because in that movie cage is portraying this despicable character, like this super racist homicidal gangster in, you know, nineteen thirties, New York mob, mob world, and So Kage, like, tried to live the part of a nineteen thirties gangster. So he he went around.
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:28

    He just, like, smashing vintage automobiles, and he trashed this remote control car, and he destroyed his trailer. And he was acting really destructive and and really erratic because he wanted to instill fear in people around him because he felt like that’s how his character would act. At one point, He there’s a story in my book about how at one point he started using the n word on set because in the movie, his character uses the n word his character is super racist. And he almost got into a fight with, a black person on the set who was understandably very offended, like, who is this white actor using racial slurs. So, you know, the the point of the story isn’t that Nicholas Kage is racist.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:16

    The point of the story is that this This is a guy who took method acting to an extreme and, you know, almost alienated and and pissed off all of his collaborators in the process.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:31

    Now in in the book, you mentioned a couple of times that you you asked Nicholas Kade for interviews, couldn’t couldn’t, make it happen. I’m curious, a, if he got a sense of why, but, his people did respond to a specific question about that story. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:44

    That yes. So, I reached out to Kage’s manager multiple times, requesting an interview with him, and, Basically, all the manager said was Nick doesn’t wanna participate in the book. Best of luck, it was a polite and friendly exchange. And I don’t I don’t know why age declined to participate. I have I have my own theories about why, but I he never gave me a reason.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:11

    But, yeah, I so I did reach out again when I was, like, finishing and editing the book, I I gave Kage a chance to comment on that one story about him using racial slurs during the cotton club because I felt like that was the most potentially contentious story in the book. You know, that’s like the one story where it’s like, oh, like, this makes Nicholas cage look kinda bad. Like, I I felt like journalistically, I should give him a chance to respond and and have his say. So I did. I reached out to his representatives, and and I told him that that story would be appearing in the book.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:47

    And his manager called me and said, you know, Nick doesn’t remember this happening. He says that this never happened. And so I I gave him I included his response in the book.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:59

    What are so what’s your theory as to what you did not participate?
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:03

    So, I don’t know for sure, but Two I have a couple theories. Why why I didn’t catch participating in my book. One, I suspect that he would rather talk about his more recent work. He especially now that he’s been in kind of a bit of a career revival. Between Pig and the unbearable weight of massive talent, and now it’s new eight twenty four film Dream scenario.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:29

    He’s done you know, his his performances from the past past few years have been much better received than pretty much anything he did in the preceding decades. So I I suspect that he doesn’t like the fact that my book focuses on his earlier career, because he’s he’s definitely He’s sensitive about the idea that, you know, oh, like, Paige used to be a great actor, but his new movies suck. You know, I think he he would rather talk about his his recent performances and and kind of celebrate this, career revival that he’s been enjoying. My other theory and this is pure speculation. I don’t I don’t have any inside information here.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:10

    But I would imagine that maybe he might wanna write a memoir one day, and I’m sure that, like, any publisher would pay him millions of dollars for a memoir because it’s it’s it’s notable that Kage has never written a book. And, you know, my suspicion is that perhaps he doesn’t want to participate in a book like this because he wants to save his stories for a memoir further down the road.
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:38

    Sure. No. Well, that makes sense. I let’s let’s let’s talk about some of your, the the folks you did talk to. So, you know, they you have interviews with, amongst others, David Finch, Mike Figgas, of course, David lynch directed him in, wild at heart, and Mike Ferguson leaving Las Vegas, but, other other people as well, and I I’m curious what sense you got from them about him?
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:03

    What was what was the general, take on Nicholas cage, actor collaborator, from from these folks.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:13

    Pretty much every director that I interviewed about Nicholas Kage with one note very notable exception, and we’ll get to that. But pretty much every director that I talked to spoke so highly about his inventiveness as an actor and his his spirit of of creativity and collaboration. David Lynch has described Kage as the jazz musician of actors, and I I asked him, what do you mean by that? And and he explained, you know, he can improvise. He he can just riff on something and he can just keep going, you know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:19:49

    And Lynch is the kind of director who he likes it when actors bring their own ideas and improvise and really kinda make the character their own. Whereas, by contrast, the Cohen Brothers, who I did not speak to for the book, they declined to participate. The Cohen Brothers clashed with Kage a little bit when they when they were making raising Arizona. And my understanding is that The Cohen Brothers, they the way that they write the script is the way that they want actors to read every line. Like, they don’t like it when actors add that or change the script.
  • Speaker 2
    0:20:27

    And Kage is a kind of actor who really wants to, like, make the character his own and bring his own ideas and the Cohen Brothers weren’t totally down with that on raising Arizona. Mike, Mike Figis is obviously a notable source in the book because he directed leaving Las Vegas, which is one of the great cage performances. And it’s it’s the first and only time Kitch has ever won an Academy Award. And, yeah, Mike Mike Figas talked about how Figgas felt like, you know, Kage was so committed to this performance in and and know, leaving Las Vegas was a low budget film. Kitch did that movie for virtually no money.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:10

    He did not expect it to be a big award Oscar Busy movie. Like, that was not the expectation at all. You know, he just he did the movie because he was passionate about the character. And I think the first time he read the script, it it made him emotional, it made him cry. And and Mike Figis talked about how Cage was he’s playing an alcoholic in the movie, and Kage came to him early in the shoot with this crazy idea where he wanted to be drunk during the entire shoot.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:39

    Like, he wanted to be actually wasted during the entire shoot. And Mike Figis was, like, categorically not. Like, that’s absolutely not gonna work. Like, there’s just no way. There’s no way you can, like, be drunk and show up on time and remember your, like, no.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:55

    And Mike Vegas had to talk Paige out of it. And Kage eventually he, you know, he listened to him and he they compromised. And Kage, his his other idea was that he hired a self described drunk poet to be his drinking coach during the movie, and this this guy would just, like, hang out Kages trailer and give him ideas about, like, how a drug person would act. But Mike Figis says something really interesting about how He he said, like, I wasn’t about to be directed by an actor. Like, I had to showcase that I was in charge.
  • Speaker 2
    0:22:32

    And I think He respected me more because of that, and I I got a better performance out of it because he he was consistent throughout the entire performance. Like, the character was consistent, and it was believable, and that made for a better performance because Yeah. Vegas kind of exerted his own his own authority.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:52

    Well, I and this is, as you mentioned, you know, this is an example of a director who has directed before. He’s, you know, he has a career. And, as opposed to some of the other directors early, and I think a little bit later in his VOD phase where he’s clearly more in control of of proceedings than they are.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:11

    Right. Because teach. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:13

    Who was who was the director, that was was not fond?
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:17

    Okay. So this is I was referring to Kage’s own brother, Christopher. Right. Who drew who is a filmmaker who directed Kage in a movie called Deadfall, which was kind of a huge disaster. It’s it’s this early nineties neo noir thriller where Kate gives this wildly unhinged performance as, you know, this kinda, like, crazed Coke’s Northern gangster character.
  • Speaker 2
    0:23:51

    And cage cage goes totally over the top in that movie. Like, he’s he’s wearing a ridiculous toupee. He looks like a seventies porn star, and he’s just, like, screaming his dialogue in every scene. So, yeah, so his brother Christopher Copola was very frustrated with cage during that shoot because cage kinda did not take direction. Kate just kinda did his own thing.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:18

    He he kinda let loose, and he was doing a different, like, wacky accent in every scene. There’s a famous you know, there’s there’s a famous clip from that movie where He is walking cages is, like, stalking through a strip club screaming the f word at the top of his lungs. And he elongates that one syllable. So it’s just I I don’t wanna curse on your podcast, but, yeah, you can imagine you can imagine Google the scene if you haven’t seen it. So yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:24:50

    So Kage’s brother was very frustrated with Kage during that shoot. And He felt like he is just, like, wasn’t really listening to him or taking direction and was kind of turning the character into a joke. They’re I I was grateful that Christopher Copila opened up to me about this subject because it is kind of an unhappy subject for him. He he’s he’s directed a lot of movies, and he is frustrated that deadfall follows him around, like, an arbitrage. It’s it’s the movie that everyone wants to ask him about, and he has had Kind of a fraught relationship with his brother, Nick, ever, ever since then.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:31

    Yeah. Yeah. I think you mentioned toward toward the end that they’re in a not speaking phase at the moment.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:38

    As of, yeah, as of last year when I interviewed him. Yeah. It’s it’s there’s definitely a lot of a lot of brought feelings about deadfall.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:48

    Yeah. Let’s talk about, let’s talk about Vampire’s kiss because I feel like vampires kiss is is a hinge point in the book and in in this early part of his career.
  • Speaker 2
    0:25:59

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:00

    Where he he shifts away from the naturalistic method he style of acting to something more exaggerated. It he just he he undergoes a philosophical shift in in his acting. And Totally. You could you could talk about I mean, there there’s stuff that predates that that kind of hits the same thing. But I do think it hits really its its, its peak with that movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:27

    So, could you could you could you talk a little bit about the making of that?
  • Speaker 2
    0:26:30

    Yeah. So vampire’s kiss was this low budget horror comedy in which cage portrays of mentally unwell man who believes that he’s turning into a vampire, and he loses his mind and descends into this kinda deranged insanity. And he he so his performance in that movie was very influenced by silent films of the nineteen twenties and especially some of the German expressionist films, like Nassaratu in particular, and, the, the cabinet of doctor Caligari. So cage, cage, His fa when he was a child, his father introduced him to a lot of these, like, old German expressionist films when he was very young. And and these films had a profound effect on young, you know, young Mickey Copila.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:27

    And he wanted to bring that more he he wanted to bring that distorted, kind of, surrealistic style of silent film acting into his own performances And he felt like he didn’t really have an opportunity to do that until he did vampire’s kiss, which is a movie that is thematically similar to Nasaratu because it it has this vampire theme. So he He started, he started borrowing elements from Max Shrecht’s, you know, great performance as the vampire in Nazferatu, you know, the first ever screen depiction of Dracula, there are these scenes in vampires kiss where Kage is kind of bugging out his eyes really wide, and he’s doing these outlandish distorted facial expressions. You know, at the time, critics misunderstood that. They thought, like, oh, he’s just a bad actor. Like, he he’s just going over the top.
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:26

    But, you know, the reality is that Kate was rejecting some of the, like, modern criteria for what makes a great film performance. He was, you know, he was rejecting the idea that realism should be the benchmark for what makes a great phone performance, and he was channeling this more this, you know, more expressionistic, style of film acting that flourish in the silent era in the in the nineteen twenties, you know, very distorted movements, distorted facial expressions over the top gestures, I think he he felt like vampire’s kiss was the right movie where he would have a chance to channel that acting style because it’s about a guy who completely loses his mind and goes insane. And that kind of gave him the license to go over the top with his performance. The director, Robert Beerman, was very much on board with what Kate was doing in that movie. You know, I think Robert Robert Berman has said that you know, he people have this misconception that in vampires kiss, like, h was just doing crazy stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:41

    Like, he he was just going rogue and and doing all these crazy movements without the direct without against his director’s wishes. And that’s not true. Like, he actually worked out and choreographed these movements pretty closely with the director, and and it was all planned out peep people have this, I this misconception that Kage was just ad libbing and and saying all these crazy lines that weren’t in the script, but pretty much every line in the movie actually was from the script, which was written by, Joseph Minyan, who had previously written the Great Martin Scorsese film after hours. The one so the one aspect of vampires kiss where Kage did kind of go rogue was the cockroach, which, infamously this is a movie in which he swallows a live cockroach on camera. That was not in the script.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:30

    The the script, the script had the scene where the character I think he swallows an egg, and cage thought that that was a little too tame, a little too boring. So he had this idea, you know, what if he picks up and swallows a live cockroach. And, and he did. And it’s all real. Like, that that was not faked at all.
  • Speaker 2
    0:30:56

    Like, he real he really is eating a live cockroach in that movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:01

    Gross. Alright. That, the that performance in particular leads to something that I I know Nicholas Kage is not comfortable with. You there’s a story in your book about you interviewing him and asking about him asking him about this, but it’s the the the, I don’t know, the, the creation of meme page. The Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:27

    The this idea of Nicholas Kage as a reaction image or as this kind of ironically detached figure, that is that is separated from his work, which, is it’s fascinating to to think about his response to this because, you know, as you say, in the book, you talk about his his people were not happy when you asked about it. And I get the sense that he is not thrilled to talk about it, but it It does it it has led to a weird reappreciation and reevaluation of his work, I think.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:01

    Yeah. It has led to a re appreciation of his work, but it has also led to this internet phenomenon where He is kind of treated as a punch line. And you you see this with, the the memes and the, like, the novelty items, like, you know, you see cages face on throw pillows and and, t shirts and he’s kind of treated as this joke figure. And they’re they’re all these super cuts on YouTube. They’re It all started with this super cut called Nicholas Kage losing his shit, and it’s it’s like this five minute super cut of just seems from all different movies where, you know, his cage is, like, screaming at the top of his lungs and going, and it’s, like, all splice together from from ten different movies.
  • Speaker 2
    0:32:55

    And he’s he’s been very frustrated with the way in which some of his performances have been taken out of contact. Like, for instance, in the super cusp, you’ll see a clip from Van Paris’s kiss, and you’ll see a clip from leaving Las Vegas, and you’ll see a clip from face off And I know it it bothers him that these scenes are kind of cobbled together as a joke, but you don’t you don’t see what actually brought the these characters to this place of of derangement? Like, how did this character get to this emotional state? So he he it frustrates him that some of his great performances have been decontextualized, and you know, resurfaced on the internet in jokey waves. So I did an interview with Nicholas Kage in twenty fifteen, not for the book.
  • Speaker 2
    0:33:43

    This was before the book. It was just for I was working for newsweek at the time, and I was interviewing him for a newsweek article. And I asked him a question about how, you know, how do you feel about all of these internet memes, and he he answered the question. He gave a pretty a pretty level headed response. He he said something like, oh, you know, I don’t even know what to make of it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:06

    Like, I don’t have any, I don’t I don’t even know how to make sense of it, so I just don’t think about it that much. And after After I got off the phone with Kage, the publicist who had set up the interview, not his personal publicist, but the publicist too was, like, doing PR for the movie that he was promoting at the time. She called me after the interview was complete, and she was, like, Like, we didn’t know that you were gonna be asking Nick about these memes. Like, we’re not comfortable with that. Can you remove that question from the interview?
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:39

    And I was, like, I was really taking it back because it it’s a totally fair question, and I I didn’t agree to any, I didn’t agree to any conditions of, like, what questions I’m allowed to ask him. So I I stood my ground. I said, no. You know, we’re not gonna remove it from the interview. It’s a fair question.
  • Speaker 2
    0:34:57

    But that was a jarring experience because that’s how I realized, like, oh, You know, Kage is insecure about the memeification of his work. He doesn’t like being asked about it. He he kind of has a some sort of, frustration with the internet treating him as a joke. And k l power’s kiss is is closely connected to that phenomenon because a lot of the a lot of the, like, reaction memes that you see of less cages face are taken from stills from Bampers kiss. And and, I know the Screenwriter of vampires because Joseph Minyan, he is also he’s also been kind of bewildered and frustrated by people turning his movie into a meme.
  • Speaker 2
    0:35:45

    Like, when I interviewed him, he said, like, I don’t know anything about this meme stuff. Like, vampires kiss as a movie, from frame one to frame, like, thirty thousand or whatever. Like, the memes are a different thing. Like, I don’t have anything to do with that. So, yeah, it it’s an it’s an odd phenomenon.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:03

    Kage has definitely had some frustrations, but it seems like In in more recent years, he’s kind of leaned into the meme thing a little bit more, specifically in the movie where he plays a heightened version of him of himself, the mass the unbearable weight of massive talent. It seemed like his performance in that movie, he was kind of like leaning into all the, like, internet jokes and memes. And that honestly, that’s kind of what I didn’t like about that, that movie. It kinda just, like, played up this idea that Nicholas cage is a joke.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:38

    Yeah. Yeah. At the very least, he got paid. Finally.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:42

    Oh, yeah. That Off
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:43

    the back of off the back of the internet memes.
  • Speaker 2
    0:36:46

    That I think that was a movie that finally enabled him to dig his way out of, like, IRS debt.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:52

    Yeah. Well, that was, that was pretty much everything I wanted to ask. What, I always like to close these interviews by asking what I should have asked, what you think folks should know about Nicholas cage or your book. I mean, we did we we barely scratched the surface of, of his of his films. So, I mean, there’s there’s tons to read here.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:11

    If you’re if you are a fan of Nicholas Kader, I highly recommend checking it out.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:15

    Yeah. Well, one one thing that was exciting about focusing on this early period of his career. You know, obviously, I wrote about the legendary beloved movies, like raising Arizona and Moonstruck, But it was also an opportunity to dig into some some of the forgotten cage roles that don’t get talked about much, you know, movies that have kind of fallen fallen into obscurity, like, Red Rock West, which was this great, neo noir from the early nineties super underrated film. And I’m I’m glad I got a chance to write about that film. The Zondalee, which is this totally outlandish super horny erotic drama that he did with Judge Reinhold.
  • Speaker 2
    0:37:57

    It was really fun to write about that, like, his completely ridiculous performance in Zondalee is the only, like, real erotic performance he’s ever done. And I also wrote about racing with the moon, which was an early World War two period piece that he did with Sean Penn So it was exciting to be able to shed some light on cage performances that don’t get talked about much, and that I think most people haven’t seen.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:26

    Yeah. And like I said, there’s a there there’s a ton to dig in dig into here. So if you are interested, make sure you pick up a copy of how Copola became Kage. Would also make a great, Christmas present for any any cage
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:40

    fan in your life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:43

    Zach. Thanks for being on the show today. I really appreciate it.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:45

    Thank you so much.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:47

    My pleasure. My name again is Sunny Bunch. I’m culture editor at the Bulwark. And I will be back next week with another episode of the Bulwark goes to Hollywood. We’ll see you guys then.