Nicolas Cage answered many questions, with many digressions, and raised a few more in a long interview with the Talk columnist David Marchese in The New York Times Magazine.
His latest, brief marriage? Check. How he started Johnny Depp’s career? Check. An alternative ending to “The Wicker Man,” weird pets and a global quest for the Holy Grail? Check. Check. Check.
It’s worth reading the full interview. But here’s a taste.
About that dinosaur skull.
Cage made headlines in 2015 when he had to return a dinosaur skull to Mongolia:
The dinosaur skull was an unfortunate thing, because I did spend $276,000 on that. I bought it at a legitimate auction and found out it was abducted from Mongolia illegally, and then I had to give it back. Of course it should be awarded to its country of origin. But who knew? Plus, I never got my money back. So that stank. But I went years where all I was doing was meditating three times a day and reading books on philosophy, not drinking whatsoever. That was the time when I almost went on — you might call it a grail quest. I started following mythology, and I was finding properties that aligned with that. It was almost like “National Treasure.” Of course, that didn’t sustain. On top of which, I said, “I’m going to get off philosophy,” because I became like a kite with a string but no anchor. No one could understand what I was talking about.
Wait, what was that about a grail quest?
Did we hear that right?
One thing would lead to another. It’s like when you build a library. 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? Was it here? Was it there? Is it at Glastonbury? Does it exist?
We tried to clarify whether this grail quest was metaphorical.
If you go to Glastonbury and go to the Chalice Well, there’s a spring that does taste like blood. I guess it’s really because there’s a lot of iron in the water. But legend had it that in that place was a grail chalice, or two cruets rather, one of blood and one of sweat. But that led to there being talk that people had come to Rhode Island, and they were looking for something as well.
Is that why he bought property in Rhode Island?
I don’t know if I’m going to say that’s why I bought the Rhode Island property. But I will say that is why I went to Rhode Island, and I happened to find the place beautiful. But yes, this had put me on a search around different areas, mostly in England, but also some places in the States. What I ultimately found is: What is the Grail but Earth itself?
Johnny Depp and John Stamos
Cage says he’s the reason Johnny Depp turned to acting in the 1980s.
The true story is that we were already friends. I was living in an old building in Hollywood called the Fontenoy, and I think I ultimately rented the apartment to Johnny, and he started living there. He 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. But anyway, 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?” He wanted to be a musician at the time, and he told me, “No, I can’t act.” I said, “I think you can act.” So I sent him to meet with my agent. She sent him out on his first audition, which was “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” He got the part that day.
He also said he took acting inspiration from an unexpected source: an old pantyhose commercial starring John Stamos.
No offense to John Stamos, because he’s a beautiful man and a lot of fun to watch on camera, but a million years ago he did a commercial for L’eggs pantyhose. In it he said, “I love L’eggs pantyhose!” And the way he went “love” — he expressed it with almost a rock ’n’ roll screech. I saw that commercial, and I had to put it in “Peggy Sue Got Married.” I was playing Charlie Bodell, and I’m with Kathleen Turner, and I said: “I’m in love with you.” I’ve told John about this. He took the compliment.
Misadventures with animals
He expanded on a story he once told about pet cobras informing his acting. (He also clarified that he is now drug-free.)
I did have two king cobras, and they were not happy. They would try to hypnotize me by showing me their backs, and then they’d lunge at me. After I told that story on “Letterman,” the neighborhood wasn’t too pleased that I had cobras, so I had them re-homed in a zoo. The cat — a friend of mine gave me this bag of mushrooms, and my cat would go in my refrigerator and grab it, almost like he knew what it was. He loved it. Then I started going, “I guess I’ll do it.” It was a peaceful and beautiful experience. But I subsequently threw them out.
He said more. A lot more. Read the whole thing.