Nicolas Cage's discography -- From ''Moonstruck'' to ''Kiss of Death,'' the quirky actor discusses his roles

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Nicolas Cage’s discography

”I didn’t go to college,” Nicolas Cage said in accepting the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor in Leaving Las Vegas. ”This is my university, and I’m gonna consider this award my degree.” Here, Cage reviews some highs and lows from his transcript to date:

After losing the part of Brad to Judge Reinhold, 17-year-old Cage — then billed as Nicolas Coppola — got hired as Brad’s bud. ”I would watch [Sean Penn] and try to get ideas. I was pretty much the nerd to everybody — people would ask me to be removed from their eye line. I was the brunt of jokes because my name was still Coppola, so there’d be a congregation outside my trailer quoting lines from Apocalypse Now, like, ‘I love the smell of Nicolas in the morning.”’

This time he was Sean Penn’s bud, in a WWII-period romance. ”I remember Sean saying ‘The nerd from Fast Times can actually act!’…and we became friends. There’s one shot where Sean and I are standing in front of an [oncoming] train and have to jump out of the way at the right time. We got into this standoff — who was going to jump first? It was good natured but definitely a macho, boys’-day-out attitude between us.”

BIRDY (1984)
Discovering he had to have two prominent baby teeth pulled, Cage arranged for the dental work to coincide with his portrayal of a facially scarred Vietnam War vet trying to help Matthew Modine. ”You know, pulling your teeth out is not living the part of a Vietnam veteran, but in my 19-year-old brain I was trying to do whatever I could. I remember I dismantled the script and put all the monologues on my hotel-room wall. I’d get out of bed in the morning with bandages [still on my face] because I never took them off. I was trying to lose all this weight. I really beat myself up for that part. And when I saw the movie, I thought, Well, gosh, I didn’t give it enough thought or shadings. It seems to be — at the time, I referred to it as emotional vomit. But I look at it now and I feel better about it.”

Cage played a rowing champ from up north in a sort of Canadian Rocky knockoff. ”The movies that I made that were mistakes, I always learned something from. And when I saw that, I thought, Well, I’m never going to take my shirt off again, or at least, not like that. I got a tattoo on my back [after that] — I wanted to go as far away from the beefcake image as possible.”

In a Coen brothers comedy, Cage played a sweet robber who snatches a baby for his childless wife (Holly Hunter). ”I looked at silent films and tried to copy some of the movement. I would ask to see the storyboards — that way, I could start looking at the camera angles as they were drawn, and I could figure out how to kind of give my body a heightened, almost surreal movement within the frame. And I had this little tooth rigged to come out of my mouth — so when [Tex Cobb] hit me I could spit the tooth in his face. It was the only movie where I ever got that technical.”

Cage played a one-handed baker with a taste for Cher in his biggest box office hit to date. ”I was still borrowing from the more heightened gestures of the silent movie days. If you look at Metropolis, there’s a shot of the scientist who invents the technology to create the robot woman — he shows off the robot hand that he invented. He has it raised up, and I told [director] Norman [Jewison] that I really wanted to approximate that shot. He thought it was nuts, but he went for it — so I could pull the glove off and show the wooden hand.”

In perhaps his most oversize performance, Cage played a New York yuppie who becomes a bug-eating vampire. The bug was real. ”To this day, people ask me about the f—ing cockroach — it was disgusting! I actually have a fear of bugs, and I had to disinfect my mouth with like 100-proof vodka and just spit the bug out. It makes me sick thinking about it. I knew doing that was like saving the movie $2 million in the giant-bus-explosion special effect. All I had to do was eat a bug, and when you go to the theater, it’s the same reaction — oh, no! I know the reason that movie is still in video stores is partly because of that.”

Young love, as seen by David Lynch. ”I was taking the biggest American icon, Elvis Presley, and trying to do an impersonation. You know how Warhol would take these fantastic icons like Muhammad Ali or Marilyn Monroe and do that with them? I was going to try to do that with acting. David Lynch, being such an intense Presley fan, saw it as an opportunity to get as close to casting his hero as he was ever going to get. This was the kind of movie I wish Presley had made.”

Helicopters versus South American drug lords — don’t even rent it. ”Oh, that was no good. The makers of that movie were trying to do a kind of rehashed Top Gun. And obviously I couldn’t fit that bill. I knew when the producers came into the trailer and said ‘We want you to smile more’ that I was miscast.”

As a love-struck private detective, Cage tries to win back Sarah Jessica Parker from James Caan. ”That was my first chance to bring the wacky behavior that I developed in Vampire’s Kiss to a commercial form. I like the scene at the airport where I’m trying to get to the ticket counter and I can’t do it quickly enough and I sort of go off. [Writer-director] Andrew Bergman uses italics, and I really got in synch with his italics — when to pound, when not to pound, and when to go for it.”

Cage morphs into a cross between John Candy and Roy Orbison as an over-the-top hatchet man in brother Christopher Coppola’s feature debut. ”Bad wig. Really bad wig. Like, two-dollar wig that you get on Hollywood Boulevard. That was a chance to work with Christopher, and he let me go for it in the regard that I could have fun with the makeup and disguise myself so I could really take advantage of the opportunity.”

Cage played a tough thug menacing David Caruso in Barbet Schroeder’s film noir. ”I bulked up by eating a lot of protein, and I worked out two hours a day doing heavy weights and taking a lot of amino acids. The character was written as an asthmatic, which is part of why I wanted to make the movie. My son had to deal with asthma, and I wanted to play an asthmatic character who was physically strong.”

Raising Arizona

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  • PG-13
  • Joel Coen