'He came with a big rubber nose': The untold story behind that insane Nicolas Cage viral clip
Filmmaker Adam Rifkin has an impressive list of movie credits. He wrote the 1997 comedy hit Mouse Hunt and has directed an eclectic, but always interesting, array of projects, from 1994's Charlie Sheen-starring The Chase, to 1999's KISS-themed Detroit Rock City, to 2018's elegiac The Last Movie Star, which featured one of the last performances from the late Burt Reynolds. This week, however, Rifkin has unexpectedly been reminded, with ever-growing social media volume, of a movie which very few people have ever seen, his 1988 straight-to-video directorial debut, Never on Tuesday.
"I think the only people who know what the movie are those of us who made it," says the writer-director. "And my Mom."
That number is now increasing, dramatically, with each passing hour.
On July 23, Twitter user Alex Navarro posted a clip from Rifkin's movie, which stars Claudia Christian, Andrew Lauer, and future Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg as a trio of folks stranded in the middle of a desert. In the clip, a red sports car pulls up to our lead characters. Its driver? None other than Nicolas Cage, who is sporting an outrageous false nose, and a haircut eerily similar to that which would be inflicted on Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men two decades later. "Is anybody hurt?" asks Cage's character, in a high, breathy voice. "No, everybody's fine," replies Claudia Christian. "Can I give somebody a lift?" says Cage, wildly gesticulating, like a man fending off an enraged swan. "No, man, that's alright," responds Berg. "We've got everything under control." This prompts a knowing glance and then an outburst of maniacal laughter from Cage who then gets back into his car and drives off. It is a truly strange moment. It is also, as Navarro points out in his post, "the entirety" of Cage's performance in the film.
At the time of writing, the clip has been retweeted over 33,000 times, and has inspired articles in The A.V. Club, Nerdist, and British newspaper The Independent. All of which has made for a very interesting week in the Rifkin household.
"It's absolutely insane," says the director, who made Never on Tuesday at the age of just twenty. "I mean, talk about something coming out of left field. Some people had been texting me about it, and some people had asked me some questions about it, and I was kind of keeping mum about it. You know, it's my first film, I wouldn't necessarily say it's the best film I'm ever made. Then this clip came online, and I noticed it was getting some traction, and I felt if I just kept my mouth shut, that it would just disappear. But it just keeps growing and growing and growing and growing. Then, one of the producers of the film, Cassian Elwes — who is a very esteemed producer of many Oscar-nominated films — he called me today. He's like, "Dude, you've got to check this out, I've been answering questions about it, you've got to respond to it."
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You directed Never on Tuesday when you were twenty. How did you get the gig?
The first script I ever wrote was called The Dark Backward, which was a very oddball movie that I ended up making several years later. It was very dark and very weird. A young producer named Brad Wyman had come across the script and he was working at the time for a legendary producer named Elliott Kastner. Elliot Kastner produced Brando movies, and Jack Nicholson movies, and Paul Newman movies. Brad was working for Elliott, and Cassian Elwes — who was Elliott's stepson — was also working for Elliott. Brad introduced me to Kassian, and then they both introduced me to Elliott. We all tried to get Elliott to let us make a movie together that I would direct and they would produce and we wanted it to be the Dark Backward. Elliott had no interest in a dark, weird movie about a [stand-up comedian] with three arms. He said, in the meeting, "I'll let you direct a movie, but it's got to be a movie for the kids." What he meant by that is, the teen audience. He was thinking of movies like Breakfast Club — and he cited Breakfast Club, I believe. So, he said, "Do you have any movies like that, that would appeal to the kids?" I said, "As a matter of fact, I do." He said, "Alright, bring it in tomorrow." I said, "Well, can I just polish it up a little bit and bring it to you on Monday?" He said, "Sure." Now, it was probably Wednesday, at this meeting, and I didn't have a script at all for the kids. But I ran home and I wrote one over the next several days.
So, what is Never on Tuesday actually about?
It's about two libidinous young males who are moving from Ohio to California, to seek fame and fortune, and to meet California women. Now, the intention was for the movie to start out like every other teen sex-comedy that was popular at the time, but then it was going to take a dramatic turn, and be much more progressive. So, what happens is, they get into a car accident in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere, with a beautiful woman, and they're stuck out there in the middle of nowhere with her, waiting for help to arrive. Because they're horny young boys, they think that they're going to get lucky in the middle of the desert. It's like Waiting for Godot with teenagers. They're all stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting for help to arrive, that they hope will never come, so that they can seduce this woman. But she's a lesbian, has no interest in them.
Now, at the time, I thought that was a very progressive idea. [Laughs] It was my intention to be very forward-thinking. Basically, what happens is, they end up spending two days and a night out there together, waiting for help to arrive, getting to know each other. The two guys leave by the end learning to have appreciated her for her character, and her mind, not just for her physical appearance.
How did Nicolas Cage get involved?
Because Cassian and Brad had basically grown up in LA, with all the up-and-coming young stars of the day, I had met them all through them, and the three of us convinced all these stars to do cameos in the movie. So, we had Charlie Sheen right off Platoon and Wall Street, we had Emilio Estevez who was hot off Breakfast Club and a bunch of other big movies, we had Cary Elwes, who was not only Cassian's brother, but also was hot off of Princess Bride, Gilbert Gottfried was a big up-and-coming comic who agreed to be in it, Judd Nelson was a huge star from Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire and a bunch of other movies. And Nicolas Cage from Raising Arizona and other movies that were very very popular.
They'd each come in for a day and do a kooky character and then leave. The way it worked with Nicolas Cage is, he was given free rein to do whatever he wanted. That was the caveat. He said he'd do it if he could do whatever he wanted. So, he came, with a big rubber nose, that he wanted applied, and he wanted to play this insane character, which we thought was hilarious.
Now, there's an uncut version of his scene that needs to be unearthed, from somewhere, where he says way more crazy things. That is not the version that ended up in the final film, sadly. But, now, I wish we could find it, because it's really really bizarre. But that's the story of how his character ended up in the film and became such a weird character.
The movie was released straight-to-video and over time had pretty much disappeared from the collective consciousness. Do you hope that this renewed interest in the film will, say, prompt some company to put out a 2-disc Blu-ray collector's set of the film?
No. [Laughs] But I'm thrilled that the Nic Cage clip is available. Listen, I actually would love it if lots of different individual clips of the movie were to resurface, because there's a lot of great moments from the film, and I would love for those moments to be rediscovered. But the film as a whole? It's my first film. I was twenty-years-old, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. If I could go back in and re-edit the whole thing, then, yeah, then maybe I'd be okay with everybody getting a chance to see it.
But, at the moment, I'm very thrilled that a clip is getting some internet love. I really do want to be positive about the film. It did get the ball rolling, and it did open the doors for me, and it was the first movie that I got to direct, and so I have no negative feelings toward anything to do with the movie, to be honest with you. It was a great opportunity, it was a fun experience, I learned a lot, and I'm proud of the movie. The next thing I did, Cassian Elwes was the producer of. I wrote, and was going to direct, the next Planet of the Apes for 20th Century Fox. Having screened Never on Tuesday for Fox, and them considering buying it, and wanting to buy it, but not being able to get the rights to it, they then said, "Well, what do you want to do next?" So, me and Cassian pitched them rebooting Planet of the Apes — this was before the word "reboot" existed of course. And they hired us. Now, of course, that movie didn't end up getting made, but every opportunity I ever had can be led back to this movie, so I'm very very grateful to everybody involved.
What are you doing next?
I'd love to tell you, man. I'd love to tell you what I'm working on, [but I can't]. What maybe you could mention is, because Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is getting so much attention, and because Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino are talking a lot about Burt Reynolds, because of that, even more people are discovering The Last Movie Star.