A true tale of the strangest (and best) celebrity encounter I’ve ever had
When I look back on my days as editor-in-chief of the mighty FANGORIA, I’m overwhelmed with anecdotes; true tales of mad adventures on the fringes of movie culture. Very often, those adventures took me from the fringe into the mainstream, or maybe sometimes it was the mainstream coming out to visit me. Very often we met in the middle.
In the case of my connection to the inimitable Nicolas Cage, we collided in the Bahamas over a slimy snail penis.
Buckle in, reader. This yarn’s a doozy.
Now, I was always a Nicolas Cage fan, an obsessive before it was cool to be one. The first time my mom and I saw PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, when the world – my mom included – was clicking its tongues and saying how Cage’s oddball mannerisms and nasally voice ruined the picture, I was like, no way. Cage is what MADE the picture. Sure, Francis Coppola’s sweet romantic fantasy shines because of its central vibrant Kathleen Turner performance, but you REMEMBER it because of Cage mangling THE BEATLES’ “She Loves You” (“she loves you, ooooh ooooh ooooh…). You remember his lazy-lidded stare, his wounded hound dog face and his sudden bursts of manic, spastic, over-boiled-cauldron dramatics. Soon after that, we saw RAISING ARIZONA and we loved that too, but here, the universe the Coen Brothers create around Cage is just as wild, if not wilder, so he sorta blends into it. It feels organic. No, it was in films like PEGGY SUE, MOONSTRUCK, FIREBIRDS and IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU that Cage really stuck to me, movies where his alien charisma is injected into the natural world, turning a “normal” entertainment into a sort of divine mutation.
Later, I lived for the “showcase” Cage movies, those signature slabs of cinema that were sort of built AROUND his talents. Like David Lynch’s WILD AT HEART or, perhaps most astonishingly, Robert Bierman’s VAMPIRE’S KISS, perhaps the ultimate Nic Cage joint. Cage was and remains my favorite living performer and as a horror fan, I always felt like he was channelling some sort of expressionist, silent-shocker stylization into his work. Later on, he would come right out and say that he was doing just that, that even his single-handed lovelorn baker in MOONSTRUCK was a riff on the frantically gesturing mad scientist in Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS.
My first encounter with Nic came after a screening of Werner Herzog’s brilliant BAD LIEUTENTANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS at the Toronto International Film Festival. I stumbled into a small press scrum at some fancy hotel and while other critics were asking him about NATIONAL TREASURE and CON AIR, I stood up and asked him about VAMPIRE’S KISS. He lit up. I asked him to say my favorite line, “Am I getting THROUGH to you, ALVA?!”. He did. I recorded that. Email me if you want to hear it.
Later, we connected to discuss Alex Proyas’ ludicrously underrated sci-fi chiller KNOWING for a Toronto Star feature I was writing and then, a bit later, when Disney released their bonkers THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE movie, I locked him down on the phone for a chat. I had recently taken over FANGORIA and had developed a friendship with his equally brilliant brother, the filmmaker Christopher Coppola. Christopher was then writing for me in fact and he and I would spend many hours on the phone discussing our love of horror movies and transgressive, experimental film. I told Nic about this and, at the time, he and his brother were having some family issues and weren’t speaking. But when he found out I was the “FANGORIA guy” and that his big bro was scribbling for us, he went crazy, wanting to talk about FANGORIA and how much the two of them loved it in the ‘80s and how important it was to them.
Soon after that, word got ‘round that Nic was making another GHOST RIDER movie. I liked the first one. Didn’t love it. But I liked it and though Cage was fantastic in it, especially his improvised additions to the Blaze character, like his fondness for jellybeans and monkey-centric television shows. And as a kid, I LOVED the comics and they were certainly part of my entry point into horror and dark fantasy culture. Since my mission was to almost always write every single FANGORIA cover story myself and make it PERSONAL, I thought, why not use this GHOST RIDER sequel as my hook to do a career retrospective cover story on the power and brilliance of Nicolas Cage? So I reached out to Sony, they reached out to Nic. Within a day, Nic fired back and said not only would he do this cover story interview…but he wanted to do it at his house. Live. In person.
Continue reading “Memoir: The Island of Nicolas Cage”