Cage takes real drama to new heights

Ni­co­las Cage dons the flam­ing skull and biker leathers once again for the re­turn of the Ghost fran­chise. Tony Earn­shaw met him.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FILM -

THERE was a mo­ment dur­ing the shoot­ing of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance when Ni­co­las Cage must surely have thought he’d truly got into the burn­ing head of his char­ac­ter.

Just hours af­ter com­plet­ing a night-time scene the ec­cen­tric 48-year-old star found him­self the guest of hon­our at a Christ­mas party in Ro­ma­nia. In his own words he yelled at the other guests: “Merry Christ­mas, you a******s!”

Such be­hav­iour is not un­com­mon for Cage. His an­tics on movie sets – and off them – are well doc­u­mented. It’s 24 years now since he gob­bled down a live cock­roach for real dur­ing the mak­ing of Vampire’s Kiss. He has a rep­u­ta­tion – a rep­u­ta­tion for weird­ness...

His lat­est out­ing is the sec­ond in what must now be con­sid­ered Cage’s own per­sonal fran­chise star­ring Johnny Blaze, a stunt dare­devil who sells his soul to Mephistophe­les to save his fa­ther’s life and be­comes the Ghost Rider.

Cage has an ap­petite for comic books. He has re­ferred to them as the 20th cen­tury’s own brand of mythol­ogy.

It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to sug­gest that Cage would be con­tent to spend his work­ing life within the realms of comic books. Aside from his lat­est – a se­quel to 2007’s Ghost Rider – he has flirted with play­ing the Man of Steel in Tim Bur­ton’s aborted ver­sion of Su­per­man and dal­lied with Spi­der­man in 2002 when he was ini­tially cast as The Green Goblin be­fore di­rec­tor Sam Raimi went with Willem Dafoe. On the lat­est Ghost Rider flick Cage claims that he “re­ally be­lieved he was this char­ac­ter”.

“I’d put black con­tact lenses in my eyes so you couldn’t see any white in the eyes, sew some an­cient Egyp­tian arte­facts into my cos­tume, and then I would walk on the set pro­ject­ing this aura of hor­ror,” says Cage with no hint of a smile.

“I would see the eyes of my co-stars and the fear was there. It just was like oxy­gen to a fire. That led me to be­lieve maybe I re­ally was this spirit of vengeance.

“The prob­lem is if you have a Christ­mas party in Ro­ma­nia and some schnapps is in­volved and you’re still in char­ac­ter, all hell can break loose. And it did. I’m lucky I’m not in a Ro­ma­nian prison...”

Hmmm, some­one is tak­ing the job just the ween­si­est bit too se­ri­ously. But that’s al­ways been Cage’s way. And when it comes to comic books, se­ri­ous doesn’t do it jus­tice.

He says his child­hood was formed via the cre­ations of comic book gu­rus like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. He was drawn to mon­sters like the Hulk, Dr Strange, Sil­ver Surfer and Ghost Rider – just as in his pro­fes­sional life he’s as­so­ci­ated with anti-he­roes.

Cage has no high-fa­lutin’, deep-seated anal­y­sis to make of his choices. His de­ci­sions are based on a clear un­der­stand­ing of what con­sti­tutes act­ing.

“I’m at­tracted to char­ac­ters that have some ob­sta­cle to over­come be­cause to me that’s drama, that’s the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. We all have that. But within that I’m at­tracted to char­ac­ters that al­low me to re­alise my more sur­re­al­ist and ab­stract dreams for film act­ing.

“I be­lieve in art synthesis. I think that act­ing need be no dif­fer­ent than paint­ing or mu­sic. If you can get very ‘out­side the box’ in a Fran­cis Ba­con paint­ing why can’t you do it in a movie?

“So I’m at­tracted to char­ac­ters like Ter­rence in Bad Lieu­tenant; he’s high on co­caine, so I can make those sounds and those moves and do crazy things with old ladies and hand­guns. Or I can in Ghost Rider, be­cause you see that my face is mor­ph­ing into a skull and there’s pain in that. I can then make those notes come to life.”

Brian Tay­lor, co-di­rec­tor of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, has said of Cage “he seems like a lu­natic but there’s method to his mad­ness”. Cage nods.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (12A).

HOT-HEADED HERO: Ni­co­las Cage as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

COMIC BOOK AD­VEN­TURE: Cage says his child­hood “was formed via the cre­ations of comic book gu­rus like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.”

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