From the archives: Nicolas Cage

by HFPA March 21, 2013

For forty years the HFPA has recorded interviews with famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind — over 10,000 interviews — is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Library. The audios are fascinating. Below is an excerpt: in 1992, on the set of Honeymoon in Vegas, two fiery individuals -- Nicolas Cage and James Caan - met each other's match. Cage told us what happened and reflected on the mixed blessings of being a member of the Coppola clan.

"Acting  with  Jimmy  is  formidable.  He's  very  unpredictable,  and  has  a  totally  different  approach  than  I have. He  likes  to be intentionally  unprepared, so  that  things happen  accidentally.  I  like  to  have  an  idea  of  where  I'm going  and  mix  it  up  with  a  little  spontaneity.  He  would constantly  try  to  get  some  sort  of shock  out  of  me.

In  one  scene,  for  example,  a  poker  game,  out  of  camera  range  he  surprised  me  by  pulling  a  switchblade. Now,  if  I  were  nineteen  and  hadn't  been  doing  this  for eleven  years,  it  might  have  been  helpful,  but  I  didn't need  that.  I  can  get  there  on  my  own,  in  my  own  time. It's  what  I  get  paid  for. So I  said,  "Jimmy,  that's  great.  Thanks,  but  you  know,  it's  all  right.  You  don't  need  to pull  a  switchblade  out   on  me.  Our  approaches  are  different,  that's  all." After  I'd  say  my  lines,  he'd  a  stop  and  say,  "Nicolas,  if you  ever  come  unprepared  again,  we're  all  going  to  go  home  and  forget  about  work."  But  when  I  look  at  the  movie,  I'd  have  to  say  the  balance  is  pretty  good.

I  have  been  acting  since I was sixteen. At that  age people can  say  things  that  aren't  very  nice.  I  just  decided  I  didn't need  the  pressure  so  I  changed  my  name  from  Coppola  to Cage. Other  young  actors, I suppose,  felt  that I  couldn't  act  because  I was  related  to such  a  powerful  director. I had  a lot  of  proving  to  do.  I had  to  feel I was  my  own  man, but  I was  very   young. I  would  walk  into  casting  offices,  and  they  wanted to  know  what  Francis  was  doing.  I  was  prepared  for  my  audition,  but  all  they  wanted  to  do  was  talk  about  my uncle.

After  I  changed  my  name,  the  first  movie I auditioned for  was Valley Girl, and  I  got  the  part. And I  didn't   have to  talk  about  him.  At  the  time  I  really  needed  to  do things  apart  from  family,  to  prove  I  was  an  entity  unto myself  and  not  just  part of  the  Coppola  dynasty."