NIC CAGE: JAMES CAAN PULLED A KNIFE ON ME

by HFPA August 8, 2012
Nicolas Cage

For  forty  years  the  HFPA  has  audio-taped celebrated  actors  and  actresses.  The  world's  largest collection  of  its  kind is  now in  the  Academy  of  Motion  Pictures  Arts  & Sciences  Library.  The  audios  are  fascinating.  To  veteran  stars,  our HFPA  journalists  are  family;  they  banter  with  them and  speak  openly and frankly about  themselves and  their  artistry.

NICOLAS CAGE

Acting with Jimmy Caan 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 in  Honeymoon in Las Vegas, for example, 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  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.

------Researched and edited by Jack Tewkesbury