THIRTY-EIGHT STOREYS above Los Angeles' gasoline-choked sprawl. Nic Cage is perched on a narrow metal girder. fighting back his vertigo and trying to remember how to act. Between takes he turns slowly to co-star
Dennis Franz and offers these words of
wisdom: ‘What do you say after this we both get a glass of Scotch and never do this again‘."
With filming over and L.A‘s burning asphalt feeling better than ever. Cage chats about City ()_f.~lt1gels. a remake of Wim Wenders‘ 1987 classic. ll’ings Of Desire. Last seen playing arch-villain Castor Troy in John Woo’s Face/Off as ‘somebody who’s got a chihuahua stuck in the basal ganglia part of his brain‘. Cage is cast as Seth. an angel who becomes human after falling for Maggie Rice. a heart surgeon played by Meg Ryan.
City ()fAnge/s won over America big time. taking Number One from Lost In Space and sinking Titanic to third place. Not bad for an actor who‘s built his career on off-beat
characters and utter nutters. The portrayal of
an angel-made-ﬂesh challenged Cage.
‘Well. it wasn‘t easy because you have to start from scratch. There isn’t an angel you can call up and request research from.’ he drawls. ‘But it was delightful to be able to fall to Earth and wake up human. It's a great actor‘s exercise to experience life for the first time. How do you convey that? I wanted him to be borderline- psychotic with it. just feeling all this stuff for the first time. Adrenalised. like he‘s high with life. Then that slowly starts to taper off as he gets hit with some of the harsher realities of being alive.’
Such attention to the intricacies of the role is typical of Cage. one of a few A-list Hollywood actors who can pull off both action heroes and romantic leads. The Rock. Con Air and Face/Off were multi-million dollar blockbusters. but he also won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a suicidal alcoholic's loving relationship with a hooker in Leaving Las Vegas. Tough or slush. it‘s all the same to Nic.
‘I'm trying to avoid being narrow-minded and pretentious. doing just what are regarded as important movies.‘ he says. ‘Although I believe a movie like Leaving Las Vegas is important. I also believe that a movie like Superman has value. It all depends on your definition of what‘s important.‘
Cage is due to step into the famous cape and tights for a Tim Burton directed installment of the Man of Steel franchise. but scripting problems and an out-of-control budget have forced Warners to shelve the project. Cage is still keen to see Superman Lives get off the ground.
‘How do you get into that costume and not
‘If one kid who's being called a weirdo goes to the movie and hangs on to this idea that Superman feels like a weirdo too, then I've done something important.’ Nicolas Cage
feel silly‘." he wonders. ‘You have to commit. you have to really believe you‘re this warrior from outer space. I’ve never made a movie for children before. but if you really want to do anything of importance. you have to say something to children.
'With this character. there's something in the story — that he's an alien. that he's an outsider. that he feels different. If one kid who‘s being called a weirdo in school goes to the movie and then he just hangs on to this idea that Superman feels like a weirdo too. then I feel like I’ve done something important. I don't care if it looks silly wearing a cape. if kids are enjoying themselves and feel better about themselves. that's all I need.’
He also needs love. Married to actress Patricia Arquette since 1995. his soul-mate relationship is rarer in Tinseltown than a stain-free casting couch. ‘He is the only man I have ever really respected. I believe in him in this greater sort of forever. dignity and nobility way.‘ gushes Arquette.
‘I've always felt that infatuation is a
wonderful experience. but eventually has to be replaced with a sense of purpose and direction. for a marriage to last.’ says Cage. a father from a previous relationship. ‘Especially when there are children involved you have to become a little more scientific about what the needs are for the family. But luckily for me there’s still infatuation there and I hope it always stays there.‘
Cage's marriage feeds his performance in City ()frlngels.
‘You can take City Of Angels literally if you want to believe in angels. but you can also take it symbolically that it‘s about sacrifice. that you have to give something tip for true love to prosper. You take the concept that marriage is two parties giving something up. their freedom if you will. to be together.”
Taking City ()fAnge/s literally for a moment. does Cage believe in angels?
‘Well I’ve always felt that something else was steering the boat.’ he admits. ‘But I’ve never seen one and I imagine ifI did it would be terrifying. That‘s why I wanted Seth to be a little bit eerie. a little like from another world. Very still. always communicating with the eyes and little else.
‘But I like to believe that energy doesn't just stop and that things carry on on some level. I can't pretend to know if there is an after-life. or if there are angels. but I’d like to think there are protective energies out there.‘
As would anyone whose job required them to leap around on ledges. thirty-eight storeys up.
City Of Angels goes on general release on Friday 19 June.
Borderline psychotic leading man or romantic action hero? NICOLAS CAGE has always been one of Hollywood's most unpredictable actors. Now, in City Of Angels, he's literally out of this world.
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