May 26, 2003
Actor Nicholas Cage pays surprise visit to UCSC
By Scott Rappaport
A jolt of electricity shot through the Media Theater classroom on May
20 when Academy Award-winning actor Nicholas Cage stepped onstage for
a surprise visit to Assistant Professor David Cranes Techno-Thrillers
Nicholas Cage chats with theater arts graduate student Megan
Mercurio after speaking to a UCSC film class, above.
Below, Cage is with Film and Digital Media Department Chair Chip
Lord. Photos by
The star of more than 40 feature films including Raising Arizona,
Face/Off, Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Windtalkers, Guarding Tess,
Red Rock West, and Moonstruck, Cage appeared on campus with
his cousin, Roman Coppola, a film and music video director, and the
son of famed Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola.
The visit was arranged by Chip Lord, chair of UCSCs Film and Digital
Media Department, who had met Roman through a mutual friend. After viewing
Coppolas film, CQ, at the San Francisco Film Festival last
year, Lord had scheduled a screening and a visit by the young director
for the fall quarter. But 10 days before the event, they had to postpone
when Coppola received an offer to direct a Nike commercial.
"We decided to reschedule for May and had made all the arrangements,"
Lord explained. "Three days before the date, Roman called me at
home and said, my cousin just invited me to go to Europe, but
I dont want to hang you up. Then he put Nick Cage on the
phone, and Cage offered to come to UCSC with Roman when they got back
from Europe. I said: it sounds like youre making me an offer
I cant refuse."
Impeccably dressed in a fashionable gray suit, Cage displayed the same
combination of intensity and sincerity that has made him such a riveting
presence on the screen. He fielded questions from Cranes class
of 350 students for well over an hour, covering a wide range of topics
from Hollywood relationships to production design:
- On what its like to be a movie star: "I dont
go out unless I know I got up on the right side of the bed in the
morning, because I know Ill be meeting people all day. Jack
Nicholson says the average celebrity shakes 100,000 times more hands
a year than the average person. So thats a lot of people you
can piss offbut Im in a good mood today."
- On the meaning of acting: "Acting has always been a
sacred hero for me. I use my acting as a way to turn a negative into
a positive, to purge myself."
- On choosing a role: "It's always more fun to play a
villain, but I dont ever want to be typecast or trapped in any
type of role. I want to try different parts and approaches
methods will change with my roles."
- On Hollywood blockbusters: "I like big entertaining
sometimes I make em."
- On becoming an actor: "I became an actor when I saw
James Dean in East of Eden. It was the breakdown scene with
his father. It was so emotional and heartbreaking that I knew right
then and there what I wanted to do. I wanted to act."
- On watching his own films: "If a movie of mine comes
up late at night on TV, maybe Ill tune in for 10 minutes because
its almost like a walk down memory lane--Ive been doing this
for 20 years or more."
- On his proudest moment in film: "There are moments that
happen where it seems like theres been a shift in me as an actor.
Theres a scene from my film Amos and Andy--I think it
was a three-minute monologuewhere Im talking about sea
monkeys. I felt like I was finally relaxed in front of the camera
talking about sea monkeys. That was a breakthrough moment for me."
- On Pokey: "He always seemed like he was a little peeved
- On commitment to the profession: "If you decide to be
an actor, youre going to be dealing with rejection your entire
life. And you really have to ask yourself if you want it that bad.
Thats almost as important as your talent. How bad do you want
- On insecurity: "I do worry a lot. I dont think
Ive ever started a picture where I felt Ive known what
- On acting classes: "I think some training is good but
ultimately its your life thats going to be your training.
Its a gift thats given to youyou can enhance it
somewhat, but its something you cant really learnits
almost a spiritual thing."
- On relationship difficulties for actors: "Hollywood
is a very hard town to have a relationship in. The insecurities can
be so great that people no longer trust each other."
- On actors he would like to work with: "I think that
Jack Nicholson and I could really tear it up togetherbut that
hasnt happened yet."
- On the future: "I have a few projects at my company,
which is called Saturn Films, that Id like to get done. Theres
a comedy called Press Your Luck that hopefully Bill Murray
will be doing."
- On politics and acting: "Im not a politically
active actor, but I do think you can do that in your work. As artists,
I think thats what our job really is. I think you can be very
selective and careful in your work. I mean, I learned more about the
disaster of nuclear power from the China Syndrome."
- On getting your foot in the door: "The main thing is
that you believe in yourself and dont let others say you cant
do it because theyre bitter and critical. Just dont give
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