Nicolas Cage; On The Set Of Gone In 60 Seconds

Published June 24th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

NICOLAS CAGE is the star of the No. 2 biggest box office hit in the US, GONE IN 60 SECONDS. In this remake of the 1974 B-film classic, Cage stars as a high class car theft leader, who is forced to put off his early retirement for one final hit.  

The movie, which was directed by DOMINIC SENA, has already grossed $52.1 million at the box office in its second week. 

Following is an interview with Nicolas Cage, conducted by WENN. 

 

Those round blue eyes are at once troubled and serene; a man of  

constant contradictions who doesn't know whether he should divorce or  

remain married. An Oscar-winning actor, he's reached the top of the  

Hollywood tree but there's a part of him that feels like he's still at the bottom. 

"There are many dichotomies in my life," admitted the actor, chatting on the set of his new movie Gone In 60 Seconds, currently No.2 in the box office, shortly before filing for divorce from his wife Patricia Arquette only to withdraw the petition five weeks later, in April. 

If life can be confusing for the $20 million-a-movie man, then that's the way things always have been. The troubled son of a mother who was  

institutionalized for schizophrenia and chronic depression. The skinny kid who the girls rejected as a weirdo. The simmering outsider who envied the cars, the clothes and the houses of rich friends and family. The struggling teen actor who was so teased when his famous uncle, director FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, gave him a role in Rumble Fish that he changed his name from Coppola to Cage. 

"I was a skinny, kind of weak kid who had a dream of being the incredible hulk and that skinny little kid is really still who I am," he reveals. And if his divorce from wife Patricia Arquette, 33, was just a momentary whim, then today he believes marriage to be his preferred state: "I feel like I've been doing a lot of growing up over the past few years. There was a time in my life that I thrived on chaos, but now that's the last thing I want. I need simplicity and purity which I believe I have found now with my wife  

Patricia," says Nicolas after hastily withdrawing his divorce petition, which claimed irreconcilable differences. 

The stories of their reconciliation are numerous; one rumor has it that the couple's two sons, from previous relationships, brought them back together again, while some cynics claim he made it up to his wife over a $5 million check. 

For the moment, the couple would prefer to keep it a secret, just as their entire five year marriage has proved largely a mystery with the couple continuing to live in separate Hollywood homes just three miles apart; an arrangement, which they claim keeps a sparkle in their love life. 

"From the outside, it looks like I've got everything made, and I  

understand that. I never want to come off like I'm complaining. But as a human being, I have issues, just like anybody else. And some people look at those and go, 'my God, how are you getting out of bed?' But I'm OK," he says. "I think that all the choices I have made, I'm not going to go into detail about my private life, in terms of family and things have been some of the best choices I have made. And that's all I'll say about it. I have people who I take care of. 

"I'm aware there's a biological need to provide the best environment for two kids. And that's the first matter of importance. 

"Patricia is a wonderful mother, and I feel that I'm able to provide an objective and very friendly force in Enzo's life, which I'm proud of," he said, referring to his wife's ten year old son from an earlier marriage to businessman Paul Rossi. 

"I feel there is a closeness there, but I wouldn't really be able to go into detail because I have to respect their privacy," says Nicolas, 36, who is expected to be joined by his wife and their two sons in Greece where is presently filming CAPTAIN CORELLI’S MANDOLIN with PENELOPE CRUZ. 

Formerly one of Hollywood's most dangerous boys, he has been  

stopped for drunk-driving and was once arrested after police found him dangling 100ft upside-down from an upper ledge of a smart Beverly Hills shopping mall, following a drinking binge with his actor friend JOHNNY DEPP. 

He sports a lizard tattoo on his back, and once kept a pet shark along with a string of willing girlfriends. 

In keeping with his menacing, depraved image, he bought a monstrous  

gothic turreted castle in the Hollywood Hills, painted it black and  

decorated it in animal prints. A giant lacquered cockroach stood at the front door, a constant reminder of his now infamous scene in Vampire's Kiss where he slowly and deliberately swallowed a live cockroach. 

"My childhood had left me charged with a great deal of anger, as well as passion, and I really needed to get it out. I had a temper, and could do things very spontaneously. If it wasn't for acting, I probably wouldn't have been able to channel that, so in a way my work has saved me from myself," he says in his articulate and eloquent manner. 

"As a teenager I was a WHO fan who relished the rock and roll outlaw  

adolescent image that went with it. I wanted to be PETE TOWNSEND  

smashing his guitar. I had heard all those incredible stories about (MARLON)BRANDO and wanted to create my own legend. I was very arrogant." 

His hooded, mournful blue eyes open wide and take on a look of mock  

indignation at the reminder of his wild past: "Well, you could say I was a little out on a limb, maybe I drank a little too much....but I don't believe I ever wanted to die. 

"Tragedy is rarely seen any more, but it's a necessary part of the  

preparation for tragedy in one's own life. Let's face it, we're all going to have to deal with it , with the loss of a loved one. I dealt with it when I was 22 years old, when my cousin died. (Gian-Carlo Coppola, Francis, Ford Coppola's son was killed in a boating accident in 1986.) Nothing prepared me for that. It certainly got me thinking about death at an early age," says the actor who made his mark playing misfits in films like RAISING ARIZONA, LEAVING LAS VEGAS, CON-AIR, WILD AT HEART, FACE/OFF and KISS OF DEATH. 

The son of designer/university lecturer August Coppola and  

dancer/choreographer Joy Vogelsang, his family tree is littered with  

artists and performers, including Francis Ford Coppola, an uncle; actress TALIA SHIRE, an aunt; actress/director SOFIA COPPOLA, a cousin; and the late composer CARMINE COPPOLA, a grandfather. 

"Having my mother absent certainly took its toll on my childhood. I'm  

sure it had a huge impact on me," says Nicolas, the youngest of three  

sons. "In some ways it still does. But she provided me with a root of  

sorts that I could draw from because she is so unlike anybody else. 

"My mother was very ill. She was very fragile. She suffered from severe depression. She had to go away for many years at a time; she would come in and out. But she was also a very highly tuned, sensitive person, mentally capable of extraordinary expressions and words that evoked a kind of poetry, in the way she would talk. That's the best way I can look at it, but she's fine now. 

"But being a child and having visited her in those places, walking down that long hallway and the crazy people grabbing at you, it obviously, when I look at some of the characters, impacted my work. If it wasn't for her, I don't think I would have been able to act. 

"I was just lucky that whatever was looking out for me gave me the  

ability to be a catalyst and to convert it into something productive. 

"Since I was six I had invented a vivid imaginary world where I could go to and be these other characters. That's probably where I started acting. I remember sitting on the living room floor and watching TV and trying to figure out how to become one of those characters inside the TV. 

 

"When my mother went into those places where she thought she was  

seeing things, she really was seeing things - you talk to any specialist in that sort of illness, and they'll say it's really happening. You can only wonder what she came up against or what she saw. I used to freak out that it was going to happen to me, but everybody who I asked about it said that if it was going to happen, it would have happened when you were in your teens," says the actor, who was further traumatized when his parents divorced when he was 12 years old, and his father took him to live with uncle Francis Ford Coppola without any further explanation. 

His father's passion for providing "creative stimulus" led to family  

episodes like the time, "Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a box of  

crayons and a stack of paper plates," he recalls, "my brother and I were going to draw our dinner on paper plates. We got more than a little angry... and hungry. 

"But I don't like to hang on to the bad parts of my life. There's a little door that I have inside that I can put everything that's hurt me over the years into, and I just put it there and leave it until it's time to let it out, say perhaps, for a role. 

"Through my mother's own fantastic imagination I learned how to create my own imaginary world which has been my catalyst into creating my own characters. I would often withdraw into my own imaginary world where I was able to become other characters which is basically what I'm doing with my acting." 

But it was the birth of his son Weston, nine years ago, which perhaps  

marked the turning point between his carousing care-free youth and the responsibilities of adulthood. This was when he quit cigarettes, and began buckling his seat-belt: "I think the changes came about as a combination of huge joy and tremendous fears and worries," he says of parenthood. More changes were afoot when the unconventional blonde  

actress Patricia Arquette - herself the parent of ten-year-old son Enzio - proposed to him five years ago after less than three weeks courtship: "There was no doubt in my mind that this woman was my equal. We're both from the same tribe," says Nicolas who first spotted his future wife in 1987 in a Los Angeles deli. He was smitten, and she sent him on a quest to prove his love, demanding that he bring her J.D. Salinger's autograph, a statue of the Bob Boy from a local hamburger chain and a black orchid. 

"I think one has to marry a person they're still going to be fascinated with when the physical allure is gone. And I will always be fascinated by Patricia. She will always be beautiful to me. The older she gets the more beautiful she becomes, a lot of which has to do with her intellect and her expressions. There's this fire that's always burning in her eyes. 

"I'm a big believer in the almost scientific aspects of marriage, and the fundamental necessities that go beyond whimsical fantasy," says the actor, whose previous girlfriends include actresses CHER and SARAH JESSICA PARKER plus model KRISTINA FULTON, the mother of his son. 

That said, Patricia is by no means the first woman Nicolas turns to when he has problems, says the actor who reveals his bizarre May to  

September relationship with veteran actress SHIRLEY MCLAINE, 67 - a dear friend to him over the past seven years since they met when they co-starred in GUARDING TESS. 

"Shirley is a very fun person to be around. She is full of life and she has a great ability to tell stories, and there is definitely a mysterious side to her which is quite funny. We call it a nice friendship. 

"With Shirley I feel I had an opportunity to work with a woman who is a  

legend and is somebody I could look up to and ask advice of and listen to stories which help me understand different things that I might need to know about how to last in this business. Because Shirley certainly has done a better job of that than anybody," he says. 

"I am deeply aware of the passing of time, and when I turn 40, I will  

already have been 40 in my mind for a couple of years. Forty for me will - like I have a choice in the matter - acceptable. There's a few things I want to accomplish in the four years before," says the actor who admits it's a struggle to maintain emotional balance in his personal life. 

"I've cut all the coffee out of my diet, so I don't get anxiety attacks anymore," he says. 

"I have to be in a good place, and what I mean by good isn't necessarily happy but where  

I'm functioning, where I know that I feel well. So that means I need to exercise at least an hour and a half for five days a week. I know that I have an attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I've been that way all my life. So I take this Saint John's Wort stuff to help me be balanced and not have obsessional thinking. 

"I've done a lot of changing and thinking, and after I shed my skin of wanting to be the rebellious, angst-ridden, broody actor, which I think is a very adolescent state of mind, I realized I didn't have to be that guy to be cool. And suddenly, I enjoyed my life more. I became free." 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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