Leaving Las Vegas
"To be a good actor, you have to be something like a criminal, to be willing to break the rules to strive for something new." Nicolas Cage
Academy Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage received rave reviews while portraying alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter Ben Sanderson in Mike Figgis' romantic drama Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and for portraying nervous screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald Kaufman, in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002). He first caught attention while playing punk rocker Randy in Valley Girl (1983) and later with his roles in Raising Arizona (1987) and Moonstruck (1987). Cage continued to gain recognition for starring in such films as The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), Face/Off (1997), Bringing Out the Dead (1999), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), Windtalkers (2002), National Treasure (2004) and The Weather Man (2005). He will star in a string of upcoming films, including Ghost Rider, The Wicker Man, an Untitled Oliver Stone/September 11 Project, Ant Bully (voice), Amarillo Slim, Next, Time Share, National Treasure 2, and Electric God.
Nicolas Cage is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola. He was one of John Willis' Screen World’s "Promising New Actors of 1984" and Premiere's “100 Most Powerful People in Hollywood” (1998). On July 31, 1998, Cage received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On a more personal note, the 6' 1" tall, sleepy-eyed actor has been linked to several screen beauties including Kristina Fulton (also a model; born 1957; relationship ended in 1991; Cage has one son with her), Sarah Jessica Parker (had one-year relationship) and Kristen Zang (1992-1994; engaged; engagement and relationship ended 1994). The ex-husband of actress Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie Presley, Cage is currently the husband of Alice Kim (a former waitress) and has one son with her.
Childhood and Family:
"I needed to change my name just to liberate myself and find out I could do it without walking into a Hollywood casting office with the name Coppola." Nicolas Cage
Born Nicholas Kim Coppola, on January 7, 1964, Long Beach, California, Nicholas later changed his name to Nicolas Cage, after the Marvel comic book hero Luke Cage, Power Man, in order not to benefit from his family name during film casting. The son of August Coppola (formerly a literature professor at Cal State Long Beach and Dean of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University; also writer) and Joy Vogelsang (a German American dancer/choreographer), Nicolas Cage is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola (born on April 7, 1939) and actress Talia Shire (born on April 25, 1945). His cousins are Sofia Coppola (director, Lost in Translation) and Jason Schwartzman, (actor, Rushmore). He is also the grandson of composer/musical arranger Carmine Flautist Coppola (born on June 11, 1910; died on April 26, 1991) and actress Italia Coppola. Nicolas Cage has two older brothers: director/screenwriter/producer/composer Christopher Coppola (born on January 25, 1962) and actor/disc jockey Marc Coppola (born in 1958).
Following his parents’ divorce in 1976, Cage moved to Beverly Hills with his father. He attended Beverly Hills High School, but dropped out at age 17. He then studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, California. Cage later graduated from UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television and received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from California State University in May 2001.
On April 8, 1995, Cage married actress Patricia Arquette (born on April 8, 1968), but they separated in November 2000 and divorced on May 18, 2001. In April 2001, Cage began dating the only child of Elvis, Lisa Marie Presley (born on February 1, 1968). The couple exchanged wedding vows on August 10, 2002, in Hawaii, but the marriage ended in divorce on May 24, 2004. That same year, Cage married a former sushi waitress, Alice Kim, on July 30, 2004. Cage and Kim welcomed son Kal-el Coppola Cage on October 3, 2005. Cage also has another son from his relationship with model and actress Kristina Fulton, Weston Coppola Cage (born in December 1990).
“I welcomed the idea of bad reviews because that would mean I was doing something that challenged the critics. I thought I could change acting, which isn’t really my goal anymore. But at that time I was headstrong.” Nicolas Cage
After watching James Dean's performance in East of Eden, Nicolas Cage became interested in becoming an actor. 15-year-old Cage then joined the Young Conservatory (part of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco), stayed there for one summer and appeared in a production of "Golden Boy." He subsequently landed on television in the ABC variety special The Best of Times, in 1981. In the following year, he debuted on the silver screen with a tiny part in Amy Heckerling's drama comedy, adopted from Cameron Crowe's book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (starring Sean Penn, billed as Nicolas Coppola).
Randy, a punk from the wrong side of Hollywood Hills, was Cage's first leading role. He played it in Martha Coolidge's romantic comedy Valley Girl (1983), opposite Deborah Foreman. He then joined uncle Francis Ford Coppola in his film version of S.E. Hinton's novel, Rumble Fish (1983, starring Matt Dillon), playing Smokey, the film's resident nerd, and in his uncle’s 1984 project, The Cotton Club, along with stars Richard Gere, Gregory Hines and Diane Lane. Director Alan Parker then cast Cage to act opposite Matthew Modine, playing two friends arriving back from Vietnam, in the war drama Birdy (1984), and his uncle recruited him again to costar with Kathleen Turner, playing her boyfriend and husband, in a charming twist on the Rip van Winkle fairy tale, Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). He also took a comic turn as an ex-con who marries an ex-cop (played by Holly Hunter), in the Coen brothers’ colorful and unconventional slapstick comedy Raising Arizona.
Norman Jewison's romantic comedy Moonstruck (1987) was Cage's first box-office hit. In the film, written by John Patrick Shanley, Cage portrayed Ronny Cammareri and starred opposite actor/singer Cher. He followed it up with the leading role of a publishing executive who imagines that he's turning into a vampire, in Robert Bierman's vampire comedy Vampire's Kiss (1989, one of the scenes shows Cage eating a live cockroach) and as Laura Dern's companion in David Lynch's adaptation of Barry Gifford's novel, Wild at Heart (1990). After mistaken by J.T. Walsh to be a professional hitman he hired to kill his unfaithful wife (Lara Flynn Boyle), in John Dahl's rock-solid little noir thriller Red Rock West (film debuted on HBO before receiving a theatrical release), Cage collaborated with writer/director Andrew Bergman in the romantic comedy Honeymoon in Vegas (both in 1992), alongside James Caan and Sarah Jessica Parker. He also hosted NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" show in September that year.
Cage joined brother Christopher Coppola in his crime drama film Deadfall (1993), alongside Michael Biehn and James Coburn. He shared the starring roles with Samuel L Jackson in writer-director E. Max Frye's crime comedy Amos & Andrew (1993) and became a Secret Service agent protecting a former First Lady (Shirley MacLaine) in Hugh Wilson's drama/comedy Guarding Tess (1994). He also promised to share his lottery ticket with Bridget Fonda in Andrew Bergman's drama comedy It Could Happen to You (1994) and delivered a mad-dog, bad guy satire in Barbet Schroeder's remake of Ben Hecht's 1947 screenplay, the crime drama Kiss of Death (1995, with David Caruso and Samuel L. Jackson).
A real breakthrough arrived in 1995 after director Mike Figgis hired Cage to star in his film Leaving Las Vegas. In the romantic drama film, based on John O'Brien's novel, Cage played Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter whom lost everything because of his drinking. His divergent performance received rave reviews and won him a Best Actor at the Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.
"The next morning [after winning the Oscar], I'm downtown, walking by the newsstand and it was the first time I'd ever been on the front page of the newspaper, which was...interesting. Then I went to this old coffee shop to have a cup of coffee and some pancakes, and the cooks and chefs come out and clap, and it was a great feeling. Then I got in my car and put my Beatles song on that I play when I'm feeling proud, which is 'Baby You're a Rich Man.' So I'm listening to that in my Lamborghini and I'm driving to the beach, feeling pretty good, when a cop pulls me over. And I think I'm going to get a ticket, which is what usually happens in that car, but they say, 'We just want to say congratulations.' And it was cool. And I'm walking on the beach, and surfers from, like, hundreds of yards in are going, 'Hey, Nic, congratulations!' And it was just a wild day. For one second, Los Angeles felt like a small town." Nicolas Cage
With the Oscar in his hand, more significant roles rolled in. Cage portrayed a brainy, geeky biochemist-turned-action hero in Michael Bay's The Rock (with Sean Connery and Ed Harris), a newly released ex-con and ex-US Ranger trapped in a prisoner transport plane in Simon West's Con Air (with John Cusack and John Malkovich), and swapped identities with terrorist John Travolta in John Woo's Face/Off. Cage appeared as an angel, who falls in love with Meg Ryan’s character, in Brad Silberling's City of Angels and played local corrupt cop Rick Santoro in Brian De Palma's thriller Snake Eyes (alongside Gary Sinise, both in 1998). Cage ended the decade with the lead role of Frank Pierce, a paramedic working at Gotham's Hell's Kitchen, in Martin Scorsese's adaptation of Joe Connelly's novel, Bringing Out the Dead (1999).
After stealing 50 cars with his crew in one night to save his brother's (Giovanni Ribisi) life, in Dominic Sena's remake of H.B. Halicki's 1974 motion picture, Gone in Sixty Seconds (also with Angelina Jolie), Cage wakes up on Christmas morning with a wife and two children in Brett Ratner's fantasy film The Family Man (both in 2000). He played the title character in John Madden's adaptation of Louis de Berničres' book Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001, opposite Penélope Cruz) and was assigned to protect Navajo Marines during WWII in John Woo's Windtalkers (2002, with Christian Slater). He also debuted in directing with the crime drama Sonny (starring James Franco, Cage also played the character Acid Yellow).
Director Spike Jonze asked Cage to portray lovelorn screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother, the less talented Donald Kaufman, in the off beat drama Adaptation, based on Susan Orlean's book "The Orchid Thief" and Charlie Kaufman's screenplay. Cage’s strong performance earned nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild. Ridley Scott then teamed him with Sam Rockwell to play two professional, small-time con artists in his drama comedy film, inspired by Eric Garcia's book, Matchstick Men (2003) and Jon Turteltaub later offered him the role of treasure hunter Ben Gates, who sets out to protect an ancient treasure, in the action adventure film National Treasure (2004, also starring Diane Kruger). More recent, Cage appeared as The Weather Man (2005, opposite Michael Caine and Hope Davis), in Gore Verbinski's drama comedy film with the same name.
The upcoming years will see Cage playing stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze, who gives up his soul to become a hell-blazing vigilante, in Mark Steven Johnson's film based on the Marvel character, Ghost Rider, and as the sheriff in Neil LaBute's The Wicker Man (with Ellen Burstyn). In Oliver Stone's untitled September 11 Project, Cage will costar with Maria Bello, and in John A. Davis' adaptation of John Nickle's book, Ant Bully, he will lend his voice to Zoc. Cage will also play lead roles in Milos Forman's Amarillo Slim and Lee Tamahori's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story, "The Golden Man." Cage will then be seen in Mark Steilen's Time Share and Mark Pellington's film version of Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel, Electric God. He will also reprise his role of Ben Gates in the sequel to National Treasure, titled National Treasure 2.
"Hollywood didn't know if I was an actor or a nut or if I was this crazy character I was playing. I had developed an image of being a little bit unusual, different and wild." Nicolas Cage