Nicholas Cage Interview

The actor talks about his latest project and getting hit with food from Gore Verbinski

A weather man's job is pretty easy - you stand in front of a green screen and tell people what the temperature is outside. But in Chicago, people rely on their local tv guy to get it right.

Unfortunately, Nicolas Cage sometimes gets it wrong in his new movie, The Weather Man. And to retaliate, some Chicagoans throw food and drinks at him - apparently they're not happy enough the White Sox are going to win the World Series.

But while shooting, it was actually director, Gore Verbinski who actually flung the food at him and snow balls at his co-star Hope Davis.

Nick talked about that, working with Michael Caine, being a new father and his future plans with Ghost Rider. Check out what he said:

What is your creative process?

Nicolas Cage: Well the idea that I'm not a method actor implies that I don't subscribe to any particular method of a sort. But, I have my own methods. And that method is life. At the time when I agreed to do The Weather Man I was going through a divorce and I was trying to figure out how I could take a negative and turn it into a positive. I received the script for ‘The Weather Man' and thought, ‘Oh, well here is a parallel.' Sometimes I choose movies that can help me like a therapy. Help me do something positive with a negative emotion. And ‘The Weather Man' was an opportunity to take this well of feeling that I had and just funnel it into Dave Spritz. Dave and I were going through similar experiences. So, it became an overlay of my life and Dave Spritz's life.

How many times have things been thrown at you?

Nicolas Cage: I wish I could be more colorful and say all the time, but I've never had anything thrown at me. At least not food and not from someone I hadn't met before. There have been times at me in the past where girls have thrown glasses at me and things like that. (laughs)

How much cash do you normally carry in your wallet?

Nicolas Cage: Well, you want to come up and find out? I don't normally carry a wallet on me. (laughs) I don't have a wallet on me or carry any cash on me.

So, do you have assistants who go out and buy necessities for you?

Nicolas Cage: I go to the market; I just went to the market. I bought about 20 packages of Gillette Mach 3 shavers. That way I wouldn't have to go to the market again. I bought it in bulk and that way its' there at home. And I used it this morning for you. (laughs)

How difficult was it to play someone who was fumbling through fatherhood?

Nicolas Cage: I think no mater what walk of life we're in or who we are we have that connection with our father because we are small in the beginning and they are big and there is awesome regard for ‘dad.' And on top of that my dad is a professor of comparative literature so he's very, very smart. So, I was always trying to figure out how to aspire to be him and listen to classical music and read the classic novels. So, there was this intimidating aura of growing up with a university professor. So, to answer your question simply, I just used my own feelings about my own father.

How closely could you relate to the DMV scene?

Nicolas Cage: I don't relate to it in the regard that I have bad relations with people in the street or at the DMV. I try to make an effort to meet people well. And I know that if it weren't for my fans I wouldn't be here. SO, they are very important to me. And I know what it's like to meet someone you admire and have them be complete, well, jerks. So, you go, ‘Now I don't' know if I can enjoy the work anymore.' So, I always want to meet people well and take every picture and sign every autograph. But, before I was famous somebody impounded my car and they weren't very nice about it. It was a peugot 505 convertible and it was Dean Martin's car which his ironic because I now live in Dean Martin's old house. And they did it with so much – they were so rough about it. There was no reason to impound it. I hadn't done anything wrong with it. There were dents all over it. And I remember just wanting to go there and get my car by any means possible. So, I kind of related to that, for some reason that memory comes to mind with the moment with the DMV in the movie. I think we've all been frustrated with the beauracracy, the powers that be that doesn't matter if you're a weatherman or me or you. We all have to deal with that line and it's frustrating.

How do you feel about being a Dad again?

Nicolas Cage: Without going into detail, I've got 15 years experience so, I'm ready. (laughs)

How was working with the green screens?

Nicolas Cage: You know, I had done Adaptation where I had to act with a twin brother that wasn't there with an ear wig in my ear and a tennis ball. So, that was like a precursor to being a weather man doing everything backwards. Cause it's all backwards. They put up these put-ons. And you can't look at it and you have to do your dialogue. Those days were daunting for me. I would go there very nervous about getting the dialogue out and getting the moves. I worked with Tom Skillet in Chicago and I had people to guide me on the set and actual weather people who could guide me on the set and that was helpful.

How was working with Michael Caine and having to live up to a very smart father?

Nicolas Cage: It's always fascinating to work the best in any field and Michael Caine for me has always been among the best in acting and film acting. It was exhilarating. It was a wonderful opportunity to study him. To look at his very seasoned approach to film acting. And that whole thing that he did where he talked about looking at the right eye and the left eye. And I was watching him and there were moments where he would actually do that to me. And I was like,' Wow, Michael Caine actually did that thing I saw him do on that video.' I was ecstatic to work with him and he was also friendly which was an added bonus. In terms of the other question. In regards to my own father, yes it does relate. My father had that aura about him, a highly regarded professor of literature. That's a lot to live up to. He has his Phd. But, what I will say about my dad that may seem out of character is that I will go on record now and say I'm not a high school drop out. That did not happen. I was not a good match for school. I was not a good match for high school. I went to my father and said, ‘Dad, this isn't me. I want to act, I want to work. This isn't right for me. It's affecting my self esteem. I've got to get out.' And instead of pushing me he said, ‘That's fine. Just get the equivilancy.' So, I studied and got my GED and got my diploma and left and went to work. The reason why I bring that up is that for someone who had a history in education and a life in education he was also frustrated with the educational system and encouraged me to pursue my other goals.

Why is your character having so much trouble communicating with his wife?

Nicolas Cage: It's the battle of the sexes. There are times when we have difficulty from both sides comprehending what exactly is it you were thinking. And I think Dave is on the receiving end of that because he's not thinking all the time. He's forgetting, things are slipping his mind. He's got to get the tartar sauce and I'm sure it's enormously frustrating for her that something as mundane as tartar sauce could tip the apple cart, but we know it's more that really, don't we? It's everything. It's all building up to that little straw.

Did you draw from your own experiences?

Nicolas Cage: Yeah. Sure. I draw from everything. I'm very sensitive. I draw from the weather too. (laughs)

Your character has worldly success and even though he has problems, he has a job a lot of people would envy. How do you relate to that as someone who has had a lot of worldly success?

Nicolas Cage: Hold that thought. It is a reality what you talk about. But, it's the age-old adage, isn't it? You're not really going to find happiness in the material things. They will make things easier, but there is always going to be that nagging feeling inside that there is something else. And I wrestle with that every day. I'm always struggling with the spiritual and the material. So, that's a hard thing to explain to people especially when that person is your grandmother. To say, ‘Look, I know what it's not what it all looks like or is chalked up to be in your mind, but if you take the camera off of it I'm just like anybody else.' I'm like anybody in this room. Without getting too metaphysical we're all connected.

Will you slow down at all with the new baby?

Nicolas Cage: Probably, yes.

Did Gore send the fast food at you, and enjoy it?

Nicolas Cage: Yes, yes. There are some good photographs of him throwing the chicken McNuggets at my head. He's really got a through with his arm. He's got a good arm. He could have been a good pitcher. I think he did enjoy it. He made sure every time it was him.

He was gentle with her.

Nicolas Cage: Yeah, he wasn't so gentle with me.

Do you have a home in New Orleans? Do you think the city will bounce back?

Nicolas Cage: It's a very resilient city that historically been beleaguered with different epidemics. Yellow fever, all kinds of things have happened to that city, but it's always bounced back. I am confident that the city will again bounce back. I hope that it gets all the help it needs. It's one of the few places in our country that resonates with history. It's so old and the architecture and every aspect of it has history. It's really like my muse. I love being there and I get recharged by being there - the music, the culture, the whole thing. I have high hopes that it will bounce back.

You are playing someone uncomfortable in his skin. Can you share that feeling? And how do you release your anger?

Nicolas Cage: There have been times when I've been uncomfortable in my own skin, like press junkets for example. (laughs) But, no, honestly where you're in a room for five hours and you have one TV interview after another and you know that anything you say is going to be on public record for the rest of your life. That can make you pretty uncomfortable in your own skin. But in terms of and maybe I can play that with Dave Spritz, but in terms of what I do with my own anger - George Washington once said, ‘When you're angry count to ten and if you're really angry count to 100 before you do anything.' So, I do that. And then also I use film, again, to transfer that anger and do something positive with that emotion like The Weather Man.

Do you still do archery?

Nicolas Cage: I have not, but, there aren't too many things that I'll come out and say I'm a natural at. And there was only one thing I knew I was and when I started doing archery it was the first time I really found something besides acting where I thought, ‘Wow, I could really do this.' The archery in that movie is mine. I did all that. I am happy to say that. I really enjoyed it. I'd like to continue to do it when I get some time. I remember there was one shot where Gore said, ‘Can you get the arrow a little closer to the camera.' And it was the scene in the snow where I'm drawing down on my nemesis. And we had to get the arrow really close to the camera and the arrow went right through the mat box and I was very, very happy about that.

What would you like to make different or better about raising your new child?

Nicolas Cage: That is a brilliant question and I'm sure anything I say to that will reveal a lot about me, my character and every dimension of my mind. But, I want to be very respectful about protecting my children and his privacy. So, I'm going to withdraw from that question. Gracefully, decline.

You're immediate reactions to reading the script the first time? And what efforts you made to get this role?

Nicolas Cage: The producer who you already met, Todd Black, he already had the script by Steven Conrad and he brought it to my company Saturn Films. My partner Norm said, ‘I read this fantastic script, you've got to read it.' And I read it and said,' ‘Yeah, this is really right for me at this time.' Because of the reasons we already discussed I have a lot of stuff I want to get out and this is the perfect vehicle for that. So, Todd and I met and we started talking about directors and said we had a great meeting with Gore Verbinski and he's really passionate about the movie. Now, Gore and I had tried to work together a few times before and it didn't happen for whatever the reason was. So, I remembered Gore and some of his other films that he'd done and his passion. I met with Gore and it was chemistry. It seemed like the right thing to do. There was a spark and so, we just went for it. And that was really it, nothing too exciting. It just fell into place easily.

Would you agree Chicago was an excellent place for a setting?

Nicolas Cage: Well, it's a very important location to The Weather Man. We have to make a distinction between weather men. A Chicago weather man is not the same as animal as an L.A. weather man. Let's face it. We have perfect weather most of the time and in Chicago people really rely on their weather man. It can make the difference between making it home alive sometimes or not. It's that cold as you know in Chicago. People very often stay at home. It also affects itself in the culture. Conrad, who wrote the script, would talk about that people would just come over to each other's homes and talk just because of the weather. So, Chicago, that location was intrinsic and instrumental to the whole movie. It is a character in the movie - Chicago and the weather.

Do you have a spiritual philosophy to your work? And what of Dave will you carry with you?

Nicolas Cage: What part of Dave will I carry with me? I think Dave now, I'll carry with me for the rest of my life and even after I'm gone he'll be on film. So, we're linked. We're connected. I don't know how else to answer that. I'm happy with the movie. I'm happy with the work Gore did. I had a great opportunity to work with Hope Davis and Michael Caine. I don't know what else needs to be said, except that I hope you guys enjoy it. That I hope you go there and get something out if it. I know I did.

What can you tell us about Ghost rider?

Nicolas Cage: It is very simple and it may sound strange, but I am Ghost Rider. (laughs) It wasn't that challenging and I had all the honest ways of expressing that character. I'm very curious to see how people will respond to it.

How are you like Ghost Rider?

Nicolas Cage: Well, he's a man who is trying to just take a negative and turn it into a positive like we all do. We've been talking about that here together today with The Weather Man. I've been trying to take movies and do something positive with any negative feelings I've had. Johnny Blaze is a superhero who had a very horrible thing happen to him and he's taken that negative and is going to make something positive out of it no matter what. And in that way you can say I'm like Ghost Rider.

How did you develop such a strong dynamic with the daughter in the movie?

Nicolas Cage: Well, I liked her very much, but I like children. I love children. I like being around children. I feel comfortable being around children. They are very close to their hearts. There isn't a lot of filtering between a child's heart and who the child meets. So, I like that integrity, I respond to that.

Do you think you've moved past that down trodden stage?

Nicolas Cage: Yeah, I think we live in cycles. Things wax and wane. And right now, I'm just trying to get better at negotiating the waves. Right now I want to be more neutral than ecstatic or depressed. I wanna be right in the middle. I think I can be better in all ways if I adopt that attitude as an actor, as a father, as a husband. You can't get anything done if you're jumping up and down and so excited you can't see an accident about to happen. Or if you're down in the dumps you're not going be any good to anybody either. I'm not saying I have any control of my destiny. I don't, but I'd like to get better at surfing the cycles, the waves of life.

What sort of research are you doing for your new Oliver Stone 9/11 film?

Nicolas Cage: I'm just going to finish The Wicker Man; I'm on set with that - be done Wednesday. Going to come back here and then I'm going to New York. I've met John McCloughlin, his family. Talked through things, spent some time with the Port Authhority. Met with all the surviving members of the tragedy that were there and just sort of talk through it with Oliver. I get the feeling from Oliver and the work that they have done on the screenplay that they want to make it pretty cinema verite. So it will be feeling like lot of real time unfolding. There is a lot of maybe technical jargon you may not understand, but it's going to smack of reality. Try and get it as real as they can. I'm happy to say that Oliver and I have been trying to work together for many years, it hasn't happened. But, I'm happy to say that we waited for this one, because this one is so positive about the human condition. The buildings themselves really aren't exploited. I don't think you even see the skyline. It's really more about these men as the building came down. Where they went to survive and how they coped.

Lots of your work is about balancing a normal family life. Do you do this intentionally?

Nicolas Cage: I will say that I've really wanted to make a family drama. That's a genre that could do the most good for people, because we can relate. We can go to the theater and grow in some way and learn something, but it's also the hardest kind of movie to make. It can lapse into saccharine. It can be very hallmark card or episodic TV shows. I don't want that at all. With my goal to make a family drama and also my artistic aspirations of doing things which are a bit edgy, I found a really happy marriage in The Weather Man because Gore went outside the box and made something personal and artistic, but at the same time it hits all the right notes in terms of children who may be going through a divorce or husband and wife that may be dealing with it in a way that may not be Pollyanna or saccharine or B.S. So, I feel like I haven't made that many movies like it, at least in that genre. And I know I have never made a movie as individual as The Weather Man is in dealing with family issues.

Why do you think so many filmmakers want you to be the off camera in your movies?

Nicolas Cage: I hate it. I don't want to do it ever again. I don't know why? Am I the guy that does it the most? I'm always told, ‘Everyone does it. You gotta do it. It's great for the DVD.' I think it's terrible. Don't give all your tricks away. The best thing you can do it get audiences get their own interpretation. However, it is helpful for students of filmmaking. So, you can see where you really wanted to get a good education in filmmaking you can listen to any Marty Scorsese movie on Criterion and listen to what he's saying and you've got it. In that sense it is a plus. But, now you're going to be seeing less of those now that I know you can get away with it.

As much as the commercials are making this film look like a comedy, it's not. There is some comedy in it, but it's more of a drama of Nick trying to decide on how he wants to deal with life, his over bearing father, trying to get back with his wife, and work on his relationship with his kids. The Weather Man opens in theaters October 28th; it's rated 'R.'