While talking about putting his own unusual spin on characters (like channeling “an outlaw version of Woody Woodpecker” in Raising Arizona), the actor told the New York Times in an interview that directors usually “get it.” However, in the case of Peggy Sue, Francis Ford Coppola, who is his uncle, “didn’t,” though Cage quickly added, that he “didn’t want to make that movie” anyway.
Cage said he “must have said no five or six times” and asked Coppola, “‘Uncle, why do you want to make this movie at all?’” Coppola replied that it was like, Our Town, which wasn’t a selling point to Cage.
“By the way, I couldn’t stand Our Town,” Cage said. “I had bad memories about Our Town. In high school I was cast as Constable Warren, and Jon Turteltaub, who later directed me in National Treasure, got the lead. He never let me forget it. And I just don’t like the play. It’s a Norman Rockwell borefest.”
Despite Cage telling Coppola no, “He said, ‘Just come to rehearsal,’” Cage said, and he finally agreed under the condition that he could “go really far out with the character” and “talk like Pokey from The Gumby Show.”
Cage recalled showing up to rehearse “and everybody was rolling their eyes because I was talking like that.” He said Kathleen Turner, who played the title character, “was very upset because she wanted me to be Al, my character from Birdy, and instead she got Jerry Lewis on psychedelia.”
Cage said the whole thing “did not go over well.” He remembered producer Ray Stark from Tri-Star “flew up to fire me, and thankfully Uncle went to bat and said, ‘Young Nicky’s doing this.’ But needless to say, I never worked for them again after that.”
Coppola and Turner’s relationship was so bad that he sued her over what she wrote about that time in her 2008 autobiography, Send Yourself Roses. In addition to complaining about “that stupid voice of his” and “the fake teeth,” that “I cringe to think about it,” she claimed that Cage was “arrested twice for drunk-driving” while making the movie “and, I think, for stealing a dog. He’d come across a Chihuahua he liked and stuck it in his jacket.”
Cage sued her for defamation over the arrests and dog theft claims, ultimately winning damages as well as an apology. Though that didn’t change Turner’s opinion of him. Last year, she called him “an a**hole” in an interview with W magazine. "It was tough to not say, 'Cut it out,”' she said of his schtick. “But it wasn’t my job to say to another actor what he should or shouldn’t do.”
In the New York Times piece, Cage waxed on what is good acting versus bad acting.
“Look at James Cagney in White Heat. ‘Made it, Ma! Top of the world!’ That’s not ‘real.’ But is it fun to watch? Is it exciting? Is it truthful? Yeah, and to me, that is great acting. It’s a matter of which paintbrush you want to work with. I can look at TV commercials and see cringeworthy acting, and it makes me laugh, and I’m probably going to wind up putting it in one of my performances. I mean, I’ve done it.”
He cited an instance in which he saw John Stamos in a women’s hair removal commercial — the Fuller House star said, “I love girls with great-lookin’ legs. I love Neet girls” — and he borrowed his delivery for Peggy Sue.
“No offense to John Stamos, because he’s a beautiful man and a lot of fun to watch on camera,” he said. But “the way he [said] ‘love’— he expressed it with almost a rock ’n’ roll screech. I saw that commercial, and I had to put it in Peggy Sue Got Married. I was playing Charlie Bodell, and I’m with Kathleen Turner, and I said: “I’m in love with you.” I’ve told John about this. He took the compliment.”
The NYT interview is otherwise chock full of Cage oddities. For instance, he confirms an old story that took mushrooms after his cat took them out of the refrigerator and brought them to him — then made a point to declare that he’s “anti-drug.” He spoke about the dinosaur skull he paid $276,000 for only to learn it had been stolen and be out the cash — “that stank.” He said he had to “re-home” his two pet cobras after talking about them an interview and upsetting his neighbors. He spoke about those videos of him singing Prince at a karaoke place that ended up on TMZ, calling it his “primal scream therapy” and expressing annoyance it “became everybody’s business.” And he touched briefly on his recent annulment — after a quickie Vegas wedding (his fourth!) with Erika Koike — to say he was “pretty upset about that and the way things happened,” but didn’t “want to talk about it.”
He also took credit for Johnny Depp becoming an actor.
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