Nicolas Cage on being a believable drug addict and why he won’t do Shakespeare

Nicolas Cage on being a believable drug addict and why he won’t do Shakespeare

Nicolas Cage at the press conference for Bad Lieutenant (Photo by Karon Liu) 

Perhaps it was naive to expect the real-life Nicolas Cage to be like the characters he portrays in The Wicker Man and The Knowing: paranoid and running around looking concerned. Still, the Oscar-winner, in town to promote Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, had his share of head-scratching quotes in between gushing about working with director Werner Herzog at yesterday’s press conference.

“I was born in Los Angeles, California but you could say on some level I was reborn in New Orleans,” said the goateed Cage. “There was a mystical sort of thing that happened that I don’t want to talk about.”

The movie, not a remake of Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (Herzog has never seen it), is about a drug-addicted cop (Cage), who takes on a multiple-homicide case. In the film, Cage’s character regularly hallucinates about iguanas during his trips. “Werner was very, very devoted to his iguanas,” said Cage.

During the second week of shooting, Cage was apparently so good at faking highs, Herzog thought he wasn’t acting. “In a scene where Nicholas snorted cocaine and he behaved so convincingly different that I had a suspicion he really took cocaine,” said Herzog.

“It was one of the first scenes in the movie and we try to live in that imagination to make it real,” explained Cage. “So you have to make it real for yourself in order to make it convincing so I had this vial of saccharin or something, and I would just snort it and created this imaginary world in which I was high on coke and Werner said, ‘What is in that vial?’ And I said, ‘Please don’t blow my imaginary world.’”

But despite Cage’s eccentricities, there is one refreshingly poignant quote he uttered about the limits of an actor’s versatility.

“I’m one of those people that feel that Americans shouldn’t do Shakespeare. The manner of the English speech seems to work effortlessly with William Shakespeare but with Americans it seems stuck and so I really cannot grapple with it. It would have to be a modernized version of it for me to explore that.”

Such as the modernized, American version of The Wicker Man?