If you want to have some fun this week, spend a little time reading Nicolas Cage interviews for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence. Cage is easily one of the most fascinating actors working today, and while he may sound (and look) completely batsh*t crazy 90% of the time, there truly is a method to his madness. He's a smart actor who's fully aware of how he's perceived and how he wants to be perceived, and though his beyond-wacky tastes off screen have misfired once or twice (leading to more than a few money issues), as moviegoers we always know we're going to get exactly what we want and expect from Cage on the big screen, and that's an actor giving it his all. Sure, sometimes his "all" isn't enough to make it a good movie, but Cage is almost always fun to watch regardless. Right? Right.
One of the most well-known factoids about Cage is that he changed his name early on in his acting career because he didn't want people to immediately associate him with his already-popular Hollywood family, the Coppolas. Cage is Francis Ford Coppola's nephew, and early on he learned his birth name, Nicolas Coppola, was going to give him problems as he tried to get his acting career off the ground. Apart from what I just told you, there's not much more to the story. However, we found this quote in an interview with Moviefone rather interesting as Cage admits the name change specifically came after his work on Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
It works better if you just read the entire exchange, so here it is. Once again, courtesy of Mike Ryan.
One of your first roles was in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Was that a good experience?
No. It was a terrible experience.
Yeah. Terrible. Because I must have auditioned for the Judge Reinhold part 10 or 11 times. I was underage, so I couldn't get it because I couldn't work as many hours. And I was surrounded by actors, whose names I won't mention, who were not very open to the idea of a young guy named "Coppola" being an actor. So that movie was instrumental in me changing my name because of the kind of unfortunate responses to my last name.
So they held that against you?
Yeah. They would congregate outside my trailer and say things, like quoting lines from "Apocalypse Now," and it made it very hard for me to believe in myself. So it wasn't until I auditioned for "Valley Girl" -- where Martha Coolidge did not know who I was. I had already changed my name to Cage and I had this weight come off my biddy and I went, "Wow, I really can do this." And I felt liberated by that experience. And you can see it in "Valley Girl" that I'm free. Whereas in "Fast Times," or even "Rumble Fish," I'm somewhat stuck.
It's interesting to hear Cage talk about what sounds like bullying on the set of Fast Times, and we're obviously curious to know who was giving him such a tough time about being a Coppola. Regardless, you respect this man's talent and career more when you hear him talk about stuff like this because he didn't use his family connections and name to rise to the top. He changed his name and went at it the hard way, which means he truly earned his success.
You should give the whole interview a read because it's pretty fun. Another thing we learned is that Cage almost starred opposite Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, but did Leaving Las Vegas instead. Meanwhile, in an interview with MTV, Cage admitted he almost played the Scarecrow in a Batman movie for Joel Schumacher. And finally, Cage also spent a night in Dracula's castle while shooting Ghost Rider 2, so there's that too. Anything else you want to know?