Nicolas Cage: Why I want to move to Somerset
What’s up with Nicolas Cage?
What’s up with Nicolas Cage?
The man who has played some of cinema’s battiest and baddest characters is sitting tamely before me, sharply dressed in a swish green blazer, talking courteously about his new movie The Frozen Ground in which he plays possibly his most normal character to date, a cop determined to bring a serial killer to justice.
“Originally they offered me the bad guy because people would probably expect me to play that,” chuckles Cage, famous for his outlandish performances in films like Wild At Heart, Lord Of War and numerous blockbusters (Face/Off, Con Air, Kick-Ass).
“It’s no secret that I like to experiment with the boundaries of film acting and go outside the box. Some people call it over the top but to me it’s more operatic or surreal. I don’t want to get stuck with naturalism.”
Still, after taking a year off work he wanted to remind people he could be, well, normal.
The Frozen Ground is based on the true story of serial killer Robert Hansen (played by John Cusack) who murdered at least 17 women in Alaska in the early Eighties. Cage is the dogged, down-to-earth State Trooper Jack Halcombe who nailed him.
“I thought it was time to show people I was also capable of a quiet, small performance,” he says. “And I was interested in playing a person who in my opinion is a real hero.”
Cage says Halcombe, a pseudonym for Glenn Flothe, “genuinely cared about those young ladies who were abducted and slaughtered like animals”. He was also pioneering in his use of FBI profiling to help identity the killer, an unassuming baker.
Mixing it up has always been important to the hard-working Cage, who has hardly stopped since landing a leading role in 1983’s Rumble Fish (directed by his uncle Francis Coppola, brother of his university professor father).
“I’ve made 80 or more movies but you can never get too comfortable with what you’re doing or you get lazy. I’ve tried to hopscotch with the genres and the styles.”
In any case, insists Cage, he’s actually a pretty ordinary guy, far removed from his eccentric, wild-eyed persona (cemented when he ate a cockroach for real in 1989’s Vampire’s Kiss).
“It may come as a surprise to people but I’m actually quite boring and normal,” he admits cheerfully. “What do I do? I read books. I drive my kid to school, I have lunch with my wife. I pick my kid up from school. I go home.”
Approaching his fifth decade (he turns 50 in January) Cage is more than happy to bid goodbye to his forties.
In 2009 he started selling off his assets to settle a $13million unpaid tax bill after reportedly blowing through a $100million fortune on properties galore, a private island in the Bahamas, luxury yachts, numerous cars and a Gulfstream jet.
“I’m done with my forties,” he admits. “It was a decade of reckoning for me.” How so, I ask? “In all kinds of ways. Transitions. Re-evaluation. Re-location. Family. Work. It was a decade of reckoning and survival,” he adds with a smile. “Without going into too much detail.”
Out of that rationalisation process, Cage chose two principal places of residence which could not be more different but which appeal to alternatives sides of his personality: Las Vegas and, er, Somerset.
Yes, Mr A-List Hollywood star has a “little cottage” in a village in Somerset, which he adores.
Purchased in 2006, it’s all that remains of his grand British property portfolio that included a townhouse in Bath and Midford Castle in Somerset, an 18th-century mock-gothic folly castle. Both were sold in 2009.
An Anglophile (“I love England, it’s no secret”) he spends the Christmas holidays in Somerset and may even move there permanently having eyed a good school for his son.
“I usually spend the winter holidays here, Christmas and whatnot,” he reveals. “But I think in a couple of years I’ll be spending more time here. The house is close to a school that I like a lot. I’m hopeful that I’ll be back here.”
So what is it that he likes about England so much?
“In Somerset, I enjoy the peace of the oak trees and the rolling green hills and I like going into Glastonbury,” he explains. “It’s like walking into a pack of Tarot cards. On one side of the street you have some of the oldest Christian churches, on the other these pagan shops. It’s like a microcosm of different belief systems and that’s interesting to me.”
And what about Las Vegas, where Cage lives most of the year when not working. “Vegas is more about the night. And the lights. And the shows and the entertainment. And I also enjoy that. There’s a magic to it.”
Interestingly, the California-raised Cage says he feels almost more at home in the UK than America because of his discomfort with the slaughter of Native Americans.
“I always see America as really belonging to the Native Americans. Even though I’m American I still feel like a visitor in my own country.
“When I’m in England I know I’m a visitor but being a white man in England with ancestry that’s German and Italian, I have a history with the Romans and the Saxons. I feel some connection and ancestry here, as weird as that sounds.”
It’s also thanks to a British director, Mike Figgis, that Cage won his Oscar for his portrayal of an alcoholic who drinks himself to death in Leaving Las Vegas.
“That was one of the highlights of my experience as a film actor,” he says. “Thank God the shoot was only four weeks because I was really living the part. I kind of let the demon in a little.”
He laughs. No trace of any demons in the relaxed superstar before me.
Cage may have enjoyed some eyebrow-raising headlines over the last decade (the short-lived second marriage to Lisa Marie Presley, the profligacy and unpaid taxes) but he certainly seems pretty chilled out and content now.
He’s happily married to third wife Alice Kim, a waitress he met in 2004, and they have an eight-year-old son, Kal-El, named after the birth moniker of Cage’s favourite comic-book hero, Superman.
“Let’s just say that I have my values in perspective now. What’s important to me, and what’s sacred to me, is my family and my work,” says Cage who has a 23-year-old son, Weston Coppola Cage, from an earlier relationship.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a dad, I’m just fortunate enough to blend the two better now. I make sure I have my family with me when I’m working. I don’t want to jinx anything so let’s just say I’m content.”