Nicolas Cage has offered new insight into some of his most eccentric and unorthodox acting roles, from David Lynch’s deranged road movie Wild at Heart, to 1997’s Face/Off, to Sion Sono’s 2021 sci-fi comedy Prisoners of the Ghostland. And, if you thought that his acting was over-the-top in any of the above, he has something to say about that, too.
Speaking in an interview for Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast, the thespian — he prefers the word “thespian” apparently, at risk of “sounding like a pretentious asshole” — looks back over his career and inspirations, running all the way up to his most recent film, the relatively understated Pig.
“It was my aunt Talia Shire who first said to me, ‘Naturalism is a style,’” he says, reflecting on his signature acting methods. “I was also a big believer in arts synchronicity,” he adds, going on to propose an approach to film performance that takes inspiration from painting: “You can get abstract, you can get photorealistic, you can get impressionistic.”
“Stanislavski said the worst thing an actor can do is imitate. Being a bit of a rebel, I wanted to break that rule. So I tried with Wild Heart a Warhol-like approach to the Sailor Ripley character.”
“In movies like Prisoners of the Ghost Land or even Face/Off or Vampire’s Kiss,” he continues, “I was experimenting with what I would like to call Western Kabuki or more Baroque or operatic style of film performance. Break free from the naturalism, so to speak, and express a larger way of performance.”
In the interview, Cage is also directly questioned about viewers who think his performance goes too far, and strays into the realm of “over the top”. He replies: “When they say that to me, I say, ‘You tell me where the top is and I’ll tell you whether or not I’m over it.’”
Starring Nicolas Cage in a more subtle mode, Pig was released in 2021 and is now available to stream online. In April this year, he’s also set to star as a fictionalised version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Revisit the trailer below, and Dazed’s rundown of the wildest moments in Wild at Heart here.