9 Bizarre Facts About Nicolas Cage

Sascha Steinbach, Getty Images
Sascha Steinbach, Getty Images

It is perhaps unfair to characterize actor Nicolas Cage as an eccentric solely based on his frenzied performances on film. Yes, he once ingested a live cockroach for 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss. It is also true that he improvised smashing a pool table with a sledgehammer while singing “The Hokey Pokey” for 2018’s Mom and Dad, and that his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, threatened to fire him because he insisted on speaking in a bizarrely high-pitched voice for 1986’s Peggy Sue Got Married.

None of these things indicate anything other than a devotion to his craft. It’s the other facts of the 54-year-old Cage’s eventful life that make some wonder if he’s somewhere south of normal. Consider these selections culled from his past and decide for yourself.

1. A NAKED HOME INTRUDER ATE A FUDGSICLE AT THE FOOT OF HIS BED.

Nicolas Cage appears at a film premiere in 2010
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Discussing his home invasion thriller Trespass in 2011, Cage shared with reporters that he was once victimized by someone who had broken into his Orange County home. “I opened my eyes and there was a naked man wearing my leather jacket eating a Fudgsicle in front of my bed,” he said. “I know it sounds funny ... but it was horrifying.” Cage said he talked to the man until police arrived.

2. HE WAS THE VICTIM OF A MASSIVE COMIC BOOK HEIST.

A selection of rare comics at a comic book convention
Matt Cowan, Getty Images

In 1997, comic book fan Cage purchased a copy of Action Comics #1, the highly sought-after 1939 issue that introduced Superman and ushered in the 20th century superhero genre. That comic book, along with several other rare titles, were stolen from Cage’s home in January 2000 in a case that went cold for 11 years before the book showed up in a San Fernando Valley storage locker. (The locker’s owner said he purchased the unit without knowing what was inside.) After a police investigation, the comic was returned to Cage, who sold it for a then-record $2.1 million later that same year. Cage called the retrieval of the comic after a decade “divine providence.”

3. HE BOUGHT A PYRAMID TOMB.

Actor Nicolas Cage's pyramid gravestone in New Orleans
Nelo Hotsuma, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Standing in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans is a nine-foot pyramid tomb that carries a Latin maxim, “Omni Ab Uno” (Everything From One). The grave underneath is currently unoccupied, but some have speculated that it may eventually house Cage, who purchased the twin plots in 2010 and built the pyramid over them. The actor has never publicly commented on the sale.

4. HE SLEPT IN DRACULA’S CASTLE.

An image of Bran Castle in Romania
Daniel Mihailescu, AFP/Getty Images

While promoting Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in 2011, actor Idris Elba recalled an incident on location in Romania that exemplifies Cage’s professional commitment. Noticing Cage appeared tired one day, Elba asked if he had gotten any rest. “Yeah man, I went up to Dracula's castle ... the ruins up in the mountains, and I stayed the night,” Cage said. “'I just had to channel the energy, and it was pretty spooky up there.”  Cage was probably referring to Bran Castle near Transylvania, which may have been the inspiration for Dracula’s residence in the original Bram Stoker novel.

5. HE ACCIDENTALLY BOUGHT A STOLEN DINOSAUR SKULL.

A Tyrannosaurus Bataar skeleton in Ulan Bator
Johannes Eisele, AFP/Getty Images

Cage’s extravagant spending habits have been well documented, though few purchases have matched his grandiose gesture of spending $276,000 for a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull at a 2007 auction. What Cage did not know was that the skull had been stolen from Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Contacted by the Department of Homeland Security in 2014, the actor agreed to hand it over so it could be returned.

6. HE BOUGHT THE MOST HAUNTED MANSION IN THE WORLD SO HE COULD WRITE A HORROR NOVEL.

The LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans
Reading Tom, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

What better atmosphere to compose a scary bunch of prose than a haunted house? This was Cage’s motivation for purchasing the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans in 2007, which once belonged to serial killer Madame Delphine LaLaurie. He lost it to foreclosure in 2009. “I didn’t get too far with the novel,” he told Vanity Fair.

7. HE ONCE TRIPPED OUT ON MUSHROOMS WITH HIS CAT.

Nicolas Cage appears in Tokyo, Japan in 2004
Kochi Kamoshida, Getty Images

Appearing as a guest on David Letterman’s Late Show in 2010, Cage was armed with a valuable talk show anecdote. Earlier in his career, he said, he owned a cat named Lewis who enjoyed partaking in Cage’s stash of magic mushrooms. Finally, Cage decided he should have some, too. “I remember lying in my bed for hours,” he said, “and Lewis was on the desk across from the bed for hours, staring at each other … not moving. But he would stare at me, and I had no doubt that he was my brother.”

8. HE SHOWED UP TO A NICOLAS CAGE FILM FESTIVAL.

Nicolas Cage appears in New York for a film premiere in 2013
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

For the past several years, Cage fans in Austin have gathered at the Alamo Drafthouse for a screening of popular Cage titles like Face/Off and National Treasure. Organizers make a point to invite Cage every time, though the actor’s schedule typically prevents him from attending. In January 2017, the actor finally made it, surprising an audience of Cagephiles and sitting for several of his own films. Afterward, he took questions and delivered a live reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.

9. A JAPANESE CORN SNACK USED HIS LIKENESS WITHOUT PERMISSION.

In October 2017, Cage aficionados in Japan were delighted to see the actor’s face emblazoned on packages of a crunchy corn snack called Deluxe Umaibou Nicolastick. While it would be nice to think Cage was compensated for his apparent endorsement of the food item, a representative for the actor told Kotaku that he had not given his permission for his face to appear on the wrapper—the item was intended to promote his film, Army of One, in a handful of theaters, but no one had asked Cage for his consent. The film’s international distributor, FilmNation, apologized for the error.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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