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.

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

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