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Sascha Steinbach, Getty Images
Sascha Steinbach, Getty Images

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.

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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
Getty Images

To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
Getty Images

David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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Shopping Malls Might be Dying, But Miami Is Planning to Build the Largest One in North America
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Shopping malls and the "American Dream" are two things that are often said to be dead or dying, but one developer sees it a little differently.

Part shopping outlet and part theme park, American Dream Miami is slated to become the largest mall in North America when it opens in Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Indeed, "mall" might not be the best word for this mega-complex. In addition to retail outlets, plans are in the works for an aquarium, water park, ski slope, live performing arts center, Ferris wheel, submarine ride, skating rink, and 2000 hotel rooms.

The project is being developed by Triple Five Group, which operates the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada—currently the two current largest shopping and entertainment centers on the continent. It also owns the American Dream Meadowlands in New Jersey.

This announcement comes at a time when shopping malls are being shuttered across the country. More than 6400 stores closed last year, and another 3600 are expected to go out of business this year, according to Business Insider.

American Dream Miami will cost $4 billion and cover 6.2 million square feet. Developers hope it will attract tourists as well as local thrill seekers who want a closer entertainment option than Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando. Developer Eskandar Ghermezian was reportedly inspired by a comment made by his daughter, who complained there was nothing to do in the area when it rained.

Critics of the project, however, called it "American Nightmare," arguing it would harm the environment and cause traffic congestion. The developer still needs to obtain several permits before construction can begin.

[h/t Sun-Sentinel]

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