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Nicolas Cage is all in: From his acting, to his home life, to his new Lamborghini

Nicolas Cage: The 60 Minutes Interview
Nicolas Cage: The 60 Minutes Interview 13:36

It's no secret big Hollywood studios like a sure bet, and there's no shortage of predictable movies to prove it.  Which is probably why Nicolas Cage left Los Angeles for Las Vegas a long time ago.  At 59, the Academy Award winner owns one of the most eclectic lists of film credits in the business. He's been at it for more than 40 years - pivoting from leading man to action-hero to a slew of lesser features and back again. As we first told you in April, behind that kaleidoscope of characters is a unique imagination and an encyclopedic knowledge of film… that seems to motivate everything Nicolas Cage does… his work, his life, and even this.  

Cage's brand-new gold Lamborghini – a tribute to a beloved 1968 film directed by Federico Fellini… featuring this gilded Ferrari.

Nicolas Cage: It was a crazy beautiful Fellini movie, and it inspired me. So when I saw this. I said, "That's the car." It's not a Ferrari, which would be great. But they don't really have any gold Ferraris. 

Sharyn Alfonsi: Have you driven this out here beyond the gates? 

Nicolas Cage: Oh yeah.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Yeah?

Nicolas Cage: It's fun.

Sharyn Alfonsi: It's fun.

Nicolas Cage: Snap, crackle, pop, right?

Sharyn Alfonsi and Nicolas Cage go for a drive in Cage's brand-new gold Lamborghini – a tribute to a beloved 1968 film directed by Federico Fellini… featuring a gilded Ferrari. 60 Minutes

By any measure, Nicolas Cage is not slowing down.  He's revamped the role of Dracula in a movie called "Renfield" - and has another five movies coming up. We met Nicolas Cage at the home he shares with his wife and young daughter in Las Vegas. It is exactly what you might imagine Nicolas Cage's home in Las Vegas would be. Part Goth-cathedral, part avant-garde gallery.  There's an African crow in the living room, a cat that could scare off a burglar, and this…

Sharyn Alfonsi: Oh my gosh.

Nicolas Cage: This is my black dragon. It's a monitor lizard. He'll get to be about 6 feet long. He's like having a real dinosaur in your house. It's kind of amazing. And he's alive. 

That kind of imagination is in his DNA. Nicolas Kim Coppola was born on the fringe of cinema royalty.  His uncle is director Francis Ford Coppola.  He told us his mother Joy, a choreographer, suffered from severe mental illness and was institutionalized for much of his childhood. He and his two brothers were raised by his father, August, a literature professor… who introduced him to the masterworks of Italian and German filmmakers igniting his love of cinema. As a teengager, he worked at a movie theater and says he was mesmerized by the big screen.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Was it about being a movie star, or was it about escaping into something else?

Nicolas Cage: No. It was about wanting to be James Dean in, in "Rebel Without a Cause" and wearing that red jacket. Wanting to be John in "Saturday Night Fever." I came outta the cinema electrified. I was like, yeah, wanting to go there. 

Nicolas Cage in his Las Vegas home 60 Minutes

And after seeing James Dean in "East of Eden," he did.

Nicolas Cage: It was more meaningful to me than anything else I experienced. Music, you know, Beethoven, Beatles, painting. What I saw in that moment made me realize the power, the excitement of what you can convey through film performance. Film performance. 

He's been in pursuit of that feeling for most of his life. Inhabiting characters of every stripe… a baby-snatching ex-con… a Brooklyn baker… an alcoholic screenwriter…  a treasure hunter and even himself.

Cage's first feature role came in 1982's "Fast times at Ridgemont High." The 17-year-old blends into the background, but his Coppola name did not. His uncle directed "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now." Sick of being hazed about it on set, he changed his name inspired by a Marvel superhero with unbreakable skin. 

Nicolas Cage: When people think of Nicolas Cage, I wanted it to have, like, a punk rock energy at that time. I wanted it to be unpredictable. You don't know what you're gonna get. I wanted it to be exciting and a little scary.

It has been. After more than 100 movies, Nicolas Cage is almost his own genre. He told us when he read the script for "Peggy Sue Got Married," he worried it was going to be too much like the play "Our Town"... which he hated.

Nicolas Cage: I grew up watching "Gumby" and listening to Pokey. And I thought, "Well, that would be a good voice for a character, especially in this movie." And so I thought, "If I do that, that won't be boring. That'll be like, what the hell is he doing?"

Sharyn Alfonsi: And Kathleen Turner said like, "What the hell is he doing?"

Nicolas Cage: I think I frustrated her with the performance, but I adored her.

 Sharyn Alfonsi:  Did she ever say like, "Knock it off?"

 Nicolas Cage: Oh yeah.   

But Cage would draw from odd places again, in the Coen brothers' "Raising Arizona."

Sharyn Alfonsi: How did you envision that role?

Nicolas Cage: H. I. McDunnough was like that Thrush muffler symbol, the Woody Woodpecker with the cigar. I saw him with, like, the red hair sticking up. Like a "Looney Tunes" character come to life, again.

Sharyn Alfonsi: I wanna ask you about one scene in that movie. You're having a mug shot taken. And you turn. And as you're walking away, you slap your ass. 

Nicolas Cage: I had it all thought out. "Giddy-up," you know? Like, he's getting himself up outta the mug shot.

Cage's catalog of inspiration extends from cartoons to the haunting German films he watched as a child.

Sharyn Alfonsi: You've been influenced by German expressionists. What does that look like?

Nicolas Cage: Well, what it is is specifically movies like Cabinet of "Dr. Caligari," or "Nosferatu," or "Metropolis." The mad scientist shows the robot hand, and it goes like that. You know, it's just, like, a large, expressionistic acting. So I put that into "Moonstruck," "I lost my hand," that's exactly a direct steal. 

Thirty five years on, Ronny Cammareri, the operatic, one-handed baker in the romantic comedy "Moonstruck" remains one of his most memorable roles. But Cage says it was a small movie called "Leaving Las Vegas," that was the answer to his prayers.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What did you think when you first read that script?

Nicolas Cage: That was the feeling that I had with "East of Eden" and James Dean. This is the kinda movie I really wanna make, a heartbreaking drama about two wounded people who somehow have this true love. 

Nicolas Cage 60 Minutes

Sharyn Alfonsi: How did you figure out how to play that role?

Nicolas Cage: Well, I looked at a lotta great movies. I looked at Kris Kristofferson in "A Star is Born." From him I got that feeling of he was always smiling. In my view, the only thing sadder than a person who's in a sad situation and knows it, is a person who's in a sad situation and doesn't know it.

Nicolas Cage: I was sayin' to myself, literally, "I'm never gonna win the Academy Award, so let's just do this anyway because nobody wanted to make it."

Sharyn Alfonsi: At the Oscars, you announce on stage you love the idea of blurring the line between art and commerce by making this small film. And then you start doing these big action films.

Nicolas Cage: Yeah, that was about staying unpredictable.  And trying something new again. But at the time when I did it, I think it pissed a lotta people off, you know? It was like, "Well, that's, you're an actor's actor. You're not supposed to be doing adventure films."

But he did. "The Rock," with Sean Connery, a prison-break movie, "Con Air," the "National Treasure" franchise and "Face/Off," where Cage's character literally swaps faces with John Travolta. An absurd idea that delivered big box office returns and helped catapult Cage into the category of Hollywood's highest paid actors. 

Sharyn Alfonsi: Where's your head at when that starts happening?

Nicolas Cage: "Oh, great. Now I can make another 'Leaving Las Vegas.' Let's keep doin' it. Let's keep mixin' it up. Let's keep challenging ourselves."

But Cage ended up facing a different kind of challenge. We wanted to ask him about reports that he blew through his fortune buying exotic cars, mansions around the globe, even a dinosaur skull… but his African crow, Huginn objected to the line of questioning.

Nicolas Cage's African crow Huginn 60 Minutes

Nicolas Cage: Hi, Huginn. 

Sharyn Alfonsi: Right on cue

Nicolas Cage: Nice to hear you're talking again. I know everyone in the house kind of freaked you out.

Sharyn Alfonsi: The houses, right? Castles in Germany, in England, an island, a mansion in New Orleans. What's that about?

Nicolas Cage: I was over-invested in real estate. It wasn't because I spent $80 on an octopus. The real estate market crashed, and I couldn't get out in time.

Sharyn Alfonsi: How much money did you end up owing to the IRS and to your creditors?

Nicolas Cage: I paid them all back, but it was about $6 million. I never filed for bankruptcy.

He moved to tax-free Las Vegas. Dug in and worked non-stop - making three to four movies a year. 

Sharyn Alfonsi: That had to be a dark period for you.

Nicolas Cage: It was dark. Sure.

Sharyn Alfonsi: Did the work help you get through--

Nicolas Cage: No doubt, work. Work was always my guardian angel. It may not have been blue chip, but it was still work.

Sharyn Alfonsi: When somebody suggests during that period of time when these critics say like, "Ugh, he's just here for a paycheck and he's phoning it in."

Nicolas Cage: Even if the movie ultimately is crummy, they know I'm not phoning it in, that I care every time. But there are those folks that are probably thinking that the only good acting that I can do is the acting that I chose to do by design, which was more operatic and, you know, larger than life and so-called 'Cage rage,' and all that. But you're not gonna get that every time. 

But part of the appeal is the 'Cage rage,' a moniker his fans have for his out-sized, some say, over the top moments on film. 

Sharyn Alfonsi:  You go for it. I've heard you described it as, like, going for the triple axel every time. And sometimes you land it, and sometimes you don't. 

Nicolas Cage: Well, not every time. But there are things that I do wanna go for at sometimes that I have a vision for, and I, and I do.

Like his 2021 performance as a heartbroken chef in the movie "Pig."

Nicolas Cage: When I played Rob in "Pig," I felt I entered the room. I felt that I was closer to me than maybe I've ever been before in film performance.

Sharyn Alfonsi: What do you mean, closer to you? 

Nicolas Cage: That I wasn't acting. I felt that I was doing exactly what I care about. I think it's probably my best movie, and I think I'll put that up against "Leaving Las Vegas" or anything else.

Nicolas Cage demonstrates how he wanted to show his teeth while acting in "Renfield."  60 Minutes

That would include his turn as Dracula in his latest movie "Renfield." Cage met us at a favorite hangout on the strip to talk about the count. 

Nicolas Cage: Dracula is daunting because it's a legacy. Dracula is a character that has been done well many times. He's also a character that has been done poorly many times. But for me, I think Christopher Lee, he was my Dracula. He made Dracula scary, you know. We had a happy marriage in terms of I could bring where I wanted to go, like, into the camera with the teeths-- almost like the shark in "Jaws," like arah! 

Sharyn Alfonsi: You seem like a guy who's all in all the time. You don't do anything halfway. 

Nicolas Cage: Very insightful, Sharyn. Very, very insightful. 

Produced by Michael Karzis. Associate producer, Katie Kerbstat Jacobson. Broadcast associate, Elizabeth Germino. Edited by Matthew Danowski.

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