Nicolas Cage exorcized his 'meme-ification' in 'Dream Scenario'
UPI News Service, 11/20/2023
Nicolas Cage said his latest movie, Dream Scenario, showing in select theaters, helped him come to terms with his Internet fame.
Cage stars as Paul Matthews, a professor who becomes an instant celebrity after he inexplicably appears in people's dreams.
The 59-year-old actor has been famous since the '80s when he starred in movies like Valley Girl, Moonstruck and Raising Arizona. However, a new sort of fame greeted Cage in the Internet era, when he discovered a YouTube montage called Nicolas Cage Losing His [Expletive].
"It was just cherry-picking all these crisis moments of different characters that I had played without any regard for the narrative or how the character reached that point," Cage said in a recent video interview with the Critics Choice Association.
The YouTube video includes scenes from famous films like Face/Off and Ghost Rider, as well as lesser-known ones like Deadfall and Zandalee.
"I coined a new word, 'meme-ified,'" Cage said. "I couldn't stop it. I couldn't control it. There was nothing I could do. It just started growing exponentially and compounding on itself."
In the film, Paul discovers strangers recognize him from their dreams. He's not famous for anything he accomplished.
"When I read Dream Scenario, I thought, I can apply that experience to this person because people are dreaming about him and he has no control over that either," Cage said.
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The fame sours when people's dreams turn into nightmares. Paul records an apology video, which only makes things worse for himself by claiming to be the victim. But Cage said he channeled his own helplessness over his own viral videos.
"The apology video, I felt like I meant it," Cage said. "That's how I felt when I saw these viral mashups. That's really what put the hook in me."
Cage comes from a show business family. Originally named Nicolas Coppola, the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, he changed his name to Cage early in his career.
Cage said he knew fame would always be a part of a movie career. But the Internet changed the nature of fame as technology developed in the late '90s.
"People said, 'Well, this was what you signed up for' but I didn't," Cage said. "It was an adjustment to the viral world of the Internet. I didn't sign up for that. That just happened through the course of having done this for over 40 years."
Though Cage related to what Paul was going through, Cage said the similarities end there.
"Specifically, Paul Matthews in Dream Scenario is not so-called Nic Cage," Cage said. "It's not me. It is not meta. It's not a meta experience."
Though Hollywood is competitive, Cage said Paul is in a far more competitive world. Cage knows a bit about the world of academia from his father, the late literature Professor August Coppola.
"You want to talk about competition, forget about sports," Cage said. "The world of academia is very competitive. Everyone is trying to outsmart the other person on the staff or within the university itself."
Paul is frustrated that a colleague has made more progress on a research book than he has. Yet, Cage said, Paul is a good teacher to his students.
"The relationship he had with his students was always poignant and exciting for him," Cage said. "They genuinely loved him."
To further separate Paul from himself, Cage appears bald and speaks in a different voice. Cage said he went for a higher pitch, a gentler tone of voice than his own.
"We don't want people to think about me, the performer," Cage said. "We want them to really think about Paul and lose themselves in the character."
In creating new characters like Paul, Cage said he has access to all of the emotional character-building he has developed in his career.
"[If] I have to get to a certain place emotionally in a scene, it comes up much more easily for me now and it's there," Cage said. "I can do one or two takes and I feel it's there."
That emotional access still includes outrageous characters like the one in Vampire's Kiss, who believes he's turning into a vampire. Though Vampire's Kiss featured prominently in the YouTube video, Cage pointed out how he worked "those big-eyed movements that became meme-ified" into his Face/Off character.
"I could really have confidence that it'll work in a big movie," Cage said. "I know it'll work because I did Vampire's Kiss."
With Dream Scenario playing in theaters, Cage said he feels more at peace with his meme-ification. Though he would still prefer fans to consider the full context of his work, Cage said he was able to use his frustration productively.
"It was literally like alchemy," Cage said. "Let's take this lead and turn it into a little bit of gold."
Dream Scenario will expand into more theaters Wednesday.
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