Look, my unabashed love of Nic Cage is not unknown on this site. I’ve even taken it upon myself to watch all of his movies, in order, to determine what his best one is, although I’m still in the early stages of this process because I can’t find Cotton Club on streaming. (Although we know how this is going to pan out, don’t we?!)
So, it is with great joy and glee that I’m able to share with you some of the choicer aspects of his time filming Vampire’s Kiss, a movie that I obviously enjoy, very much because it is truly ridiculous.
It all started with this tweet, which Dustin tagged me in this morning on Slack, because he is a good boss who also knows exactly where my interest lie:
From there, I was directed to the original source article: Truly Batsh*t: The Secret History of ‘Vampire’s Kiss,’ the Craziest Nicolas Cage Movie of All Time
(Although I’m not sure I agree that Vampire’s Kiss is the most bats*it; has he seen the Wicker Man remake?!)
First off, Vampire’s Kiss, as we know it, was almost not to be, since Cage dropped out after the project lost its original director (for those of you who have Vampire’s Kiss on DVD and have listened to the commentary, this is not new news, since the quote is pulled directly from there):
Cage felt misled when he learned Minion wasn’t directing and dropped out. “I was getting a lot of outside pressure from my agent and people representing me that this was not a good move after Moonstruck, to make a movie of this nature with the vampire fangs and going off like that,” Cage says in the commentary. “I responded to the pressure and I broke.”
Ultimately though, the forces of good won out, and Cage was back in. Huzzah!
Here’s the good stuff, friends. Remember the cockroach scene? That was real and all Cage. The original script required him to eat a raw egg, but Cage had other plans. Director Robert Bierman explains:
Cage “said to me, ‘The thing I hate most in the world are cockroaches. They are my Room 101. … So let me eat a cockroach.’”
What you see on film is all nauseatingly real: Cage snatching a live roach, lifting it tentatively, chewing it like a madman. “I really [wanted] to do something that would shock the audience, something you would never forget,” Cage explained. It’s the only change he made to Minion’s script, which never underwent a single rewrite.
Here’s the best part about the entire scene, as recalled by producer Barbara Zitwer
I was always infuriated with him but also thought he was completely brilliant,” she says. “Bob calls me and says, ‘Nicolas wants to eat a water bug instead of sucking on the egg.’ I’m like, ‘F*ck him! I’ve had it with him.’ I said, ‘Bob. It’s probably full of germs. He could get sick.’ Bob says, ‘Barbara, I think if Nicolas wants to eat a water bug on film, we should let him.’ I said first let’s call the doctor. I called the doctor. I said, ‘Would he get sick if he eats a water bug?’ And the doctor was like, ‘OK, that’s a weird question.’ But he says, ‘No. But have him drink some whiskey right after.’”
In Bierman’s recollection, Cage swigged 100-proof vodka to wash his mouth out afterward. They shot two takes. “The suspense of shooting it was astounding,” says cinematographer Stefan Czapsky. “He actually ingested the cockroach” both times. (When Shils later got a call from an animal rights group, he lied and said the cockroach walked away alive.)
He ate a cockroach, and swigged booze straight from the bottle to wash his mouth out. Friends, it’s a f*cking travesty it would take almost 10 years before he got his Oscar. That is commitment!
If you were on set and heard some weird chanting, it wasn’t a cult about to grab you, friends, no. That was just Nic Cage, preparing for his next scene.
“He was a little kooky,” says Kasi Lemmons, who played Peter Loew’s initial love interest. “He was very, very into his character.” “He didn’t have a trailer or anything,” Czapsky adds. “In between scenes, Nic was always by himself. He wasn’t hiding. He was just in isolation and preparation for shooting. I remember hearing through a door that he was listening to some kind of weird chanting music. We’d laugh, like, ‘Nic’s in there, you know.’”
The magic continues:
In one harrowing scene, a blood-splattered Cage prowls the streets with a wooden stake, incoherently begging strangers to kill him. Those strangers had no idea they were being filmed, Bierman claims.
Can you imagine that happening today? It just wouldn’t.
If you can believe it, the anecdotes get even better:
“To get turned on, Nic asked to have hot yogurt poured over his toes while he was doing a love scene with Jennifer,” Shulman recalls. Nobody could comprehend why yogurt got Cage aroused, but the crew obliged. “If you look at the shot, you don’t see his feet,” Shulman says.
It’s not over yet, friends. Cage was incensed, INCENSED I tell you, that the movie was going to use a mechanical bat and not a real bat. So he hatched a plan:
There was a young production assistant who was assigned just to Nicolas,” Zitwer says. “His name was Osman. He sent Osman to Central Park with an ice cooler and a broom to try and capture a bat. And then Osman told us that Nicolas found out you could get bats from Mexico. Probably illegally, of course. We just said, ‘OK, this is going too far. We’re not gonna FedEx some bat from Mexico.’ Except I think they actually looked into it. That was one time that I recall being extremely contentious.”
Ever wonder about the alphabet scene? Well…
“Every one of those moves was thought out in my hotel room with my cat.”
Seems about right, right?
This bit made me cackle out loud:
As for Cage, after he saw the completed film, he left a message on Zitwer’s answering machine saying it had justified his decision to become an actor.
So the next time one of your friends, parole officer, or that ghost who follows three steps behind you at all times says something about how Nic Cage has really gone off the rails since his indie darling days, spit out the hoagie you’re eating, and turn self-righteously to them and inform them in no uncertain terms he has always been f*cking bat s*it insane. Then, go back to your footlong in peace. Your work for the day is done.
Header Image Source: MGM