The Oscar-winning film star Nicolas cage has said he prefers to be called Thespian rather than an actor, but admitted he risks sounding like “an arrogant asshole”.
The Face / Off and National Treasure star spoke on the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast about his career and reputation for “over the top” performance. He compared his process to “shamanism” to “get into the imagination”.
“I really don’t like the word ‘actor’ because to me it always means, ‘Oh, he’s a great actor, so he’s a great liar, and” [great at] lie, ‘”he said.
“With the risk of it sounding like an overbearing A-hole, I like the word thespian because thespian means that you go into your heart or invade your imagination or your memories or your dreams and you’re bringing something back, to communicate with the audience. I think it’s more like recruiting fantasy. I dare say it is more of a shamanism.
“What the early shamans would do is take flight in their minds to find answers, to help their village. I like to see it that way, with the risk of sounding completely absurd and ridiculous. I like the idea that it’s a little more organic and less artificial. “
Cage plays a withdrawn truffle hunter in Michael Sarnoski’s 2021 film Pig, which had its European premiere in Edinburgh.
Talking about other forms of action, including the “method” approach, he said, “You have to move towards something that is in some way dangerous or scary, but it can never fall within the realm, yourself or anyone else to hurt. That’s why it’s all about imagination. For me, my cat doesn’t have to die to play the scene. I can imagine and it can break my heart and I can get there and thank God I can go back. “
When accused of being “over the top” in his acting style, he said, “When you say that to me, I say, ‘Well, you tell me where the top is and I’ll tell you whether I am or not ‘I’m over it.’ “
Cage, whose real name is Nicolas Coppola, remembered his first acting experience on a school bus when he was bullied with a friend.
“One day I said, ‘I have to have a certain attitude,’ and put on cowboy boots and a leather jacket and started chewing gum. I said, ‘I’m not Nicky Coppola, I’m Roy Richardson, and if you don’t leave my friends alone I’ll kick your ass.’ “
Cage added, “That was a performance and that was the first time I think I could act because they left Nicky alone after that – it worked.”