Nicolas Cage, who currently stars in the action-horror film Mandy, sat down with Rolling Stone for the latest installment of “The First Time.” The Oscar-winning actor kicked off the rapid-fire chat answering the seemingly innocuous first question (“The first time You ate your favorite dish?) with, of all things, champagne and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Cage, dead-serious, said he imbibed champagne as early as age nine with his father. Which explains the KFC pairing – he was nine.
The actor goes on to share more vivid memories and life lessons, from buying his first album (Electric Light Orchestra – for the cool cover) to the first time he performed for his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. As a kid, Cage and Coppola would play a game called “Oh, Computer?” where he was asked to answer various questions quickly. “I always had a brilliant answer. Every time,” he says. “And I don’t know where it came from.”
The first time he met his idol was John Travolta, who he loved as early as elementary school. Cage said he was obsessed with Saturday Night Fever. Once, he imitated the scene of Travolta walking down the street with two paint cans as he left a tropical fish store (“I love aquariums,” Cage adds) with two buckets of water and his new fish. As he left with his two cans, he saw Travolta across the street in a tracksuit. “It was eye contact, eye contact, eye contact, then I walked across the street,” he says of the moment. “Then later we starred together in Face/Off, so it was kind of trippy.”
The expressiveness Cage showed early on would manifest in his acting career. When preparing for the role of a maimed Vietnam War veteran in the 1984 movie, Birdy, Cage wore bandages over his head for three months prior to shooting. Then, his real-life dental issues amplified the research.
“For some reason, my adult teeth wouldn’t come in … so I had my two baby teeth extracted, which I had to do anyway so it wasn’t psychotic – but it did give me a feeling of disfigurement and pain … I would walk around with bandages and two missing teeth – the way people would look at me. I’ll never forget,” Cage says before a long pause. “I learned so much about society. There was cruelty, there was laughter, there was mocking … and that all went into the character.”