At 12:30 Monday afternoon, director David Gordon Green introduced Nicolas Cage, the star of his new film "Joe," to a packed crowd at the 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival. Hundreds of people filled up the auditorium, and just as many were turned away due to lack of capacity, to hear the well-known actor talk about his craft. He did not disappoint.
Green introduced Cage to an adoring audience by calling him a “mysterious and magical man,” a very apt description given what transpired over an hour or so. The actor recounted anecdotes and personal details that would be considered made up if it weren’t for the fact that Nic Cage said them. They were stories told in earnest coming from a man who for most of his life has existed in a different plane of reality than most people (he’s a Coppola who’s made 74 films, more than a handful of them big blockbusters.)
Among these was the time he and fellow actor Johnny Depp topped off a bottle of tequila and then did a little daredevilin’.
Then there was that time he picked up a venomous Western Cottonmouth Snake to calm him down prior to shooting an emotionally draining scene for "Joe."
But beyond his eccentricity, Cage is also incredibly smart and a true student of cinema. He noted that he wanted to emulate German Expressionist films for his role in 1988’s "Vampire Kiss," a movie where he plays a publishing executive who’s convinced he’s becoming a vampire after being bitten by a woman.
After about twenty minutes, Green started taking questions from the audience, and that’s when the conversation went from entertaining to sublime. People, myself included, rushed to form a line to talk to their hero, telling him things no sane human being would tell a stranger.
One man told him that 2011’s "Season of the Witch," a film about 14th century knights, witchcraft and the Black Plague that received a score of 28 (out of 100) on Metacritic—saved his marriage. Then there was the woman who said she had purposefully missed her flight just to attend the conversation. Upon hearing this, the actor offered to buy her a ticket back home.
The question that takes the cake, however, came from a woman who told Cage—and the entire packed conference hall—that last year, she had gotten a DUI at South by Southwest. The reason she brought this up? To ask him, since he's previously been arrested, how he overcame such adversities.
His advice was as amazing as the question.
“Don’t shit on yourself,” Cage told her, advising her that she needed to be an alchemist and turn a negative into a positive.
And because the conversation happened at the same time as the Interactive part of the conference was going on, there were people who brought up the Internet’s obsession with him. Yes, someone asked him why more than ten million people have seen the “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit,” a nearly 10-minute video mashup of the actor freaking out throughout his films.
“Everybody wants to lose it,” he explained.
The biggest takeaway from the event was that though critics don’t care for him, Nicolas Cage has a rabid fanbase. Some came to him through the Coen Brothers’ 1987 "Raising Arizona," others through "Face/Off." These all may be different roles, but the man behind them is the same.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.