50 Nicolas Cage Facts for the 50th Birthday of This National Treasure

Everything you need to know about the actor who has eaten a live cockroach, gotten teeth pulled, and been "waterboarded"––all to get into character.

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On Jan. 7, 1964, Academy Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage was born. In light of his 50th birthday, NewsFeed has rounded up 50 facts you maybe didn’t know about the movie star.

• He was born Nicolas Coppola and told The Huffington Post in 2012 that he decided to change his last name after actors on the set of his first movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) resented him because his uncle is the renowned director Francis Ford Coppola (and his aunt is actress Talia Shire). (Most of his role in that film ended up getting cut.) (The Huffington Post)

• To stand out from his famous relatives, he chose “Cage,” inspired by the African-American comic book superhero Luke Cage. (New York Times)

• A native of Long Beach, California, he dropped out of Beverly Hills High School after passing the GED, which boasts star alums Rob Reiner, Lenny Kravitz, and Betty White, to name a few. (Current Biography)

• When Late Show host David Letterman asked Cage whether he drank beer in high school in 2010, the movie star said one time he and his cat devoured “a bag of mushrooms” that had been in his refrigerator. (Gawker)

• When he was four, he would have this recurring dream in which “I was on the toilet and this giant blonde genie woman in a gold bikini would reach into the bathroom window like King Kong and pluck me off of the toilet seat and laugh at me.” (Playboy)

• He met his first wife, Patricia Arquette, at a deli in Los Angeles. During their courtship, she asked him to bring her J.D. Salinger’s signature on something to prove that he really loved her (he did). They divorced in 2001. (Playboy)

• Cage and Michael Jackson were both married to the same woman: Lisa Marie Presley. (TIME)

• Cage and Presley met at a birthday party for rock guitarist Johnny Ramone, and the Ramones star was the best man at their wedding. (Johnny Ramone’s memoir Commando)

• One of his favorite lines to deliver in a movie is “Vive la fucking France, man!” in Deadfall (2012). (EmpireOnline.com)

• In Birdy (1984), he played a ladies man who was severely wounded in Vietnam, and during production, he decided to get his teeth pulled so that he could “connect with some kind of physical pain.” (Playboy)

• He ate a live cockroach for a scene in Vampire’s Kiss (1989). (Current Biography)

• …which is why his manager got him a birthday cake in the shape of a cockroach. (Playboy)

• The directors of The Croods (2013) essentially “waterboarded” Cage when they were shooting a scene in which the actor had to scream into a large tank of water. (BuzzFeedCollider)

• On July 31, 1998, he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Hollywood Chamber of Commerce)

• As of Oct. 2013, he is the “Best Global Actor in Motion Pictures” — at least in China, according to the judges of the Huading Awards. (TIME)

• The late renowned movie critic Roger Ebert has praised Cage’s acting, writing in a review of Adaptation (2002): “There are often lists of the great living male movie stars: De Niro, Nicholson and Pacino, usually. How often do you see the name of Nicolas Cage? He should always be up there.” Ebert has also described Cage as having “two speeds, intense and intenser” as well as “a good actor in good movies, and an almost indispensable actor in bad ones.” (RogerEbert.com)

• Cage has said Jerry Lewis is one of his idols, as well as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Cary Grant, and Robert De Niro. (New York TimesPlayboy)

• More recently, he told The Guardian that Anthony Hopkins is his hero at the moment because he is a “marvelous, magnificent classical composer” who delivers dialogue in a “musical” way, according to an interview published July 2013. (The Guardian)

• Cage has said Jim Carrey offered him a role in Dumb and Dumber, but that he turned it down for a part as an alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas (1995), according to a 2012 interview with The Huffington Post. (The Huffington Post)

• In fact, his performance in that film earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1996, which includes a memorable, somber scene in which he dances in a liquor store. (Oscars.org)


• Cage helped launch Johnny Depp’s acting career by referring him to an agent, who connected him with his first film role in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The two met through Depp’s ex-wife Lori Allison, a makeup artist. (Current Biography)

• Actress Kathleen Turner, who acted with Cage in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), alleged in her 2008 memoir that he had been arrested for drunk-driving and had stolen a chihuahua. He sued her for libel, and she ended up apologizing, paying his legal fees, and making a donation to charity. (TIME)

• Cage donated $1 million to Hurricane Katrina victims. (People)

• He has served as a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Global Justice since 2010, recently calling for greater efforts to help human trafficking victims in Nov. 2013. (United Nations News Centre)

• And his extensive charity work in general landed him a spot on a Forbes list of the most generous celebrities in Hollywood. (Forbes)

• He is also on Forbes’s 2012 list of “Hollywood’s most overpaid stars.” (Forbes)

• He has reportedly owned castles in Germany and England. (New York Times)

• …and reportedly an island in the Bahamas. (Wall Street Journal)

• In 1997, he reportedly paid nearly $450,000 at auction for a rare 1971 Lamborghini Miura SVJ once owned by the late Shah of Iran — almost double its estimated worth. (Associated Press)

• A comic book buff, Cage once owned a copy of the first Superman comic Action Comics No. 1, which he called “the single best investment I have ever made” in a March 2013 interview with Collider. The collectable was actually stolen in 2000 and reportedly found about a decade later in a storage locker in Southern California. (ColliderABC News)

• He named one of his sons Kal-el, after Superman’s “Kryptonian name.” (TIME)

• The actor and his son Weston Cage also produced a comic book for Virgin Comics called Voodoo Child, which is partly set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. (USA Today)

• TMZ photographed him wearing two pairs of sunglasses in June 2013 and claimed he was committing a fashion faux pas. (TMZ)

• His favorite sandwich is roast lamb on white bread with “a bit of mayonnaise and arugula,” he revealed in a 2012 web chat with fans on Empire magazine’s website. (EmpireOnline.com)

• He got a “large” back tattoo of a lizard in a top hat and cane to “claim my own body,” adding, “other cultures have initiations into manhood and that’s what the tattoo was for me,” he told reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1994. (Philly.com)

• He reportedly has had a real lizard, too, an Asian water monitor, that he donated to the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, Illinois, according to an interview with the museum’s curator in a May 2013 Pioneer Press article. (Sun-Times Media)

• He still loves reptiles, telling Vanity Fair in Sep. 2013 that he asked to hold a venomous snake to calm his nerves on the set of the movie Joe (2013). (Vanity Fair)

• But the feeling has not always been mutual. On Live With Kelly in March 2012, he said his Cobra “Sheba” hated him, and the way his character in Ghost Rider lunges at victims was inspired by the way the reptile would sway back and forth and leap towards him at home. (Perez Hilton)

• On The Late Show in Feb. 2012, Cage debunked rumors that he is a vampire after an eBay user uploaded a photo of a Tennessee man from the Civil War-era that bore a striking resemblance to the actor. “I don’t drink blood, and the last time I looked in the mirror, I had a reflection,” he told Letterman. (The Hollywood Reporter)

• A Fudgsicle-eating intruder once broke into his family’s home at 2 a.m. when he was living in Orange County, he told reporters at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, where he was promoting Trespass — incidentally, a movie about thieves who target a mansion. (TIME)

• Note: 2014 also marks the 10th anniversary of the release of National Treasure (2004), the blockbuster adventure flick in which Cage plays a researcher looking for the Declaration of Independence, on the back of which are invisible ink directions to treasure. A sequel came out in 2007. (Rotten Tomatoes)

• In the 2012 Empire web chat, he also told fans that he would love to do a third National Treasure film in South America. (EmpireOnline.com)

• Because of his “service to our country” in National Treasure, at least 3,526 people signed an Apr. 2013 “We The People” petition to give the Declaration of Independence to the actor at one point. While the movement did not receive the 100,000 signatures required for a White House response, its Facebook page is still active. (College Humor)

• Fans of Cage are so devoted that they have turned him into a meme, creating a viral GIF of a scene in The Wicker Man (2006) in which he screams “Not the bees!” as the insects swarm him. (Know Your Meme)

• …and compiled all of his freak-outs in movies into a YouTube super-cut that has been viewed more than 10 million times.


•…and created a website called “Feeling Cagey” that can replace Instagram selfies with a picture of the celebrity. (TIME)

• …and sport a bodysuit covered in photos of the actor. (TIME)

• …or curl up in a fleece blanket bearing his likeness. (Etsy)

• …and worship him on the Reddit thread “One True God.” (Reddit)

• In fact, a 20-year-old woman miraculously landed two job offers after accidentally emailing a photo of the star to a potential employer instead of her résumé. (TIME)