Nicolas Cage talks getting hypnotized by his cobras, tripping with his cat, and being more interesting than his therapist
“The neighborhood wasn’t too pleased that I had cobras,” Cage told David Marchese at the New York Times in an illuminating but batshit interview, “so I had them re-homed in a zoo.”
Nicolas Cage, an actor who is neither good nor bad but emphatically both and by extension compelling, said in 2003 that he had acquired two king cobra snakes, a female named Sheba and an albino male named Moby, that he kept behind bulletproof glass in his home next to a syringe of anti-venom. "I like to go in there in my red leather chair with a glass of wine and watch them as they're watching me," he told David Letterman. "Sometimes Moby will do this charming snake dance and show his back to me. He's got this little round circular pattern on his back, and he's doing this dance, and then every now and then he'll just turn around and go, 'FUCK YOU MOTHERFUCKER I WANT TO FUCKING KILL YOU'"
A lot has happened since then. Matchstick Men, Adaptation, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans all hit cinemas to critical acclaim before Season of the Witch, Left Behind, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance all belched their ways out into the world. Cage bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of real estate and a dinosaur skull, then got in trouble with the taxman. He became a meme. But that cobra story just lingered until today, when David Marchese published a lengthy, illuminating, and occasionally batshit interview with Cage at the New York Times. "I did have two king cobras," Cage tells Marchese, "and they were not happy. They would try to hypnotize me by showing me their backs, and then they’d lunge at me. After I told that story on Letterman, the neighborhood wasn’t too pleased that I had cobras, so I had them re-homed in a zoo."
As much as any story about being hypnotized by two king cobras that one purchased with the millions of dollars one has earned from a life in Hollywood can seem reasonable, that all seems pretty reasonable. But Marchese follows up by asking whether animals have ever influenced Cage's work. "The cobras, definitely," he says. "They would try to hypnotize you by going side to side, and when I did Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, that’s something my character does before he attacks. Animals are fun places to get inspiration. Actually, I thought Heath Ledger was doing some reptilian stuff as the Joker, with the tongue darting out all the time.
There's more, of course. In a separate Letterman interview in 2010, Cage said that he'd eaten psilocybin mushrooms with his cat, Lewis, something that he's happy to confirm to Marchese. "The cat — a friend of mine gave me this bag of mushrooms, and my cat would go in my refrigerator and grab it, almost like he knew what it was. He loved it. Then I started going, 'I guess I’ll do it.' It was a peaceful and beautiful experience. But I subsequently threw them out."
You really should read the whole thing over at the Times for Cage's lucid thoughts on the fine line between good and bad acting, his deliberate push into "irony" in his work, and the sources of inspiration he drew from before some of his stranger acting moments. But if you're in a hurry or don't have a Times subscription, please enjoy Nic Cage talking about therapy:
I haven’t been in any kind of analysis for at least 20 years. The times that I’ve done it, there were some benefits. It’s kind of like writing in a diary. You get things out. However, inevitably, there was a point where I’d look at the person and I’d start to go: “Why am I talking to you? I’m more interesting than you.” Then I’d get up and walk out. So I stopped going.
May Nicolas Cage never stop going in.