Everything Nicolas Cage does off-screen seems to fit right in with his on-screen persona. The legendary Oscar winner has blessed genre films with his surrealist takes on everything from witchhunting to face-trading to Kick-Assing. And now it seems that one of his more Indiana Jones-esque roles, that of National Treasure's Ben Gates, bled somewhat into his personal life.
Cage, an actor as deeply interested in mythology as in philosophy, went hunting for the Holy Grail. We're talking full-blown Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, just without the ancient knight or Sean Connery. And he ended up finding his own personal grail — but of course Cage was going to take something away from the experience.
Speaking to The New York Times, Cage explained that the search — his "grail quest" — began back when "all I was doing was meditating three times a day and reading books on philosophy, not drinking whatsoever." Buried in books, he started to mirror his on-screen life. "I started following mythology," Cage said, "and I was finding properties that aligned with that. It was almost like National Treasure."
Not to worry, this isn't a metaphorical pursuit. He really trotted the globe for this. "One thing would lead to another," said the actor. "It’s like when you build a library. You read a book, and in it there’s a reference to another book, and then you buy that book, and then you attach the references. For me it was all about where was the grail? Was it here? Was it there? Is it at Glastonbury?" Not one for hypotheticals, Cage went to the English town where King Arthur is rumored to rest and where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have brought the Holy Grail.
"Yeah, if you go to Glastonbury and go to the Chalice Well," Cage said, "there’s a spring that does taste like blood. I guess it’s really because there’s a lot of iron in the water. But legend had it that in that place was a grail chalice, or two cruets rather, one of blood and one of sweat. But that led to there being talk that people had come to Rhode Island, and they were looking for something as well." Another clue, another destination. Of course Cage followed.
"I don’t know if I’m going to say that’s why I bought the Rhode Island property," he demurred, "But I will say that is why I went to Rhode Island, and I happened to find the place beautiful. But yes, this had put me on a search around different areas, mostly in England, but also some places in the States." And he's happy with the result, even if it wasn't a heavenly cup. "What I ultimately found is: What is the Grail but Earth itself?" asked a satisfied Cage.
The actor also opened up — in an equally eccentric way — about some of his inspirations for his superhero turn as Ghost Rider. "Say you’re playing a demon biker with an ancient spirit," Cage said of his time with the character. "What power objects could you find that might trick your imagination? Would you find an antique from an ancient pyramid? Maybe a little sarcophagus that’s a greenish color and looks like King Tut? Would you sew that into your jacket and know that it’s right next to you when the director says 'action'? Could you open yourself to that power?" Again, Cage is not one for hypotheticals.
Another influence for the role were his pet snakes: "The cobras" definitely played a part in his performance, Cage explained. "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."
With his Grail (if not THE Grail) found and his superhero bike tucked safely away in the garage, it's high time for Cage to return to the world of genre, especially after his award-worthy turn in the psychotropic revenge horror Mandy. Nobody tell him there are clues to the Grail locked in catacombs underneath the city before that, OK?