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A 'Moonstruck' Nicolas Cage Opens Up

February 21, 1988|KRISTINE McKENNA

"I'd never deny that working with Francis hasn't been a big help to me because I've learned a great deal from him," Cage said. "He's one of the few directors around who enjoys making unpredictable choices and I like to experiment too so we work well together. Working with him on 'Peggy Sue Got Married' was the most satisfying thing I've done as an actor and I consider it my best performance by far."

Cage's "Moonstruck" co-star Cher shared his opinion of his work in "Peggy Sue," which found him portraying a character who ages from cocky teen-ager into middle-aged failure, and her admiration for his performance led her to urge Norman Jewison to cast him in "Moonstruck."

"Cher and I both admired Nicolas' work in 'Peggy Sue Got Married,' " said Jewison, "but the main reason she felt he was right for the part is because, like the character of Ronnie, Nicolas struck her as a tormented soul." "I was attracted to the romantic element in 'Moonstruck' because I think I am a romantic," Cage said, in explaining why he took the part. "There haven't been that many great romantic films--'The Graduate' and 'Wuthering Heights' come to mind--and I think we need more of them. Even though romance isn't always a fun thing to go through, the things men and women experience through each other are utterly mystical and illusive.

"Ultimately, 'Moonstruck' is a happy family film for an ensemble of actors rather than a purely romantic movie," he said, "and I think it frustrated Norman that I leaned towards interpreting it as a desperately romantic Beauty and the Beast fable. I didn't change my character from the way it was written, but I did try to play up the wolfish part of Ronnie's personality."

"Nicolas did have a darker interpretation of Ronnie than I did," said Jewison, "but we both agreed that a poetic quality was central to the character. When Ronnie is first introduced in the film he's in a basement slaving over hot ovens and he almost has the quality of a young Lord Byron.

"Then, as the film progresses Nicolas blossoms into a classic romantic leading man--and I think this is the first film where he's come off this way," Jewison continues. "There's one sequence in particular that's a sort of blue-collar recreation of Romeo & Juliet's balcony scene where Nicolas has the gangling, vulnerable appeal of a young Jimmy Stewart. Like Stewart, he has a natural gift--those large eyes and that big head are just great for film."

Cage is now riding the wave of a classic and conventional Hollywood success. But lest he be misunderstood yet again, he's not interested in having a conventional career. He offered some evidence of that last year when he starred in "Raising Arizona," an off-beat comedy directed by maverick twins Joel and Ethan Coen, and his follow-up to "Moonstruck" is equally unorthodox.

"One of the reasons I did 'Moonstruck' was because I thought it would allow me to take more of a chance with my next film, which is a low-budget black comedy called 'Vampire's Kiss' that hardly has mass commercial appeal written all over it," he said. "I play a man who's insane and thinks he's a vampire. Everyone told me not to do it, but the script grabbed me by the collar and screamed, 'If you don't do this movie, you're a coward!' I figure that in order to succeed in the film business, you can't be afraid to roll the dice. And as long as I'm betting, I want to bet everything I've got."

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