Superman Un-Caged: An Interview with Nicolas Cage

There was a very good chance during the development process that ultimately led to Superman Returns, that Nicolas Cage would have starred as the Man of Steel in an adventure directed by Tim Burton. From the archives we’ve pulled this interview with Cage, who shares his feelings on how he would have approached playing Superman.

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VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Have you ever worked with Tim Burton?

NICOLAS CAGE: I've never worked with Tim Burton. I've been a fan of his movies, though. I liked Ed Wood immensely. He's also written some very tender stories that are unique and usually deal with feeling like the outsider. So I knew that he was the perfect choice for the human aspects of the Superman story. Which are really the only reasons why I want to make this movie.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Are you going to be a neurotic Man of Steel?

NICOLAS CAGE: I haven't really figured this out yet. I have a lot of different thoughts about it. I came on board the Superman project because I wanted to say something to children. And I know Superman appeals to all age groups, but it comes from the child's universe. I remember what I felt like as a child in school being teased. And if there's one kid out there who's being called a weirdo, or a freak, or something, and he goes home, and he's just not having a good day in his life, and his life at school is hell -- if he sees Superman, and he says, ‘Well, Superman is a weirdo. He's considered different. Maybe I'm Superman,’ that's enough for me to feel good about making the movie. That was the vision I got from it. And I think Tim Burton is the perfect director to do that. Because he's always been very sensitive about the outsider. Superman is a great story. It's one of those phenomena that operates on so many different levels that still haven't been explored. One of the things I like about Superman is the notion of nurture versus nature. Is he more Kryptonian, or is he more the Kents, his adopted parents? These are big issues that we're thinking about now, like genetics, and scientific things of that nature. So Superman is a remarkable achievement. These two guys [Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster] were considered nerds, who were from Canada, they wore glasses, which back in the thirties was a big deal. These two guys who were oppressed, invented the alter ego concept, of being a super man. And everybody said, ‘Oh, don't do it, it's ridiculous.’ They knew they had gold, and they held on to it for four years. And then as soon as it came out, it was an overnight sensation. So there's something there. And I saw it for me as an opportunity to reach a lot of kids around the world, and say something positive.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Do you have any concerns about taking on that role? On one hand, the character is maybe too popular. And on the other hand, there are the stories of the actors who have been Superman having problems.

NICOLAS CAGE: Oh yeah, I know – “The curse of Superman.” Well, unfortunately, bad things happen to good people, whether they're Superman or not. So I'm not gonna buy into that. On occasion, I've been trying to make movies that make a difference. And I think City of Angels is one of them. If you really want to make a difference, if you really want to do something positive for the world, then you've got to start with an impressionable age. I've never really made a movie for children before, but to me, Superman is an opportunity to reach children all around the world, and to say something to them that I believe. I guess I'm trying to take the judgment out of the way kids treat each other.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: How has being a father changed your career choices?

NICOLAS CAGE: I don't know if I would have had the vision to say, ‘Yeah, Superman would be a good choice,’ if I wasn't a father. I think that being a father enabled me to be more concerned about kids, and what goes on in school, and the way kids treat one another.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: There's been a lot written in the press that you're just not the image of Superman that Christopher Reeve embodies.

NICOLAS CAGE: Well, he was excellent.

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VOICES FROM KRYPTON:So how do you address that?

NICOLAS CAGE: I like it. I like the fact that I don't look like Superman. I mean, I've always felt that I'm Everyman. And I think that Everyman can be Superman. That's the beauty of the character, in my opinion. Anybody can be Superman in their mind.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: In other words, you don't need big pecs, and big biceps?

NICOLAS CAGE: Well, no...

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: You have big pecs...

NICOLAS CAGE: Well, no... I think the Superman costume will still be the classic costume. Which I think is important. Because I, like many people, am a fan of Americana and pop culture. I like the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle. I think they should stay true to the Superman costume. But I just want to try to use my acting to convey what it means to be an alien living on Earth. And all these heroic deeds -- might they not be a compulsion to do good, so that I will be loved? Will you love me now, if I do this? That's sort of like what kids do with their parents: ‘If I could save my parents' lives, they'll love me.’ So that's sort of what I want to convey with the character. How it will manifest, I can't tell you, because I don't know what it means. I haven't started fine-tuning my thoughts.

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