Photo: Jonathan Leibson (Getty Images)

Nicolas Cage has one of the most remarkable careers in modern Hollywood. For decades now, he’s slipped from role to role, playing everything from fairly regular guys to cartoonishly unhinged characters—as well as one of the wildest cameo roles ever committed to film—with ease. Now, thanks to a New York Times interview with Cage, we’ve been given insight into the methods he employs to create these performances—and, as it turns out, they involve studying both animals and an old John Stamos commercial.

After setting the scene by mentioning that Cage came to the interview in the midst of “preparing for a trip to TIFF. Not the Toronto International Film Festival...the one in Transylvania,” things sort of follow naturally from there. Cage talks about a huge range of subjects, but, perhaps most interesting among them are his memories of taking acting notes from a John Stamos hair remover commercial and the two king cobras he previously kept as pets.

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“I did have two king cobras, and they were not happy. They would try to hypnotize me by showing me their backs, and then they’d lunge at me,” he says. When asked if “animals ever influenced [his] acting,” Cage replies that his role as Ghost Rider (specifically his fighting style) was based on how the cobras “would try to hypnotize you by going side to side.”

This comes up alongside a story he’d told on Letterman in the past about eating hallucinogens with his pet cat, of course. “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,” Cage says.

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“He loved it. Then I started going, ‘I guess I’ll do it.’”

Not expanding further on the dynamics at play that saw Cage peer-pressured into taking mushrooms by his cat, he says only that “It was a peaceful and beautiful experience. But I subsequently threw them out.”

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Cats and cobras aren’t the only animals Cage draws on. When talking about a period in which he was so immersed in studying philosophy that he felt untethered from the kind of mundanity necessary for him to act, he says that he had to come back down to earth, thinking that “people would rather see me as an orangutan than as an eagle meditating on the mountaintop anyway.”

As for the Stamos commercial, Cage references watching bad acting on TV that he sometimes puts “in one of my performances.”

“No offense to John Stamos, because he’s a beautiful man and a lot of fun to watch on camera, but a million years ago he did a commercial for L’eggs pantyhose,” Cage says, misremembering the exact details of a pretty exceptional Neet hair remover commerical. “And the way he went ‘love’—he expressed it with almost a rock ’n’ roll screech. I saw that commercial, and I had to put it in Peggy Sue Got Married.”

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“I’ve told John about this,” Cage adds. “He took the compliment.”

Read the entire conversation for much, much more on Cage’s career, thoughts on acting, and, to round things out, that time he went on a quest to find the Holy Grail. We promise it’s a good use of your time.

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