How Coppola Became Cage

Oxford Univ. Oct. 2023. 384p. ISBN 9780197556375. $34.95. BIOG
Schonfeld (24-Carat Black’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth) methodically proffers the origin story of Oscar winner Nicolas Cage. The book focuses on his career, intense acting style, and unprecedented ability of full immersion into his wide-ranging and sometimes controversial roles. More than 120 of Cage’s collaborators are interviewed to separate fact from the often-fantastical mythology surrounding the actor. The book shows how he developed from the 18-year-old breakout star of Valley Girl to the wild, eccentric who had his teeth pulled for Birdy, ingested a live cockroach for Vampire’s Kiss, and trashed his trailer as he embodied a homicidal villain in The Cotton Club. Schonfeld dissects Cage’s expansive influences, from German expressionist cinema and silent film to his favorite childhood cartoons and the method actors who came before him. The book mentions some of the women in his life: his mother, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and some of his costars, who apparently either hated him or fell in love with him.
VERDICT The book artfully avoids any superfan swooning despite the author’s obvious admiration for Cage’s sometimes misunderstood talent. Fascinating details and entertaining provocative backstories make this an important, captivating read for Cage fans and cinephiles alike.
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