‘Nouveau ShamaNIC’: The (R)evolutionary Actor Nicolas Cage
‘Nouveau ShamaNIC’: The Revolutionary Actor Nicolas Cage
After over three decades and sixty roles, delivering performances of unwavering variety, diversity, intensity, quantity and quality without let up, maestro thespian Nicolas Cage no longer needs to follow any acting method, his craft now organically honed into something he calls: ‘Nouveau Shamanic’.
Both revolutionary and evolutionary, noone could ever accuse Nicolas Cage of following a formula, of bowing to public, critical, or peer expectation. It would not be too far fetched to call Nicolas Cage a Maverick, his career taking unexpected twist and turns (most notably reinventing himself as an ‘unlikely’ action hero in ‘The Rock’ after receiving the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as a suicidal alcoholic in tragic intimate drama ‘Leaving las Vegas’, and diving headlong into the science fiction/supernatural genre in more recent years) garnering a spectrum of reactions in the process.
Indeed, as an actor it could be said Mr Cage has always danced to the rhythm of his own drum, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say, to an artistic pulse that he has fearlessly allowed to flow in order to continue acting with honesty and integrity.
In a recent Q&A at The 2011 Sedona Film Festival, Mr Cage offered up some enlightening insights into his incredible acting journey.
Acting from an early age and with little formal training, he took inspiration from Robert Deniro in ‘Raging Bull’ and dedicated himself to the method acting approach, living the part 24/7 and often making himself unpopular, especially when the role required him to be an unpleasant character:
“When I began acting I started with maybe all of 6 months of training and it was really adhoc, and when I was in High School ‘Raging Bull’ came out in the eighties and I heard what Deniro did with living the part and the method acting and all of that, and so I thought that that was the shortcut that I would have to take, because I didn’t have the proper training. If I wasn’t a RADAist I wasn’t learning the English style of acting, so I thought I should just live the part.
And I did some things that probably weren’t very nice when I had to play bad guys, to live the part, feel the part. I remember once I was in New York City in a movie Called The Cotton Club, and I was playing Vincent Coll…. mad Dog ….who was the most feared gangster in Harlem in the twenties, and I wanted to believe I was that character, I wanted to feel that I could be that scary and strike that level of fear in peoples’ hearts. Before the day of photography, I went out, down on Bleaker Street and Christopher Street and some guy was selling remote control cars, and I looked at the car and I jumped up and I smashed the car and bits and pieces were flying all over the street and people were going ‘he’s crazy, he’s nuts’ and they were dispersing, and then I gave the guy, I said ‘how much is it?’ he said ‘fifty dollars’, I gave him fifty dollars, I went to bed and then the next morning I went to work and I remembered it, and I recalled it, and I was that guy. And I meant it.”
Cage’s method acting phase ended when his first son was born, heralding the first transition of his acting style:
“I became a father and I realised you can’t really do those those things, when you start going back to real life and have more of a normal life you have to be sociable, you have to be part of the community, and I started caring about other people, I wasn’t really an anarchist any more. I was more somebody that wanted to get involved and care about people. So then I started using more or less a style of preparing from the outside in, more the English style, of trying to find my roles by what the wardrobe was and what the look was of the character, and so I started blending it.”
But as the actor who often takes the road less travelled, in the latest trimester of his career, Mr Cage says his acting has spontaneously evolved into what he calls “Nouveau Shamanic”, his characters born without any particular method, emerging from a deeper dimension:
“In the last ten years, I don’t really think about it any more, it just is. I don’t really have any method.
I call my new style of acting ‘Nouveau Shamanic’,
That’s my process, I’ll probably have to write a book about it. It’s not RADA, it’s not actors studio, it’s Nouveau Shamanic.
The other thing I would say though, what most people don’t really know, is that that’s what actors were at the beginning, even pre Christian, at the very beginning, the actor was the Shaman of the village, that would act out the scene and get the answers out of the other dimension and the imagination.”
This apparent formless ‘form’ of acting has naturally and effortlessly evolved in an actor who is so experienced in his craft that he is able to literally act as a more truthful form of expression, to be fully in it rather than one step removed, bypassing ‘process’ and conscious thought and channelling something far more sublime:
“Picasso said art is a lie that tells the truth, but I think with acting actors get this reputation for being false because of the nature of our job, that we can act well, how can you trust these people, they could be lying, they could be acting right now. But to me to be an effective actor it’s less about lying and more about accessing some truth, even if it is artificial, I know it sounds strange but that’s sort of why I talked about Picasso’s definition of art. Getting the truth somehow, to me, whatever that may be, is a spiritual process. The truth has to go deeper than just my body, it has to go into my imagination and it’s almost like a trance, when it works, I don’t want to think about the dialogue, I don’t want to think about what the scene is at the moment of action, I have to feel it and go into a state where I’m almost out of my body and it’s just happening, it’s just flowing, that’s probably the only way I can describe it in the short amount of time that we have, but it’s a rush, you know, I don’t think it’s any different than painting or music or any other artform. But when it’s working, you go into another dimension, you bring it back and then you share it with people.”
This shift seems to reflect a freedom one only reaches beyond technique. As Bruce Lee said of Kung Fu, technique is only the beginning, “to master it, one must enter into the spirit of it.”
And his words of wisdom here could perhaps equally be applied to the nouveau shamanic school of acting:
“Let the spirit out — Discard all thoughts of reward, all hopes of praise and fears of blame, all awareness of one’s bodily self. And, finally closing the avenues of sense perception, let the spirit out, as it will.”
And how lucky we are to be on the receiving end of this nouveau shamanic gift, perhaps atlast we have an explanation for why so many fans are universally caught up in this actor’s (r)evolutionary spell, and why Nicolas Cage is the most the magical actor in the world.