Fifteen minutes from Las Vegas Strip, into a quiet closed community, up a red brick driveway, past the palm trees that touch the sky of the Mojave Desert, through the veil that separates the astral plane, and here he is: the man they say won and lost a fortune of $ 150 million; who owned castles in Europe and the most haunted house in America and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini and two albino king cobras and a rare two-headed snake; who had to return his precious dinosaur skull when he was told it had been stolen from Mongolia; who went on an epic quest for the actual Holy Grail; and who – when his unique, amazing life finally ends – will be laid to rest forever in a colossal white pyramid tomb in New Orleans.
Nicolas Cage greets me at his door, wearing a kung fu suit.
“This is my Wing Chun kung fu suit,” he explains, waving me in and handing me a mug of coffee. “I studied with my sifu, Jim Lau, when I was 12, because I was a big Bruce Lee fan. And then it’s like my uniform to relax in. ”
His voice is a low, contemplative twist that permeates every word with a sense of philosophical magnitude. To hear Nicolas Cage comment on his favorite loungewear is to hear someone else reflect on the cosmos.
“I’m still decorating, so excuse me,” he says as we stroll through his home. An impressive mahogany cuckoo clock rings in half an hour. Mighty bronze dragons guard the hall. Varnished arms holding torches sprout from eggplant-purple walls and light the way. Look down and you have a Persian rug torn out of a Lisa Frank coloring book. Look up, you have a crystal chandelier and an original Being from the Black Lagoon poster. Straight forward: a prince! Specifically, a giant photograph of Prince on roller skates in hot pants and a Batman tank top. At the heart of the house is a charcoal drawing of his late father, August Floyd Coppola, towering over the fireplace and everything else.
Cage moved into this place last summer, but settled in Vegas back in 2006. He came for the state taxes (there are none), though he quickly learned to love the small town vibe and the ability to get rid of the radar. “In some ways,” he says, “this move has saved me.”
His best friend rests in a nearby chair and adjusts to me. He has the royal attitude of an emperor, with an elegant mane of gray hair and clever golden eyes and a luxurious tail, and okay, yes, he’s a cat. A Maine coon named Merlin. “He’s so kind and so loving,” Cage says more than once. Sometimes he puts his arm around me when he’s asleep and I think it’s my wife and I say, ‘Oh, Riko.’ And then there’s Merlin. ”
The owner of his local favorite pet store recently died, so Cage scooped up some of the leftover animals stuck in limbo. A pair of turtles, a fish with an asshole that he felt sorry for. They live in a series of aquariums along his kitchen and bar counters (his Oscar is also somewhere up there). “My job is to take care of them, make sure they are happy and safe,” he says as we stop to watch a freshwater turtle wade around. “Eventually I’ll have to donate him, just like I donated my two-headed snake to the Audubon Zoo.”