Nicolas Cage Already Played A Vampire And It Got Really Weird
Nicolas Cage played a truly unhinged vampire in 1989's Vampire's Kiss.
Nicolas Cage will soon play one of the great roles of cinema: Count Dracula, perhaps the most preeminent vampire of cinema and a gift to overly-committed actors everywhere. But while we are very much looking forward to Nicolas Cage bossing around Nicholas Hoult in the upcoming Renfield, it is very worth mentioning that Cage has already very memorably played a vampire in the 1989 horror film Vampire’s Kiss. While it was a commercial failure on release, the film has since become a cult classic (plus, a reliable source of memes) and is currently streaming for free on Kanopy.
Vampire’s Kiss stars Nicolas Cage as Pete Loew, a New York City literary agent in the heady 1980s, when guys who worked in a vague capacity at a publishing house could do cocaine, have constant one-night stands, and generally behave horribly even before they get turned into vampires. From the beginning of the film, it is clear that Nicolas Cage is slowly mentally falling apart, even freaking out his therapist with his rants; in many ways, he is the proto-Patrick Bateman, two years before American Psycho was published. Then he meets Rachel (Jennifer Beals) in a nightclub, and things really start to go weird.
It is actually debatable whether Nicolas Cage truly becomes one of the undead in Vampire’s Kiss, and most likely, it is more that he simply has a full mental collapse and comes to think he has. As it is, Rachel turns out to have fangs and drinks his blood during their sexual tryst, but…does she? Throughout the film, Rachel appears over and over again to Nicolas Cage, but it is heavily hinted that he is hallucinating her.
On the other hand, wouldn’t an actual supernatural being appear and disappear mysteriously? In either case, Nicolas Cage comes to believe that he is becoming a vampire and behaves increasingly bizarrely. While he began the movie harassing his assistant Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso), he now begins to stalk and threaten her, while she uses a gun filled with blanks to attempt to ward him off. However, after he attempts to drink her blood and then kill himself, finding that the dummy gun does not harm him just further convinces him he is one of the nosferatu.
It is worth mentioning that Vampire’s Kiss is as much a dark comedy as it is a psychological thriller or a horror movie, and even more, is a showcase for Nicolas Cage at his most unhinged. While the star of Con Air had already been known to go to extreme measures in pursuit of his craft (such as having teeth removed for the film Birdy), Vampire’s Kiss is one of the key parts of the legend of Nicolas Cage, manic shamanistic actor.
Famously, a scene in which Nicolas Cage eats a live cockroach under his belief that a vampire must consume life was not simulated, and in fact, was his idea (the original script by Joseph Minion called for an egg). Other, less overtly disgusting scenes in which he screams his way through dialogue, affects a truly unique yuppie accent, and does an impression of the original film vampire is all Cage. According to him, Nicolas Cage essentially rejects the popular “Method” school of acting and searches for something more primal in his performances, which he certainly does in Vampire’s Kiss.
Vampire’s Kiss was directed by Robert Bierman, after Joseph Minion dropped out of plans to direct his own film. Reportedly, the film was influenced by Minion’s romantic relationship with the playwright and literary agent Barbara Zitwer; given the dark tone and violent interactions between men and women in the film, it was probably pretty awkward when Zitwer actually came aboard the film as a producer.
At one point, apparently, Dennis Quaid was cast as the lead of the film, which makes sense on paper and nowhere else. Then and now, Dennis Quaid radiates an all-American sense of stability and decency, which could potentially have made his descent into vampiric madness all that much more frightening. However, no one can do crazy like Nicolas Cage, vampire or otherwise. That he begins the film already teetering on the edge of madness makes it that much more disconcerting when he truly loses it.
As we said, we are excited to see Nicolas Cage in Renfield as Dracula, and with a cast that includes Nicholas Hoult, Awkwafina, and Ben Schwartz, it should be a good time. But Vampire’s Kiss is a unique experience, as are so many Nicolas Cage movies.