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Nicolas Cage Says Stan Lee Was 'a Surrealist Father to Me': He 'Guided My Childhood' (Exclusive)

"That was a big moment," Cage recalls of the first time he met the 'Spider-Man' creator

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty ; Jason Koerner/WireImage</p> Stan Lee photographed in 2015 in Hollywood; Nicolas Cage photographed in 2023 in Miami

Kevin Winter/Getty ; Jason Koerner/WireImage

Stan Lee photographed in 2015 in Hollywood; Nicolas Cage photographed in 2023 in Miami

Nicolas Cage counts himself among Stan Lee's biggest fans.

Speaking exclusively with PEOPLE at the 51st Saturn Awards, the National Treasure star shares that the late Spider-Man creator and Marvel mainstay "had a big influence on the way I look at the creative process" and "was like a surrealist father to me."

"He kind of guided my childhood," Cage, 60, notes of Lee, who died of congestive heart failure on Nov 12, 2018, at 95 years old. The actor maintained a friendship with the comic book author before his death, and remembers meeting Lee for the first time as "a big moment."

<p>Robin L Marshall/Getty </p> Nicolas Cage attends the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario

Robin L Marshall/Getty

Nicolas Cage attends the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario

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"He was wonderful. He was so friendly. He was so kind. He was so warm," Cage recalls of his interactions with Lee. "He actually cared about what I was up to, what I was doing, he'd come over to the house for dinner and we'd talk about ideas."

Although he "wanted to do something with [Lee] a long time ago," ultimately, "it didn't happen, but he always had that zest for life and for creative output. He never stopped, so that was a big deal."

Cage adds, "You think about the people that changed the culture around the world the most, it was Walt Disney and Stan Lee. Those two guys did it."

The star "didn't get to meet Walt, but I got to meet Stan who had more of an impact on me than Walt. So that was a big deal."

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The Dream Scenario actor has spoken about his affinity for Lee in the past.

He proclaimed, "I’ve gotta be nice about Marvel movies, because I named myself after a Stan Lee character named Luke Cage," while accepting the Variety Legend & Groundbreaker Award at the 2023 Miami Film Festival.

Despite his love for Lee's work, Cage added at the time, "I don’t need to be in the MCU, I’m Nic Cage.”

Stan Lee attends the premiere of Marvel's 'Captain America: Civil War' at Dolby Theatre on April 12, 2016 in Los Angeles
Stan Lee attends the premiere of Marvel's 'Captain America: Civil War' at Dolby Theatre on April 12, 2016 in Los Angeles

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The actor revealed in a 2022 promotional video shared on X (formerly known as Twitter) for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent that part of his sizable comic book collection, which contained works ranging from Lee's to a copy of Action Comics #1, was "stolen" at one point.

He says that he looks back at the impact those printed pages, particularly those created by Lee, had on him fondly.

"As a child, at the most impressionable age, that was the one that really taught me to read and to look at life differently and taught me different words like opaque," Cage says. "I didn't know what opaque... How do you even say opaque when you're six years old? But I had my lemon cookies and my NyQuil, and I was reading his books, his comic books."

The Academy Award winner may not currently have a huge comic book collection, but he remarks that he has held on to one piece of Lee-related memorabilia: "I have a picture of me and Stan hugging."

To balance out Lee's presence, Cage further notes that "on the other side, I have DC, the father of Superman, I have one of his first original drawings of the Superman character," referring to Joe Shuster, co-creator of the famed superhero.

"He wrote it to a fan and drew the picture. I have that on my piano at home," Cage says, calling it "a beautiful thing."

Cage was honored at the Saturn Awards with the best supporting actor in a film award for his work on Renfield.

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