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Nicolas Cage’s wildest acting antics, from playing Superman to wrestling a venomous snake

Nicolas Cage is no stranger to making waves for his odd behaviour, and his not-always-comprehensible acting choices.

But this week one of his eccentric actions – namely, calling his son Kal-El, which is Superman’s name on Krypton – has joined up with his real life. Cage, a mega-Superman fan, will be joining the DC Universe, with a cameo playing Superman, no less.

In an interview with Esquire Middle East, the filmmaker Andy Muschietti – who has directed the highly-anticipated upcoming American superhero film The Flash – confirmed that Cage will be featuring in the film.

“Nic was absolutely wonderful. Although the role was a cameo, he dove into it,” said Muschietti. “I dreamt all my life to work with him. I hope I can work with him again soon.”

The Flash will follow the story of what happens when its namesake travels back through time to try and prevent the murder of his mother. But of course, everyone knows that playing with time is a dangerous thing, and after changing destiny, The Flash becomes trapped in an alternative multiverse. It’s here that Superman is likely to pop up.

Cage has been waiting for his big chance for a while; he was originally set to play Superman 25 years ago, in the cancelled Tim Burton-directed superhero film Superman Lives.

To celebrate Cage finally making it to the DC Universe, here’s our pick of some of his other odd movie-related capers.

Eating two cockroaches for Vampire’s Kiss

There’s something uniquely repulsive about cockroaches: it’s partly the way they scuttle across surfaces, and partly the knowledge that chances are that they would survive if they had their head chopped off. It’s also the way they lay eggs, the way they are impossibly fast, those searching antennae, and the fact they can fly. We’ll stop now, because the hairs on our back are standing up, but basically... cockroaches are the worst.

Imagine, then, putting one in your mouth? It’s almost too repulsive to even think about. But this is exactly what Cage did for 1988 film Vampire’s Kiss, a film about New Yorker Peter (Cage) who is bitten by a good looking woman Rachel (Jennifer Beals) during one steamy night, and who starts to believe that he’s a vampire.

Cage said he seriously regrets eating the live cockroaches. “Every time I think about it I’m sometimes traumatised by it and I don’t ever want to do it again or anything like it again,” he said recently.

Pulling out his baby teeth for Birdy

For his 1984 film Birdy, about two old friends Birdy (Modine) and Al Columbato (Cage) who go to Vietnam and come back as changed men, Cage pulled out as many as four of his teeth. They were, apparently, baby teeth, which only makes it marginally less squirm-worthy. “They were baby teeth,” he told Anne Billson in 1985, “so I took advantage of it and had them out. I thought it would add an interesting dimension to the role.” Ouch.

Painting his face like a “voodoo icon” for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Another bonkers tale: Cage would apparently turn up to the set of 2011 superhero film Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance with his face painted like an “Afro-Caribbean voodoo icon” and he would sew “Ancient Egyptian artefacts” onto his costumes.

During a London conference promoting the film, in which he played a stunt motorcyclist who has sold his soul to the devil, he said: “I thought ‘I’m dealing with a supernatural character, so why don’t I try some of that?’ So I would paint my face with black and white make-up so it looked like a skull...”

“[I] got some rocks that had alleged frequencies, and who knows if it works or not,” he said. “The point is it stimulated my imagination to think I really was this character. So I would walk onto set projecting an aura of horror and I would see fear in the eyes of my co-stars - it was like oxygen to a fire and that led me to believe that I really was this spirit of vengeance.”

Living with a “drinking coach” for Leaving Las Vegas

Arguably the least crazy antic on this list – but an experience all the same – Cage apparently had alcoholic poet Tony Dingman, who had known Cage since his childhood, stay with him in his trailer as he filmed Leaving Las Vegas. The 1995 film is about an alcoholic screenwriter, Ben Sanderson, who enterers into a romantic relationship with sex worker Sera (Elisabeth Shue).

“I just watched Tony. He would go on a bender and pass out, curled up in my trailer in a foetal position,” said Cage to The Independent in 1996. “And he would go into these amazing diatribes - and I would put that in the movie. I wanted to give Ben a sort of crumbling elegance. He always takes on a British accent when he’s most drunk. And I loved that clue to his flaw - because I love flawed characters.”

According to writer-director Mike Figgis, Cage had wanted to film the entire movie drunk, but Figgis said filming would go much better if Cage was lucid. Nevertheless, Cage filmed one scene absolutely plastered, which very nearly backfired.

“He drank a bottle of vodka before the scene,” said Figgis to The Telegraph. “I was very angry with him because he didn’t tell me. Somebody got injured and he smashed the equipment. The pit boss was furious and was gonna throw us out until the audience... started applauding. We were within a hair’s breadth of being thrown out, because Nic had gone bonkers.” Well, Cage’s methods did seem to work in the end, as he won a Best Actor Oscar for playing Ben.

Wrestling a venomous snake in Joe

This seems like a pretty casual Nicolas Cage activity, all things considered, particularly because Cage has had snakes as pets in the past: he told The New York Times “I did have two king cobras, and they were not happy. They would try to hypnotise me by showing me their backs, and then they’d lunge at me”. And he had, very casually of course, a $80,000 live, two-headed snake.

In his 2013 film Joe, about a man that hires a teenager and then ends up protecting him, Cage apparently wrestled a fanged cottonmouth, a snake whose venom can kill humans.

“I wanted to get a bigger fear so that I could get on top of the smaller fear of playing the part,” he said in 2014. “The challenge was not having it bite me, but also spit venom in Tye [Sheridan’s] face. So I had to hold it in a very careful way... I felt that I was surfing the adrenaline of picking the snake up, and when I was done with it, I was exhausted.”

Wearing bandages for weeks for Birdy

Also while filming for Birdy, Cage apparently wore bandages around his face for five weeks, which sort of congealed, making his skin underneath slightly moist and thin (if you’ve ever worn a cast – or a plaster for a little too long, for that matter – you’ll know exactly what that means). “The reactions on the street were brutal,” Cage revealed. “Men and women laughing, kids staring. And when I took the bandages off, my skin was all infected because of acne and ingrowing hairs.” Nice.

The Flash will be released in the UK on June 16