In a lengthy Q&A with The New York Times Magazine, the 55-year-old actor cringed at the idea of being exposed, via cellphone camera, lamenting that older Hollywood stars didn't have to be concerned with plebeians publicizing what would otherwise be private moments.
"I once had brunch with Warren Beatty, and I said, 'Do you have any idea how lucky you are that you were Warren Beatty in the ’70s, before everyone had a cellphone with a video camera?' He just smiled. It’s so true," Cage said. "You go to a karaoke bar with a male friend in the neighborhood, the bar says 'no videotaping' and suddenly, there’s two different videos of you doing karaoke. Who did that? Who exposed the videotape? Who sold it?"
Of specifically the "Purple Rain" incident, Cage explained, "It was around the anniversary of Prince’s passing. Everyone knows how much I admire him as an artist. But honestly, I wasn’t even doing that to sing. It was more like primal-scream therapy. It was a holiday weekend, and I didn’t want to go anywhere, but my friend who was with me said:'You can’t sit here in your apartment. You’ve got to go out.' So I went to the one place in my neighborhood that I knew had no video recording, just to have some fun, and that became everybody’s business."
Cage confessed that part of what drove him to his "primal-scream therapy" was his split from ex Erika Koike, though he wasn't able to go into too much detail.
"I have to be careful about what I can divulge. There was a recent breakup. I don’t really want to talk about it. I was pretty upset about that and the way things happened," he admitted. "Earlier in my career I was very specific in my concept of who I wanted to be. I saw myself as a surrealist. This is going to sound pretentious, but I was, quote, trying to invent my own mythology, unquote, around myself."
Cage and Koike had been together for nearly a year when they married in Las Vegas in March. They called it quits four days later, with Cage claiming in his annulment filing that he was "too intoxicated" at the time of the marriage to understand what he was doing
Aside from his messy love life, musical renditions and campy performances, Cage is also infamous for his spending habits, which he insists weren't as absurd as the press reported. Cage ended up in a slew of debt, including a $6.9 million tax lien. As a result, his professional choices were driven by cash, he admits, but he's not ashamed of that.
"I can’t go into specifics or percentages or ratios, but yeah, money is a factor. I’m going to be completely direct about that. There’s no reason not to be, " he said. "There are times when it’s more of a factor than not. I still have to feel that, whether or not the movie around me entirely works, I’ll be able to deliver something and be fun to watch. But yes, it’s no secret that mistakes have been made in my past that I’ve had to try to correct. Financial mistakes happened with the real estate implosion that occurred, in which the lion’s share of everything I had earned was pretty much eradicated. But one thing I wasn’t going to do was file for bankruptcy. I had this pride thing where I wanted to work my way through anything, which was both good and bad. Not all the movies have been blue chip, but I’ve kept getting closer to my instrument."
Cage added that he simply functions better when he's working, which is why he almost never says no to a script. "I have structure [when I'm working]. I have a place to go. I don’t want to sit around and drink mai tais and Dom Pérignon and have mistakes in my personal life. I want to be on set. I want to be performing," he said. "In any other business, hard work is something to behold. Why not in film performance?"
Though Cage says the bulk of his financial distress was from poor real estate investments — he at one point had homes in New Orleans, Malibu, the Caribbean, England and Germany (the latter two of which were castles) — his other expenditures included items like a T-rex skull that he didn't even get to keep. However, his financial misfortunes may have helped him develop a spiritual quest for himself.
"The dinosaur skull was an unfortunate thing, because I did spend $276,000 on that. I bought it at a legitimate auction and found out it was abducted from Mongolia illegally, and then I had to give it back. Of course it should be awarded to its country of origin. But who knew? Plus, I never got my money back. So that stank," he said. "But I went years where all I was doing was meditating three times a day and reading books on philosophy, not drinking whatsoever. That was the time when I almost went on — you might call it a grail quest. I started following mythology, and I was finding properties that aligned with that. It was almost like 'National Treasure.'”
"Of course, that didn’t sustain," he said of his so-called "grail quest." "On top of which, I said, 'I’m going to get off philosophy,' because I became like a kite with a string but no anchor. No one could understand what I was talking about," he added. "And I thought people would rather see me as an orangutan than as an eagle meditating on the mountaintop anyway."
His quest for the Holy Grail was the result of him falling down a proverbial rabbit hole, he explained, and it may or may not have led him to purchase a home in Rhode Island. "One thing would lead to another. It’s like when you build a library. You read a book, and in it there’s a reference to another book, and then you buy that book, and then you attach the references. For me it was all about where was the grail? Was it here? Was it there? Is it at Glastonbury? Does it exist?"
"If you go to Glastonbury and go to the Chalice Well, there’s a spring that does taste like blood," Cage continued. "I guess it’s really because there’s a lot of iron in the water. But legend had it that in that place was a grail chalice, or two cruets rather, one of blood and one of sweat. But that led to there being talk that people had come to Rhode Island, and they were looking for something as well. I don’t know if I’m going to say that’s why I bought the Rhode Island property. But I will say that is why I went to Rhode Island, and I happened to find the place beautiful. But yes, this had put me on a search around different areas, mostly in England, but also some places in the States," he said.
"What I ultimately found is: What is the Grail but Earth itself? Well, I knew that, and the metaphor for me is the earth," Cage concluded. "The divine object is Earth."