Nicolas Cage Biography 2011

Considering his early roles and his initial peer group, it's hard to believe that Nicolas Cage has got this far. A peripheral member of the early Eighties' Brat Pack, he should surely have gone the way of Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez and, lest we forget, Andrew McCarthy. Yet somehow he has become one of the most expressive and sought-after actors of his generation, an Oscar-winner and a major box-office draw.

Born Nicholas Kim Coppola in Long Beach, California on the 7th of January, 1964, young Nic had a heavyweight name to live up to. Both his parents were successes in themselves - his father, August, was a professor in comparative literature at Cal State, Long Beach (later the Dean of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University) and his mother, Joy Vogelsang was a renowned dancer and choreographer. Yet the family contained bigger names still. Nic's aunt was Talia Shire, star of the Rocky movies and subject of Stallone's final, triumphant bellow of "Adrian! Adrian!" while his uncle was no less than Francis Ford Coppola, deified director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Tough to top achievements like that.

Nic had not always aimed to be an actor, but he could always act. One early story sees him getting bullied on the school bus, having his Twinkies taken from him. Enraged, he went home, togged himself up in his brother's jeans and cowboy boots and, slicking back his hair and slipping on shades, he approached his tormentor and, claiming to be Roy Wilkinson (his own older cousin), he threatened to batter the bully if he did not leave young Nic Coppola alone. It worked.

Though he'd sometimes spend the summer in San Francisco with Uncle Francis, growing close to his cousins, Roman and Sofia Coppola, his influences were not simply filmic. His mother was a depressive, spending long periods in hospital, but her naturally surreal and wholly idiosyncratic worldview had a mighty impact on her son (he loves to improvise, often infuriating his fellow actors - later David Lynch would call him "a jazz musician of an actor. Completely unafraid", while Jim Carrey says he has "elephant balls"). Then there was August. He and Joy divorced when Nic was 12, and the boy moved with his father to San Francisco. Here August schooled the boy in a wide range of artistic pursuits, including film, literature and classical music.