Undoubtedly one of the biggest -- and unique -- actors of his generation, Nicolas Cage got his start in 1982's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" in a part so small if you blink you'd miss it. Then, after changing his name from Coppola to Cage, the actor's career took off and he's been a leading man ever since.
This week, Cage stars in David Gordon Green's "Joe," as a hot-tempered, but protective ex-con in a role that has critics raving about the actor's restrained performance. Whether or not you're a fan of the intense star, there's no denying he's a cinematic force to be reckoned with.
From his unexpected connection to J.D. Salinger to his questionable dinosaur skull purchase, here are 55 things you probably don't know about Nicolas Cage.
1. Born Nicolas Coppola, the actor chose Cage as his stage name to honor comic book superhero Luke Cage.
2. Inspired by Superman's birth name, he christened his (now 8-year-old) son Kal-El.
3. Cage's father, the late August Coppola, worked as a comparative literature professor at Cal State Long Beach and served as a trustee of the California state university system.
4. In 2001, Cage received an honorary doctorate from Cal State Fullerton. He had previously dropped out of UCLA.
5. Cage has two older brothers, Marc and Christopher Coppola, both of whom have worked in the film biz.
6. Through his father, Cage is also related to director Francis Ford Coppola (uncle), actress Talia Shire (aunt), director Sofia Coppola (cousin), actor Jason Schwartzman (cousin), and actor/musician Robert Schwartzman (cousin).
7. Cage's first movie role was as a cook in 1982's 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' (as seen in the background behind Judge Reinhold in the clip below).
8. His job after that was selling popcorn at a movie theater.
9. In 1983, he made a name for himself with the cult comedy "Valley Girl" and uncle Francis Ford Coppola's "Rumble Fish" and never looked back.
10. A proponent of Method acting, Cage had two of his teeth surgically removed for his role in 1984's "Birdy."
11. Cage filed suit against Kathleen Turner, his co-star in the 1986 film "Peggy Sue Got Married," after she wrote in her 2008 tell-all that he'd once stolen a Chihuahua.
12. Jim Carrey, who had a small role in "Peggy Sue Got Married" as one of Cage's high-school pals, has been quoted as saying that Cage has "elephant balls."
13. Cage ate a live cockroach for his role in 1989's "Vampire's Kiss" -- although, allegedly, the film's director only wanted him to down a raw egg.
14. When Cage met first wife Patricia Arquette in 1987, he declared, "I love you and I'm going to marry you."
15. Arquette decided to test his dedication by giving him a list of seemingly impossible tasks that he'd need to perform before she'd say yes. One of them included procuring the autograph of notoriously reclusive author J.D. Salinger -- which Cage improbably managed to do.
16. It still took eight years for Cage to convince Arquette to marry him, which they finally did in 1995. The couple separated after just nine months -- although they did not file for divorce until 2000.
17. Cage was 32 years old when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for "Leaving Las Vegas," which currently ranks him as the fifth-youngest performer to ever win in that category. (Sixth-youngest? Jimmy Stewart, who had 205 days on Cage when he won for "The Philadelphia Story" in 1940.)
18. The second time Cage earned an Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category -- for his dual role as twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in 2002's "Adaptation" -- he lost to "The Pianist" star Adrien Brody, who became the youngest-ever Best Actor Oscar winner, at 29.
19. The sixth chapter of the 1998 biography "Nicolas Cage: Hollywood's Wild Talent" is entitled "Jimmy Stewart From Mars."
20. Nicolas Cage has owned a pet octopus.
21. He has also admitted to taking hallucinogenic mushrooms with his cat on at least one occasion. Seeing that the cat, Lewis, had snuck into the refrigerator and eaten the 'shrooms "voraciously," Cage reasoned, "What the heck, I better do it with him."
22. Cage was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in 2009.
23. He once donated $2 million to Amnesty International to aid former child soldiers.
24. Cage has earned soundtrack credits in five of his films in which his characters either sang and/or played the mandolin: "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Wild at Heart," "Leaving Las Vegas," "The Family Man" and "Captain Correlli's Mandolin."
25. On his back, Cage has a tattoo of a lizard wearing a top hat.
26. He's apparently fascinated by ley lines, defined by The Skeptic's Dictionary as "alignments of ancient sites or holy places, such as stone circles, standing stones, cairns and churches."
27. Purportedly, Cage, who married Lisa Marie Presley in 2002 (they divorced in 2004), is the only person outside the immediate Presley family to have ever been inside Elvis Presley's Graceland bedroom.
28. Cage's middle name, Kim, is also third wife Alice's surname.
29. Nicolas Kim Coppola met Alice Kim in 2004 when she was his waitress at Le Privé, a Korean nightclub in Los Angeles (which has since closed). The club was known for "booking," a "K-club" practice in which young women are brought over to men's tables for on-the-spot dates.
30. He bought a Bahamanian island in 2006, near the one owned by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
31. He also bought a German castle that year.
32. He was forced to sell both in 2009, when his wild spending sprees caught up to him.
33. According to records, Cage had purchased 22 cars in the year 2007; nine of those were Rolls Royces.
34. In 2007, Cage and his first son, Weston, now 20, co-authored a limited-edition comic book series entitled "Voodoo Child."
35. Weston's mother is Christina Fulton, a sometime-actress who had a part in Cage's 1998 flick "Snake Eyes."
36. When filming "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" in the Big Easy, he bought a two-headed snake for protection. Later, he donated it to a zoo.
37. Cage is still fond of reptiles and even asked to hold a venomous snake on the set of the movie "Joe" (2013) to "relax" him.
38. When a six-bedroom Las Vegas mansion that Cage owned went into foreclosure in late 2009 and was later sold at auction, numerous news outlets covered the events with the headline "Nicolas Cage Leaving Las Vegas," or something very similar.
39. In addition to his well-documented predilection for house- and castle-buying, Cage bought a nine-foot-tall, pyramid-shaped tomb in a New Orleans cemetery last year. It is assumed this will be his final resting place.
40. In 2009, film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Cage has two speeds: intense and intenser."
41. This was said of the man who has starred in "The Wicker Man," "The Weather Man," "The Family Man" and "Matchstick Men."
42. You might say that Cage is a "carnalvore," basing his meat-consuming choices on an animal's mating habits.
43. In fact, he told a London newspaper in 2010: "I actually choose the way I eat according to the way animals have sex. I think fish are very dignified with sex. So are birds. But pigs, not so much. So I don't eat pig meat or things like that. I eat fish and fowl."
44. Cage has done ads for Montblanc watches and Sankyo pachinko machines (which are like a cross between pinball machines and slot machines, and popular in Japan).
45. He paid $276,000 at auction for a dinosaur skull of a Tarbosaurus; one of the people he outbid was Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2013, it was reported that the fossil was stolen and smuggled to the U.S. prior to the auction.
46. The blog Nic Cage as Everyone was "founded on the belief that everything in life would be better with a little more Nic Cage."
47. It includes doctored photos of Cage as Santa Claus, Princess Leia, Justin Bieber, Sarah Palin, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, and even Cage's wife, Alice.
48. Just in case you're still not convinced of Cage's unique brand of craziness, amateur video of Cage somewhere in Bucharest (where he's filmed "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance") surfaced in 2010. In it, he yells such inanities as "I'll die in the name of honor!"
49. His intensity and uniqueness has garnered a legion of loyal fans, some of whom made this amazing Nic Cage compilation.
50. In 2012, a young woman accidentally attached a wacky photo of Cage to an email instead of her resume. As a result, she received two job offers. Of course.
51. Cage also told fans he would love to do a third "National Treasure" movie set in South America.
52. Cage is such an avid comic-book fan that his collection of 400 vintage comics fetched over $1.6 million in a 2002 auction.
53. In his Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), fellow actor Ethan Hawke rained praise on Cage, writing that "he's the only actor since Marlon Brando that's actually done anything new with the art of acting." He went on to add that if you only kept the best 50% of Cage's films, "he would blow everyone else out of the water." I guess you could call him a fan.
54. He's recently said that he's developed his own style and school of acting called "Nouveau Shamanic." He didn't elaborate on the style, but he did add that he'll have to write a book about it some day.
55. Cage has been credited as helping Johnny Depp get his first acting job after hooking the A-list actor up with his agent.
Editor's Note: This article is an update to "47 Facts About Nicolas Cage," first posted January 3rd, 2011.
Article photo courtesy of Getty