Fifteen minutes down the Las Vegas Strip, into a quiet gated community, up a red brick driveway, past the palm trees that touch the sky of the Mojave Desert, through the veil that separates the astral plane, and here he is: the man from whom they say he won and lost a fortune of $150 million; who owned castles in Europe and the now cursed house in America and the Shah of Iran’s Lamborghini and two albino king cobras and a rare two-headed snake; who had to return his prized dinosaur skull after learning it had been stolen from Mongolia; who embarked on an epic quest for the actual Holy Grail; and who—when his unique, fantastic life finally comes to an end—is laid to rest in a colossal white pyramidal tomb in New Orleans.
Nicolas Cage greets me at his door in a kung fu suit.
“This is my wing chun kung fu suit,” he explains, waves me in and hands me a cup of coffee. “I studied with mine Sifu, Jim Lau when I was 12 because I was a big Bruce Lee fan. And so it’s like my uniform for relaxing.”
His voice has a deep, thoughtful streak that infuses every word with a sense of philosophical grandeur. Hearing Nicolas Cage give an opinion about his favorite lounge is hearing everyone else think about the cosmos.
“I’m still decorating, so excuse me,” he says as we stroll through his home. An imposing mahogany cuckoo clock strikes the half hour. Mighty bronze dragons guard the hall. Lacquered arms with torches sprout from aubergine walls and light the way. Look down and you have a Persian rug ripped from a Lisa Frank coloring book. Look up, you have a crystal chandelier and an original Creature from the Black Lagoon Poster. Straight ahead: a prince! In particular, a huge photo of Prince roller-skating in hot pants and a Batman tank top. At the heart of the home is a charcoal drawing of his late father, August Floyd Coppola, enthroned above the fireplace, and everything else.
Cage moved to this location last summer but settled in Vegas in 2006. They came for state taxes (there aren’t any), though they soon learned to love the small-town feel and ability to fly off the radar. “In a way,” he says, “this step saved me.”
His best friend is resting on a chair nearby and eyeing me. He has the regal demeanor of an emperor, with an elegant mane of gray hair and wise golden eyes and a luxurious tail, and, okay, yes, he’s a cat. A Maine Coon named Merlin. “He’s so kind and loving,” Cage has told me more than once. “Sometimes when he’s sleeping he puts his arm around me and I think it’s my wife and I’m like, ‘Oh, Riko.’ And then it’s Merlin.”
The owner of his favorite local pet shop recently passed away, so Cage has scooped up some of the leftover animals stuck in Limbo. A pair of turtles met a fish with a bum eye that he felt sorry for. They live in a series of aquariums that line his kitchen and bar counters (his Oscar’s up there somewhere, too). “My job is to take care of them and make sure they’re happy and safe,” he says as we stop to watch a freshwater turtle wading around. “Eventually I’ll have to donate it, like I donated my two-headed snake to the Audubon Zoo.”