Nicolas Cage talks Spider-Man Noir, Ghost Rider and his love of comic books with STACK at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao.

Longtime comic book fan Nicolas Cage is delighted to be a part of hit animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, starring as Spider-Man Noir.

When STACK caught up with Cage in Macao this week, where he is serving as a Talent Ambassador for International Film Festival & Awards Macao, he had yet to see the film but couldn’t conceal his thrill over the Spidey buzz.

“Out of the blue, I had a phone call from Sony that they were interested in me to play Spider-Man Noir and I met the directors in downtown LA and they showed me what the movie was gonna look like and I flipped for it.

I thought it was gonna be beautiful; a real visual feast,” recalls the actor who felt he was well prepared to personify Spider-Man Noir.

“I had already done Dog Eat Dog with Paul Schrader where I was playing with a Humphrey Bogart affectation,” he says, referring to his role in Schrader’s 2016 crime drama co-starring Willem Dafoe. “So I thought it would be nice with Spider-Man Noir to think about a 1930s noir film star, a Cagney or a Bogart or an Edward G. Robinson; any of these guys who talked fast or had a certain rhythm to their delivery. So Spider-Man Noir became a mix of all those flavours in terms of the way they spoke and a memory of that, growing up with those movies. That’s what was most exciting for me about playing Spider-Man Noir.”

If Cage is synonymous with any comic-book hero then it would be Superman, naming his son Kal-El after Superman’s birth name, and earlier this year voicing Superman in TV’s Teen Titans GO series.

“Well I only did that because it was my son Kal’s favourite show on TV and he got a chance to play a part as a young Bruce Wayne in it, and it was one line and we went into the studio together and I was playing this cameo of Superman. We loved the experience and I hope he’ll make more movies as a voice actor,” he says.

In 2002 Cage auctioned his treasured collection of 400 vintage comics for over US$1.6 million, years later creating his own comic book with eldest son Weston, called ‘Voodoo Child’.

In 2007 and 2012 he starred in the titular role of Ghost Rider and its sequel, based on the Marvel character, although today he feels his live action comic book days are behind him, happy to make his mark as an animated Spider-Man Noir.

Cage has no regrets that he hasn’t become a part of today’s Marvel superhero juggernaut. “I already played the one which resonates with me personally, which is Ghost Rider. I grew up reading Ghost Rider and The Hulk. I enjoyed them because I couldn’t understand how the monsters could look so scary but also be so good.

“But Ghost Rider was always going to be a very hard sell. Its not a character where you could just go, ‘Oh by the way son, this superhero sold his soul to the devil but he’s also good even though he’s in league with Satan or Lucifer.’ It’s not a popular concept with the conservative American audiences,” he muses.

“But, that being said, for me it was like a fairy-tale version of Faust. It would be like as if Walt Disney had made a Faust animated feature; they’d never do that but, to me, it was an important story. It was also very complex; it was almost as if a tattoo had come to life, this flaming skull. It was a very unusual superhero to play and, because of that, I felt like it was the right match for me.

“But it would have been nice to see a Ghost Rider in with the Avengers. I know in the early comic books, he was one of them at one point and he would do guest appearances. But I think my comic book days are over and I’m not really interested in playing any other super heroes. I’m fine with the cards I was dealt.”

If there’s one role he still longs to play then its Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

“My first love – even before I loved my parents – and I mean this sincerely, was the ocean. From being a very small child of maybe one or two, I was in love with the sea. It was so beautiful, the way it smelled and the colours of the water and the animals that lived in the ocean. And then when I started reading, I fell in love with Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and knew immediately that I could play Captain Nemo. With my love of the ocean, I would smoke seaweed cigarettes, I would play the organ and show off my collection of fish and go diving with my crew. I wouldn’t have to act at all and could play it perfectly.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas on December 13

Watch the Into the Spider-Verse voice cast in action