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The enduring strangeness of Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage arrives for the screening of the film "Joe" at a film festival in 2013. (Lionel Cironneau/AP)

There’s a scene in the 1989 film “Never on Tuesday,” where a young, prosthetic-nose’d Nicolas Cage emerges from a swerving red sports car. He’s lanky and cartoonish, like a real-life Hotel Transylvania character. He speaks two lines in an exceptionally weird voice, laughs like a maniac and promptly drives off.

Thirty years later, Cage’s uncredited cameo in the film went viral on Twitter. “Do Oscar nominations have a statute of limitations???” someone tweeted. That’s how Cage manages to stay lodged in the public consciousness. Sure, the 55-year-old actor has also done 20 films in the past two years. But can you name two of them? No, the legend of Nic Cage seems to exist outside of any particular film or role, sustained by the memorably meme-able facial expressions and performances that have helped him achieve cult status on the Internet.

And yet Cage planted the seeds of that legend the old-fashioned way: by taking a lot of different roles and being a great interview when the magazines and talk shows came calling. He has starred in gonzo action flicks and quiet indie films, playing a curiously diverse range of characters, and with each new movie release, came a fresh round of news media coverage. Every few years without fail, audiences get an exaggerated glimpse of Cage’s eccentric lifestyle, often from the actor himself.

A 1986 Los Angeles Times profile of a 22-year-old Cage revealed that he has an affinity for marine animals: He owned a baby pet octopus and two large aquariums filled with sea creatures. (There’s a rumor that he once bought a $150,000 octopus to help him with his acting.)

In defense of Nicolas Cage, Internet mascot and living meme

The 2010s marked a ripe decade for bizarre Cage stories. While promoting “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in 2010, Cage told David Letterman that he once took magic mushrooms with his Burmese cat Lewis. During a media tour for “Trespass” in 2011, Cage said that he confronted a naked invader eating a Fudgsicle in his house. For another 2011 thriller, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” he said he drew acting inspiration from his pet cobra. (The disclosure freaked out his neighbors, and Cage has since re-homed his two king cobras at a zoo.)

In 2015, the actor returned a stolen Mongolian dinosaur skull that he purchased for $276,000 at a 2007 auction.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Cage again enthralled the Internet by bolstering his credentials as Hollywood’s weirdo laureate. Here are highlights:

His relationship with Johnny Depp

  • Cage said that he rented out an old building in Hollywood to Depp and that the two were “good friends.” At the time, according to Cage, Depp wanted to be a musician and claimed that he couldn’t act. Cage said he sent Depp to meet with his agent to audition for “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” a role that Depp secured.

His quest for the Holy Grail

  • Cage went on a self-proclaimed “grail quest,” likening it to a “National Treasure”-like adventure. “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,” Cage said. He even went to the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England, and Rhode Island to search for the Holy Grail. The outcome of the quest depends on how you interpret Cage’s ultimate realization: “What is the grail but earth itself?”

Prince, primal-screaming and therapy

  • In April, a clip of Cage rage-singing “Purple Rain” at a karaoke bar went viral online. It coincided with his four-day marriage to girlfriend Erika Koike in Las Vegas and the consequent annulment. The actor likened his rendition of the Prince song to “primal-scream therapy,” stating that his goal wasn’t to sing but to scream. With regard to clinical therapy, Cage said that he hasn’t gone for at least 20 years. There were benefits, he said, but there was a point where he would look at his therapist and think: “Why am I talking to you? I’m more interesting than you.”

As far as his “Never on Tuesday” cameo, Cage has proved that there is no expiration date on his ability to supplement an acting performance with an oddball anecdote. In an interview this week with Vulture, he talked about his three-decades-ago role as a large-nosed motorist — including a behind-the-scenes tidbit about parts of his performance that got cut from the film. (It involves his character screaming “Pinocchio!” multiple times.)

Cage was tickled by the fact that the clip went viral. “I’ve been fortunate!” he told Vulture. “I’ve found this group of fans that does see the humor in the things that I do.”