Oh, brother... role has dual dilemmas

Critical analysis: “Cage is a double-barreled marvel, nailing every laugh as well as the emotions that run deep in the twins.”

– Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Awards pedigree: Received Golden Globe nom for “Adaptation.” Won actor Oscar and Golden Globe for “Leaving Las Vegas” (1999)

Upcoming: Ridley Scott’s “Matchstick Men” with Sam Rockwell and John Woo’s “Land of Destiny.”

This year, Nicolas Cage has managed to do the near impossible by turning in not one, but two impeccable performances in the same movie: the hyperneurotic writer Charlie Kaufman and his goofily content twin, Donald, in “Adaptation.”

“It’s kind of like playing the drums because you’re trying to do four or five things at once,” says Cage — previous Oscar winner for “Leaving Las Vegas” — of the process of playing two different characters simultaneously. “You’re trying to think and feel as one character, but at the same time recalling what you did as the other character while listening to an ear piece of what dialogue you’d recorded as the other character, and trying not to overlap dialogue or eclipse the visual body movements of the other character.”

Between takes — and characters — Cage says he would escape into his trailer in order to regroup and focus and concentrate.

“Adaptation” producer Vincent Landay stresses that playing two characters isn’t Cage’s only impressive acting accomplishment on display. “If you just had Charlie Kaufman, the character, in the movie, people would still be talking about what a great performance Nicolas had. He made a character who, on the surface seems pathetic, incredibly empathetic — and he let his guard down and showed a vulnerability that I think is pretty rare for big stars to allow.”

To prepare for the role, Cage interviewed Charlie Kaufman (but burned the tapes to protect the scribe’s privacy).

“I would try and look at his body language and voice,” Cage says. “It was more of a mental sketch than something I was going to lock myself down in to, because I wanted the Charlie Kaufman in the movie to be more of a surrealistic interpretation of the biological Charlie Kaufman.”

When the real-life Kaufman came to the set, “It was awkward for me — you get into this fear of scrutiny,” Cage admits, “but after a while we relaxed into it.”

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