Why Nicolas Cage's Dual Role In Adaptation Frustrated Him

The world has been treated to a Nicolas Cage renaissance in the last few years. Ever the prolific actor, I often think of an old College Humor bit that poked fun at his willingness to take any role offered to him. But recent films like "Mandy" and "Pig" are much-needed reminders of Cage's outlandish versatility. Another from way back when is "Adaptation," Spike Jonze's bonkers film about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's attempts to adapt a book titled "The Orchid Thief."

Cage plays two characters in the film: Charlie and his fictional twin brother Donald. If you've seen "Adaptation" you know that few films ride the line so exquisitely between the absurd and cathartic. Yet for Cage the experience of switching between the twin Kaufmans during filming, though exhilarating to watch, was more abrasive than it looked.

Playing twins literally made Cage scream

A good chunk of "Adaptation" is focused on the strained relationship of the Kaufman siblings. Which meant Cage needed to appear in multiple scenes as two different people with two very different personalities. The actor told "People" his reaction to being initially in the dark about the film's plot and his exasperation over switching between Kaufmans.

"And I think that's a good thing, because I don't like movies that answer too many questions for me. I like it to stay a little bit unanswered. Where it got frustrating for me was going from Charlie to Donald, then going back to Charlie. I literally wanted to scream. And then, in fact, did scream."

The special effects team on "Adaptation" relied very little on green screens to double Cage. Instead, they used split-screen technology, which meant that Cage was often acting across from his own imagined self. And it probably only got weirder during scenes with other people, like with Meryl Streep's Orlean and Chris Cooper's John Laroche. But apart from the logistical oddities brought on by having Cage play two parts it also clearly took its toll on the actor's mind a little. Especially given how starkly contrasting Charlie and Donald are — the effect had to have been mentally jarring. Though as hard as it was for him to accomplish the mental gymnastics needed play twins we're glad he managed to get through via his onset scream therapy.

Why it just had to be Cage

Despite how aggravating Cage might've found the experience of playing both Charlie and Donald, it's equally difficult to visualize anyone else doing it. No role is ever too unrealistic or bizarre for him to portray genuinely. Which is probably why he was an ideal choice to play the seemingly farcical Kaufman twins. Jonze revealed to "People" exactly what they were looking for when it came to casting the person who would try to wrangle the idiosyncratic siblings:

"It took a while actually to figure out who could play Charlie and Donald. We needed to find someone who could play two people that had two different energies about themselves and (different) views of the world."

As Charlie, Cage needed to be timid, socially floundering, and paralyzed by his inner voiceover. But as Donald, he was required to become far more charismatic and easy-going. Cage manages to play both in a way that acknowledges their exaggerated peculiarities but respects their humanity. Something deeply evidenced by how much you end up caring for the two characters by the end of the film — especially the underdog and (at first annoyingly so) fearlessly optimistic Donald. There's a reason Cage has made a career playing characters most actors never touch. "Adaptation" would be an impossibly different and possibly incoherent movie without him in it — definitely something you can say about any Cage flick.