"At the time when I was ready to do The Weather Man," Cage says, "I was going through a divorce, and I was trying to figure out how to take a negative and turn it into a positive. I received the script to The Weather Man and thought, ‘oh, here’s a parallel.’"
Indeed, Cage was attracted to the role of Dave Spritz, a local weatherman in Chicago whose family life progressively unravels at the seams. From his teenage son’s run-in with drugs to his overweight daughter’s nasty case of perpetual camel-toe to his own utter inability to remain faithful to his wife (Hope Davis), the forecast for Spritz’s future is cloudy indeed.
Delving into this troubled character, Cage notes, allowed him an outlet for his own brooding emotions stemming from his divorce from second wife Lisa Marie Presley. "Sometimes I choose movies that can help me, like a therapy, [movies that] help me do something positive with a negative emotion. The Weather Man was an opportunity to just take all this well of feeling that I had and just funnel it into Dave Spritz," says Cage.
Cage also identified with Spritz’s hero-worship of his father, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), the renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Cage’s father, a college literature professor, set a high intellectual standard that Cage says he feared he would never reach.
"My dad is a professor of literature so he was very, very smart. So I was always trying to figure out how [could] I aspire to be him– listen to classical music, read the classical novels. So there was this intimidating aura of growing up with a university professor," Cage says, "so I just used my own feelings about my own father."
As a matter of added connection, both Cage and Spritz changed their last names to escape a family legacy. Dave changed from the intellectual, bookish Spritzel to the "refreshing," meteorologically pleasing "Spritz," while Cage endeavored to emerge from the shadow of his filmmaker-uncle Francis Ford Coppola, choosing "Cage" from modernist musician John Cage and comic book character Luke Cage. Perhaps actor and character were fated for each other.
On the set, co-star Michael Caine also proved to be a fatherly influence, as both the elder statesman amongst the cast and as one of Cage’s acting idols. "It’s always fascinating to work with the best in any field, and Michael Caine for me has always been among the best in acting, in film acting. So I was exhilarated," Cage notes.
Dave Spritz’s status as a local celebrity, typified by his trademark method of delivering the weather by highlighting "The Nipper" – the coldest day of the week – also resonated with Cage as a man constantly under popular scrutiny.
Fortunately, in his extensive career in the public eye, Cage has managed to avoid one particularly Spritzian trait – getting clobbered with food and drink thrown by irritated passersby. "I’ve never had anything thrown at me. At least not food, and not when it’s from somebody I had not met before," he acknowledges.
In the film, Spritz accepts these occasional fast-food indignities because he qualifies them as occasional hazards of an otherwise leisurely job that provides him with a great deal of worldly success. For Cage, clearly one who has enjoyed copious amounts of quantitative good fortune, Spritz’s quest to justify his material gain in the face of ebbing philosophical and spiritual meaning cuts to the very heart of his life.
Cage explains: "It’s the age-old adage – you’re not really going to find happiness in the material things. They will make things easier but there’s always going to be that nagging feeling inside that there’s something else. I wrestle with that every day. I’m always struggling between the spiritual and the material."
So is weather prognosticator the next career for Cage? Perhaps not, but the connection to Dave Spritz remains an inspiration for acting. "I draw from everything," Cage says, "I’m very sensitive. I draw from the weather too."
The Weather Man releases in theaters Oct. 28.