Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières says Nicolas Cage had ‘horrendous’ time during film adaptation

Author was being interviewed onstage by The Independent’s chief books critic Martin Chilton for an event at Henley Literary Festival 2023

Louis Chilton
Sunday 08 October 2023 13:51 BST
‘Captain Corelli’ author Louis de Bernieres
‘Captain Corelli’ author Louis de Bernieres (Shutterstock)

Novelist Louis de Bernières has recalled Nicolas Cage’s “horrendous” experience making the film adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin during a talk at Henley Literary Festival 2023.

The author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin addressed a crowd at the festival in Henley-upon-Thames, Oxfordshire, at an event in conversation with The Independent‘s chief books critic Martin Chilton. The Independent is the exclusive news partner of Henley Literary Festival.

Over the course of the talk, the writer discussed quantum computing, climate change, music and the supernatural.

Towards the end of the discussion, talk turned to the film adaptation of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The novel that inspired it was published in 1994, and remains de Bernières’ best known work. The 2001 film adaptation, starring Cage and Penelope Cruz, was poorly received by critics, and is sometimes cited among the worst films ever made.

At the time of the film’s production, Cage was in the midst of a divorce with his then wife, the actor Patricia Arquette.

“I met all the cast,” de Bernières recalled. “Nic Cage was going through a horrendous time.” His wife had left him, “so I was totally sympathetic about that, but he had to fly back to California every week, and he was in a really bad way. He didn’t want to chat really.”

The author went on to reflect on the Italian actors who were cast in some of the film’s more minor roles.

“The Italian actors playing the soldiers were acting exactly according to stereotypes and it was terrific,” he remembered. They were playing football, having affairs, cooking huge meals, you know, getting drunk. So I hung around with them obviously.

“But the nicest thing of all was how sweet Penelope Cruz was. She was completely natural. She was totally happy to sit with you in a cafe and just talk rubbish.”

Nicolas Cage in ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin' (Shutterstock/StudioCanal)

De Bernières’ forthcoming novel Light Over Liskeard involves an experience with a ghost. Asked whether he himself believed in the existence of ghosts, de Bernières revealed that he had a "corroborated" experience with what he believed was the ghost of his late cat.

“I’ve only had one experience with a ghost or when one of my cats, Toby, died,” the author said. “And he had a bell on his collar and two days after he died, my children’s mother was in the bath. I was in the bedroom and the bell tinkled out in the corridor and Cathy said, ‘Did you hear that?’

“So obviously I went out to look and there was no Toby. But that’s the only experience I’ve had of a corroborated visitation [by a ghost], because Cathy and I heard it at the same moment.”

Elsewhere in the talk, de Bernières bemoaned modern society’s fixation with mobile phones, stating: "We’ve become enslaved by our own slave."

Henley Literary Festival continues until 8 October.

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