Truly Batshit: The Secret History of 'Vampire's Kiss,' the Craziest Nicolas Cage Movie of All Time
Barbara Zitwer’s One and Only Film!
Thirty years ago, it was a flop. Now it’s clearly the blueprint for Cage’s career of wild and absurd performances. From dead bodies to mechanical bats, this is the inside story of a bizarre cult classic.
The story begins with a terrible vacation.
Or perhaps “terrible” is too obvious—Vampire’s Kiss is not the sort of movie that could have emerged from a jolly seaside honeymoon. It is grim, deranged—a comedy so dark its protagonist, played with wild fervor by Nicolas Cage, literally believes he is allergic to daylight. But these were particularly bad vibes. It was January 1986, and a promising young screenwriter named Joseph Minion was miserably depressed. “It was a very bad time,” Minion says. “It was very cold. I was in a toxic relationship.”
Minion’s first film, the night-from-hell classic After Hours, had miraculously caught the eye of Martin Scorsese, who directed it in 1985, bringing Minion’s vision of urban alienation to a mass audience. His second script, a road movie called Motorama, was trapped in development hell—thus one cause of his misery. He and his girlfriend, film producer Barbara Zitwer, decided to leave town. They caught a cheap courier flight to Barbados. Even there, Minion couldn’t shake his tortured mental state. Zitwer intervened. “She said, ‘Listen. I’m going back to New York. You’re in a bad mood. You sit here, write a script,’” Minion recalls. Zitwer, who’d met Minion in film school and then risen up the ranks as a location scout and associate producer for filmmaker Larry Cohen, thought a new script might lift his spirits. “She said, ‘Whatever you write, I promise I’ll get it made,’” Minion recalls.
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