According to writer Louis de Bernières, Nicolas Cage experienced a period of turmoil during the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
The John Madden-directed 2001 war drama was produced while Cage was divorcing Patricia Arquette. Author de Bernières recalled feeling “sympathy” for Cage on set.
“Nic Cage went through a terrible time,” de Bernières said during the Henley Literary Festival (via The Independent), citing Cage’s divorce. “I completely understood, but he had to fly back to California every week and he was really unwell. He didn’t really want to chat.”
Cage played the titular Captain Corelli, who led the Italian invasion of the Greek island of Kefalonia. Corelli falls in love with a local doctor’s daughter (Penélope Cruz), even though she is engaged to another man. When the Italian army surrenders to the Allies in World War II, Corelli debates whether to fight the Germans or resist the occupation.
Novelist de Bernières praised actress Cruz’s devotion to the role, saying, “The most beautiful thing of all was how sweet Penélope Cruz was.” She was completely natural. She was totally happy sitting in a cafe with you and just talking nonsense. […] The Italian actors who played the soldiers acted exactly according to stereotypes and it was great. They played football, had affairs, cooked huge meals and got drunk. So obviously I stayed with them.”
Cage told The UK newsletter in 2022 that “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” is one of his most “underrated” films. “Captain Correlli” got a shoutout in the Cage-starring metacomedy “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.”
“I think it’s nice that John Madden’s film ‘Corelli’s Mandolin’ got some props in ‘Massive Talent,'” the “Dream Scenario” actor said. “I think it was a film with a lot of intensity and depth, and Penélope [Cruz, his co-star] was simply remarkable. So I’m glad this came out.”
Cage had previously admitted to later taking on “bad” roles to finance his real estate debate following the 2008 market crash. “Work has always been my guardian angel,” Cage said of not filing for bankruptcy. “It may not have been blue chip, but it was still work. Even if the movie ultimately sucks, they know I don’t call it, that I care every time.”