According to novelist Louis de Bernières, Nicolas Cage endured a time of turmoil while filming “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”

The 2001 war drama, directed by John Madden, was in production while Cage was mid-divorce from Patricia Arquette. Author de Bernières recalled feeling “sympathetic” for Cage on set.

“Nic Cage was going through a horrendous time,” de Bernières said during the Henley Literary Festival (via The Independent), citing Cage’s divorce. “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.”

Cage played the titular Captain Corelli, who led the Italian invasion over Greek island Cephalonia. Corelli falls in love with a local doctor’s daughter (Penélope Cruz) despite the fact that she’s engaged to another man. When the Italian army surrenders to the Allies in World War II, Corelli debates fighting with the Germans or resisting occupation.

Novelist de Bernières credited actress Cruz for her dedication to the role, saying, “The nicest thing of all was how sweet Penélope Cruz was. She was completely natural. She was totally happy to sit with you in a cafe and just talk rubbish. […] The Italian actors playing the soldiers were acting exactly according to stereotypes and it was terrific. They were playing football, having affairs, cooking huge meals, you know, getting drunk. So I hung around with them obviously.”

Cage told The News Letter UK in 2022 that “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” is one of his most “underrated” films. “Captain Correlli” had a shoutout in the meta-comedy “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” starring Cage.

“I think it’s nice that John Madden’s movie ‘Corelli’s Mandolin’ got a little props in ‘Massive Talent,’” the “Dream Scenario” actor said. “I think that that was a movie that had a lot of poignancy and depth, and Penélope [Cruz, his co-star] was just remarkable in it. So I’m glad that came out.”

Cage previously admitted to later taking “crummy” roles to pay off his real estate debate after the market crash in 2008. “Work was always 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 is crummy, they know I’m not phoning it in, that I care every time.”

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