The Story of Patricia Arquette and Nicolas Cage's Relationship Is the Weirdest Thing You'll Ever Read
#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.
Who: Oscar and SAG Award-winning actor Nicolas Cage, 55, and Oscar, Emmy, and SAG Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette, 50.
How They Met: It’s a funny story — no, I mean it. In the late ‘80s, Arquette ran into Cage and Crispin Glover at Canter’s deli in L.A. and they both told the then-19-year-old actress that they were going to marry her. Cool, yeah, same. But Nic, 5 years her senior, was apparently more committed than Crispin, and asked Patricia to provide a list of things (“like a quest”) for him to find and bring her in order to prove his worthiness as a spouse. The Medium star played along, offering a list of seemingly impossible finds that included J.D. Salinger’s autograph (he issued notoriously few signatures throughout his career), a black orchid (which doesn’t actually exist), a Lisu tribe wedding costume, and a Bob’s Big Boy statue.
“One by one they started coming to me,” Arquette told Andy Cohen of the objects on her list. In lieu of a black orchid, Cage found a purple one and showed up at Arquette’s home with a can of black spray paint.
“She wouldn’t come out, but I could see her peeking down from the top floor. In my very showy way, I whipped the orchid out of my pocket. Then I whipped out the paint can and started spray-painting the orchid black. She was freaked out. I rang the doorbell again and she came down. I just gave it to her and got back on my motorcycle and left,” he told Playboy in ’96. Next Cage found a rare letter written by Salinger, bought it for $2,500 and again showed up at Arquette’s home bearing gifts.
“She was playing hopscotch in the street with her girlfriends” when Cage arrived. He dropped the autograph in a cigar box outside and left. Later, she called him in a tizzy and told him to stop. “It scared me,” she later explained. Cage said he had a chainsaw ready and was prepared to steal a Bob’s Big Boy statue for her when she agreed — not to marry, but to go away with him.
They’d planned to go to Cuba but were stalled in Mexico due to an issue with their airplane tickets. Cage, in a move typical of many of his rageful characters, had a public meltdown at the airport, sending he and Patricia on their separate ways. Both began respective families soon after — he welcoming son Weston with then-girlfriend Christina Fulton, and she son Enzo with then-boyfriend Paul Rossi.
Flash-forward: the year is 1995, the place that same L.A. deli in which Cage’s quest for Arquette’s hand was outlined. The actors run into each other again. "I needed to be reassured that the depth of his love would be as brave as before," Arquette told the New York Times of reevaluating their connection nearly a decade later. Apparently it was, and they wed atop a cliff in Carmel, Calif. two weeks after their chance encounter.
Why We Loved Them: The only witnesses to their nuptials were Carmel’s former police chief and “a pod of sea otters.” If that sentence doesn’t encapsulate the bizarre bent of Hollywood in the ‘90s, I don’t know what would.
When They Peaked: When they wed in ’95, it was Arquette that proposed — and we’re not talking rose petals and sandy walks along the beach. No, Patricia popped the question at Nic’s house, where she arrived “dressed head to toe in black vinyl, carrying a big purple wedding cake.” Luckily, this was the moment the National Treasure star realized “I was with the right woman.” This was also the moment we realized we’re unworthy of this blessed union.
The Breakup: The true trajectory of Cage and Arquette’s marriage is somewhat unclear. It was reported that the pair separated nine months after marrying and spent years filing and withdrawing divorce papers before citing “irreconcilable differences” in their ultimate 2000 split.
Arquette, however, says the rumors of their early separation were untrue. “There were times when we weren’t living together because we were fighting, but it wasn’t as reported and I didn’t feel that I needed to explain that,” she told The Telegraph in 2015. “There were times when my mom was dying [from breast cancer in 1997] and I was living with her, taking care of her. There were times when he was away working on a movie. It was our thing. I still don’t feel like I owe it to anyone. It’s funny when people are so wrong, and they put you in this position and decide who you are.”
"It's always hard to make that decision to get divorced," she told Paper Magazine in 2002. "We've both moved on with our lives, and I think it's important to honor the people we're with now, and concentrate on the future."
Though their union reportedly found a “mutual and respectful” end, Cage admitted in 2018 that he and Arquette hadn’t spoken “in a long time.”
Where They Are Now: In the years since the dissolution of their marriage, Cage has starred in ~approximately~ 6,000 films and earned 8 Razzie nominations.
Soon after splitting from Arquette, he began dating Lisa Marie Presley, whom he wed in 2002 and filed for divorce from less than four months later. In 2004 he married Alice Kim, with whom he shares son Kal-El. They split in early 2016. Just last week, Cage filed for annulment from his makeup artist wife of four days, Erika Koike, claiming he was too drunk at the time to understand what was happening.
Arquette’s star has risen exponentially in the past 15 years. After seven seasons leading NBC drama Medium (for which she won an Emmy in 2005), she returned to film and picked up an Oscar for her performance in Richard Linklater’s decades-spanning tome Boyhood. Arquette recently won a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her performance in Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora, and she’s currently starring in Hulu’s true crime series The Act.
Patricia welcomed daughter Harlow with actor Thomas Jane in 2003 — they wed three years later and Arquette filed for divorce in early 2009. She’s been linked to painter Eric White since 2014.