After spending four years on a shelf thanks to the financial implosion of Orion Pictures, MGM very reluctantly released the Martin Short vehicle, Clifford, into theaters in 1994 where it proceeded to instantly bomb both financially and critically. However, the film took on a cult following thanks to repeated viewings on cable, and to the filmmakers’ shock, there is a whole audience out there who will swear that Clifford is one of the greatest comedies of the ’90s.
Among those fans is Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, who apparently recognized the greatness of Clifford from the jump. In an incredibly detailed and fascinating oral history of Clifford published by Vulture on Monday, Cage makes a surprising appearance, due to the diligence of writer Rob Turbovsky, who tracked down the actor to confirm an anecdote about gushing over Short on a plane.
Here’s how Short recalled meeting Cage:
Short: Nicolas Cage had just won the Oscar, and he came up on a plane … this is in my book, I think. I had never met him. I thought I must go over and congratulate him because he’s so great in that movie. And suddenly I looked, and there he is kneeling behind me, very sincerely telling me, with the great Nic Cage sincerity, “I destroyed my VHS machine because I rewound that [“Look at me like a human boy”] scene 35 times.”
By itself, that’s a pretty great anecdote, but immediately following it, Cage chimes in with his side of the story, and he truly lives up to the title of Clifford fan:
Nicolas Cage (actor, Clifford fan): It’s true, but that wasn’t the scene. It was the scene in the kitchen after Martin Short put the Tabasco in Charles Grodin’s drink, and Martin Short starts reenacting Charles Grodin’s physical response … [Attempts to stifle laugh, can’t, starts laughing.] … to the Tabasco. It’s just the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I did keep reviewing it, because I got so much joy out of rewatching it. The more I would press play and rewind and play, the funnier it got. He does these beautiful things with his hands. He’s very physical. He’s like, [High-pitched] “And then you went … [makes hacking noise]!”
As Cage tells it, as soon as he spotted Short on the plane, he had to talk to him, and he loves that Short remembers the exchange.
“I saw him on an airplane, and I said, ‘Mr. Short, I’ve got to tell you: You’re a genius, man. I mean, you are a genius.’ I really mean that,” Cage told Vulture. “I think he’s as good as it gets, and there’s nobody funnier. So I’m glad he remembers that moment.”