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Bluff The Listener

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis. We're playing this week with Roy Blount, Jr., Jessi Klein and Brian Babylon. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill.


SAGAL: Right now, it is time for the WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game in the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

VICKY GIBBS: Hi, Peter. This is Vicky Gibbs (ph).

SAGAL: Hey, Vicky. Where are you calling from?

GIBBS: Gainesville, Fla.

SAGAL: Gainesville - that's a lovely place.

GIBBS: Yes, it is.

SAGAL: And what do you do there in Florida?

GIBBS: I work part time, but mostly I just practice retirement right now.

SAGAL: Really?


SAGAL: So what do you do in all your retired time?

GIBBS: Oh, well, watch "Dr. Phil" and take a nap.



SAGAL: Sounds like a reward for a life well-spent. Well, welcome to the show, Vicky. You're going to play our game in which you have to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is the topic?

KURTIS: Nicolas Cage, master of history.

SAGAL: We all treasure the films of Nicolas Cage from that one where he acts all crazy to the other one where he acts all crazy, but a little louder.


SAGAL: But we learned this week he's not just an entertainer. He has had an major impact on current events. Our panelists are going to tell you about it. Pick the real one, and you'll win our prize - Carl Kasell's voice on your voicemail.


SAGAL: Ready to play?

GIBBS: Yes, I'm ready.

GIBBS: All right. First, let's hear from Roy Blount, Jr.

ROY BLOUNT, JR.: In 1989, Rudy Giuliani was a ball-of-fire U.S. attorney happily busting mafiosi. Then, he saw Nick Cage in "The Vampire's Kiss." Cage plays a New Yorker going hysterically bloody-minded as oppressive Gotham cityscapes and fellow maniacs loom around him. In his madness, he eats - and Cage didn't fake it - a live cockroach.

The movie, a flop, did nothing for anyone's career except Giuliani's. In an interview on Politico.com this week, Giuliani revealed that he was profoundly disgusted by the movie's portrayal of New York. The city had got so screwed up people would believe anything about it. The cockroach - that did it - but the whole movie left a bad taste in my mouth.


BLOUNT, JR.: So he forsook mobster-busting and prepared to run for mayor. Four years later, Giuliani was elected. And his administration did, famously, stiff up the city's quality of life. Even today, studies show that in Manhattan alone, there are 24 percent fewer cockroaches than in 1989. My first year as mayor, Giuliani said this week, I ran into Cage. I told him I should award him a medal with bronze roaches crawling on it. He didn't think it was funny.

SAGAL: Nick Cage inspires Rudolph Giuliani to run successfully for mayor of New York. Your next story of Cage's role in history comes from Brian Babylon.

BRIAN BABYLON: The average American citizen is more likely to be a victim of a cyberattack from a 14-year-old Russian than to find a quality match on Tinder. That's why the NSA has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in new ways to catch hackers, and the most elaborate sting was straight out of Hollywood. Leila Hamidi (ph) from the NSA tells The New York Times your typical hacker is a loner. They don't socialize, but they all seem to love Nicolas Cage in the "National Treasure" movies.


BABYLON: If you haven't seen them, these are the classic films where Nick Cage is a treasure hunter who saves the world by desecrating important items from American history.


BABYLON: There are secret codes in invisible ink and hidden clues on monuments. Hackers love that kind of stuff, so the NSA came up with a plan to trap hackers with a fake Nicholas Cage. Using the special effects crew from the movie "Face-Off" - that's where Nicolas Cage and John Travolta switch faces and shoot guns.


BABYLON: Agent Todd Boyer (ph) put on Nick Cage face and pretended that he was the actor. Quote, "I mainly had to act sleepy with a lot of entitlement and..."


BABYLON: "...And computer nerds ate it up." The NSA posted videos to hacker chat rooms of the fake Nick Cage talking about actual, real secret codes on the back of the Declaration of Independence and what stuff on the back of money really means. The hackers agreed to meet in person to confront Nick Cage and learn more about his secret conspiracy ways.

Says Hamidi, we had our fake Nick Cage show up at an abandoned Poppin Fresh restaurant in Orange County, Calif. Over two dozen hackers showed up. After two hours, the NSA swooped in and arrested the hackers in the greatest bust of U.S. hackers in history.

SAGAL: Nick Cage - or Nick Cage impersonator...


SAGAL: ...Luring hackers to their arrest. Your last story of the importance of Nicolas Cage comes from Jessi Klein.

JESSI KLEIN: You may think that the only horrific blunder with lasting international repercussions involving Nicholas Cage was his remake of the movie "The Wicker Man," but sadly, you would be wrong. Great Britain is reacting to the Chilcot Report, a seven-year-long inquiry into the run up to the Iraq war. The report details how Tony Blair's government seized on evidence from a source who claimed that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling nerve agents in glass globes - you know, like adorable decorative grenades of death.

But even as Mr. Blair was calling for war, intelligence officials were trying to point out to him that you can't really store nerve gas in glass globes. They're not cut flowers or beta fish. They're deadly toxins. In fact, their anonymous source making the claim probably got the idea from the 1996 Michael Bay movie "The Rock," starring Nicolas Cage.

In that movie, Nicholas Cage plays mild-mannered chemist Stanley Goodspeed, who has to break into Alcatraz prison in order to foil terrorists armed with nerve gas kept in, yes, glass globes. And in the movie, some terrorists die because they drop the globes on the ground, which is why you don't really put nerve gas in glass globes.


KLEIN: As Nicolas Cage might say in real life, duh (ph).


KLEIN: But the objections to the intelligence were ignored, the invasion happened, and, of course, no glass globes with nerve gas was found in Iraq. So now we know, first, that Nicholas Cage unknowingly helped start the Iraq war. And secondly, that Nicolas Cage playing a brilliant chemist was only the second most unrealistic thing in the movie "The Rock."


SAGAL: All right. So here are your choices. One of these is a story we heard about how Nicolas Cage has truly affected the world outside his brilliant movies. Was it, from Roy Blount, Jr., how his film, "Vampire's Kiss," inspired Rudolph Giuliani for a successful two terms as mayor of New York, from Brian Babylon, how hackers' love for Nicolas Cage's role in the "National Treasure" movies led them into a trap, or from Jessi Klein, how Nicolas Cage's movie "The Rock," at least unwittingly, helped lead us to war in Iraq?

GIBBS: I think I'm going to have to go with Rudy Giuliani.

SAGAL: All right. Your choice then is Roy's story of Rudy Giuliani being inspired and disgusted by the movie "Vampire's Kiss." Well, we spoke to someone familiar with the real story.


SAM KRISS: Michael Bay, Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage might have contributed to the Iraq war.

SAGAL: That was Sam Kriss. He was a freelance writer who wrote about this for VICE News. He was talking about the fact that facts from the Nicolas Cage movie "The Rock" found their way to the highest levels of the British government and led to the Iraq war. So...



SAGAL: I know.


SAGAL: I know.

BLOUNT, JR.: Oh, boy.

SAGAL: It's kind of crazy.

KLEIN: (Laughter).

SAGAL: But it is apparently true. Sadly, although, you did win a point for Roy, for his - I think his maybe too believable story.

BLOUNT, JR.: I'm sorry.

SAGAL: You didn't win a prize, but thank you so much for playing.

GIBBS: Thank you.

SAGAL: Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.