Nicholas Cage visits Kenyan prison

“This is the warmest prison in the world,” Hollywood movie star Nicholas Cage said on Tuesday at the Shimo-la-Tewa GK Prison in Mombasa. Mr Cage (seen on the right here with the prison’s boss, Ms Wanini Kireri) was in the country under a UN counter-piracy programme, and flies out on Wednesday. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU

National Treasure star Nicholas Cage flies out of Kenya on Wednesday morning after a secretive two-day stay in Mombasa.

Mr Cage, who flew in on Monday night, visited the Shimo-La-Tewa GK Prison under a UN counter-piracy programme, but his itinerary after the courtesy call was closely guarded by his UN handlers.

The UN Goodwill Ambassador, whose characteristic grooming style is combing his now thinning hair backwards, was quickly whisked away by his security detail after his mission at the prison, and was given little room to field questions from journalists.

See first-hand

But, in a harried interview with the Nation, Mr Cage said he had chosen the Shimo-la-Tewa prison because he wanted to hear the story from the horse’s mouth. “I wanted to see first-hand how the prisoners are being treated here,” he said. “The whole issue of piracy on the high seas has captured everyone’s imagination, and I needed to come and see the piracy suspects and understand why they do what they do.”

The actor, who raked in a reported $20 million (approximately Sh1.6 billion) for his role in National Treasure, is reportedly facing financial problems, and there have been reports that he is attempting to dispose of some of his properties, including his estate in Rhode Island.

He described Shimo-la-Tewa as ‘the warmest prison in the world’, an accolade the prison boss, Ms Wanini Kireri, took in her stride. Under the counter-piracy programme, the UN has undertaken to renovate three major prisons in the country — Shimo-la-Tewa, Manyani and Malindi.

The programme, under the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will see to, among others, the rehabilitation of the prisons’ facilities, the construction of a courthouse within the Shimo-la-Tewa prison, and the refurbishing of the prison’s canteen. On a larger scale, the programme envisages the training of prosecutors and prison authorities across the country.

Mr Cage was born in 1964 to Comparative Literature professor August Coppola (a brother of the famous movie director Francis Ford Coppola), and a dancer-mother, but he changed his name early so that he could make it in Hollywood on his own merit.

Married three times (once to Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley), his current spouse is Alice Kim, with whom he has a son named Weston. He has acted in several movies, among them Snake Eyes, Face-Off,Next and National Treasure. He has won wide acclaim for his roles, but earned the wrath of directors too for his improvisations.