Nicolas Cage bought a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in 2007 and returned it to U.S. authorities in 2015 so it could be taken back to Mongolia. Cage had no idea the skull was stolen when he paid $276,000 at a Beverly Hills art gallery auction. In a new GQ video, Cage revealed that he never got his money back.
During Cage's episode of Actually Me, Cage responded to several fan messages on social media. One of them included a reference to the T. rex skull story. "There's this skull I bought at an auction and I bought it legally," Cage explained. "Here's the McGuffin. When the Mongolian government said they needed it back, I gave it to them, but I never got my money back. So somebody at the auction house should be in jail."
In December 2015, then-U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara filed a civil forfeiture complaint to take the skull back. The lawsuit did not include Cage's name, but his publicist said he bought it from the Beverly Hills gallery I.M. Chait, reports Reuters. Cage was not accused of a crime, as he voluntarily returned the skull to authorities so it could be returned to Mongolia.
After Cage won the auction, he received a certificate of authenticity, his publicist said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security told Cage the skull might have been stolen in July 2014. When investigators confirmed the skull was obtained illegally, Cage agreed to turn it over.
Cage previously mentioned never getting his money back in a New York Times Magazine interview. "The dinosaur skull was an unfortunate thing because I did spend $276,000 on that," Cage said in 2019. "I bought it at a legitimate auction and found out it was abducted from Mongolia illegally, and then I had to give it back. Of course, it should be awarded to its country of origin. But who knew? Plus, I never got my money back. So that stank."
In that same interview, Cage described going on a personal "grail quest," which he compared to his own Disney blockbuster National Treasure, but in real life. "One thing would lead to another," he explained. "It's like when you build a library. You read a book, and in it, there's a reference to another book, and then you buy that book, and then you attach the references. For me, it was all about where was the grail? Was it here? Was it there? Is it at Glastonbury? Does it exist?"
When Cage isn't buying artifacts or going on personal quests, he's busy working. Earlier this week, the first photos of him as Dracula in the Universal comedy Renfield surfaced. The movie is being filmed in New Orleans and co-stars Nicholas Hoult as Dracula's henchman. Cage also recently starred as himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which opens on April 22. Renfield opens on April 14, 2023.