Nicolas Cage, who voices the mysterious and moody Spider-Man Noir in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, was the "first official lead" of the film and was secretly cast two years before release, director Bob Persichetti revealed in the print Official Movie Special.
"When looking at who we could approach to play there alternate dimension Spider characters, we thought about seminal actors that also might be comic book geeks. There were so many different casting meetings where a lot of options were put in front of us, but with Spider-Man Noir, we kept coming back to Nicolas Cage and wondering if he could or even would do it," Persichetti said.
Born Nicolas Kim Coppola, Cage — a noted comic book fan — chose his stage name in honor of Marvel Comics' Harlem hero Luke Cage, and named his second son, Kal-El, after DC Comics' Superman.
The actor would go on to almost play the Man of Steel in director Tim Burton's never-made Superman Lives before playing stunt rider-turned-demonic superhero Johnny Blaze in 2007's Ghost Rider and its 2012 sequel.
Spider-Verse producer Christina Steinberg, who worked with the star on National Treasure, set up a pitch meeting where the filmmakers quickly sold Cage on the rough-and-tumble superhero hailing from the colorless 1930s.
"We showed him some artwork we had created for the film and pitched the character to him and he was immediately in. Noir was a character that spoke to him. And the black and white costume was the icing," Persichetti said.
"He was our first official lead cast because it felt so right. So we actually cast him over two years ago, but he couldn't tell anyone."
When Cage arrived for his first Noir recording session a year later, the Con Air and Mandy star arrived in pitch dark glasses.
"He never took them off, and never broke character. There was a palpable Humphrey Bogart energy that he brought into the room. It was really fun," Persichetti said.
"We worked through his lines in three hours. He delivered awesome pulp magazine style line reads, and also comedy pulp style readings. He's so good at it! Then we were done, he said his goodbyes, walked out of the room and that was it! No small talk, it was all business. He was just amazing."
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now playing.