Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage at a press conference for new film "Trespass" during the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 14. (CP Images)

The real Nicolas Cage stands tall and proud with his director, Joel Schumacher, before the media at the Toronto International Film Festival to support their new film, the home-invasion drama "Trespass".

The real Nicolas Coppola, Cage maintains, wouldn't be able to do that.

"Nicolas Cage is who I really am," the 47-year-old, Oscar-winning star relates a few floors above TIFF's Lightbox theatres, "even though my passport says otherwise. I kind of had to reinvent myself to be able to have the guts to sit here in front of you today."

Francis Ford Coppola, Cage's uncle, was in the very same room a day earlier with actor Val Kilmer to promote their TIFF entry, "Twixt". Cage and Schumacher arrive in support of a tense home-invasion feature that also stars Nicole Kidman and is expected for fall release.

In some ways, Cage's breaking-from-the-meek character in "Trespass" sounds like an echo of his old days as a young Coppola.

"Nicolas Coppola was a very scared little boy," Cage says, "and I had to sort of reinvent who I was going to be to make my dreams come true. When I was Coppola, it was very hard for me to be taken seriously by my colleagues and also by my casting agents when I'd go in on a meeting. And, so, when I went out on 'Valley Girl' -- Martha Coolidge was directing; I was 17 -- I changed my name, and nobody had known that I had changed my name. They did not know who I was. And it was immediately like a giant weight had come off my body. And I said 'Wow. I got this part and they didn't know I was a Coppola.' And then I started believing in myself.

"Now," he makes sure to add, "that's not to say that I'm not proud of my family -- and I am and all their accomplishments and what they have done -- but I've kind of gone in my own direction."

Working with Schumacher -- who has raked the dollars in at the box office over decades with "The Lost Boys", "Flatliners", "The Client" and entries in the "Batman" franchise -- also returns both men to some tighter, tenser settings. The two last collaborated 12 years ago for the snuff-film investigation "8MM"; Schumacher has gone on to direct such wound-up, closed-in features as "Phone Booth" with Colin Farrell and "The Number 23" with Jim Carrey.

Not all have been titans at the box office, but Cage indicates that it is the role that is important to him. In the past couple of years, the actor has been at the peak of form, with appearances in the under-rated "Kick-Ass" and "Drive Angry", and Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans".

"It's a totally different movie," Schumacher says of their latest collaboration, "and we're dealing with totally different worlds. This is a man trying to save his family. And it is always that, underneath everything. And trying to save his whole universe. '8MM' is a story of a man broken who has to take revenge because the law will not take revenge on these monsters. And, so, it's another one of my vigilante movies, which I get criticism for."

"Joel is somebody that, I feel, we have a terrific rapport," Cage adds. "I work well with Joel because we have similar tastes. I like the kinds of movies that he makes. I like his interests in the Grand Guignol and horror. He has a style in the directing process where there's a feeling of chaos on the set. And chaos can make an actor feel very confident, because you can try anything. You can express anything and you know that Joel will give you a shot at it.

"He also has one of the most remarkable senses of humour of anybody I've ever worked with, and he keeps everybody very happy and laughing, which is also quite relaxing. And actors have to be relaxed in order to do what we do. It's a high-pressure job. There's a lot of tension, and Joel helps you to feel comfortable to be able to dig deep and get to the root of what you're trying to express."