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Even Los Angeles can look spiritual in 'City of Angels'

Ryan and Cage
Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage
April 13, 1998
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EDT (2140 GMT)

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- "City of Angels" debuted in the number-one box office spot this weekend, perhaps indicating that moviegoers were eager to see a pairing between Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage -- or maybe, to see how movie producers managed to make the gritty, smoggy, and traffic-clogged environs of Los Angeles seem heavenly.

While Los Angeles' celestial makeover may seem fantastic to some, romantic lead Meg Ryan says her role in the film was heaven-sent.

"I really think that any luck I've ever had in my life is angelic work," she said, explaining her concept of angelic beings. "I think that sometimes, when you least expect it, someone will come up to you and say just the thing that you needed to hear ... and you don't know that person."

As in the movie's 1987 predecessor "Wings of Desire" (German writer/director Wim Wenders' script for that movie was the basis for the remake), the good guys in "City of Angels" wear black overcoats in lieu of white wings and hang out in libraries and supermarkets.

Andre Braugher and Nicolas Cage are cast as two angels who roam the Earth befriending humans. "We're not spiritual superboys, but we are, in essence, spiritual companions," Braugher explained.

Cage's character, Seth, tries to comfort a pragmatic heart surgeon (Ryan) after one of her patients dies on the operating table for no apparent reason. He winds up falling in love with her, but not without complications: As an angel, he has no physical sensations -- he can't feel a kiss, or taste a pear, for example.

"I think it's very hard to find a love story that works in the way that this one does, because the people are together, but they're not," Ryan said. "There's this brilliant obstacle."

But it doesn't take a miracle, just a clever script, for Seth to learn from former angel Dennis Franz that he can become human -- "You jump off a bridge, you leap out a window. You just make up your mind to do it and you do it."

"It celebrates life," Cage said. "The joy of being alive is a beautiful thing, and you shouldn't take it for granted and be bitter or jaded ... something as simple as the touch of water on your body in the ocean, or the way the sun feels on your face, these are enough to get through the day."

Audiences may not leave theaters believing in angels. But perhaps, Braugher says, they will walk away with some faith in the power of love.

"It's really the idea that transformation is possible in the moments we think it's not, in our moments of despair, that is the moment everything can change," he said.

Reporter Madeline McFadden contributed to this report.


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