Nicolas Cage is famous for pretty much agreeing to do any movie that comes his way. But he’s yet to play the role of Indiana Jones – until now. Sort of.
The Oscar-winning actor bought a rare dinosaur skull back in March 2007, that of a Tyrannosaurus bataar. But he has now agreed to return it after it emerged the extremely valuable fossil was taken illegally from Mongolia. Cage is cleared of any wrongdoing though, as he was not aware this was the case.
Cage initially purchased it for $276,000, but in 2013 it emerged the skull may have been stolen. He had initially outbid Leonardo DiCaprio by phone to get hold of the prized possession, but it later transpired that auction house IM Chait in Beverly Hills had acquired the skull from Eric Prokopi, a convicted fossil smuggler. Prokopi is currently facing up to 17 years in prison, having also sold a stolen Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton last year for $1 million.
According to Reuters, in July 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security first made Cage aware that it might have been stolen, and following an investigation he has now agreed to turn it over. It should be noted, it’s not 100 percent clear the skull is connected to Prokopi, but the link has been made by several media outlets as assistant U.S. attorney Martin Bell prosecuted Prokopi and is the lead lawyer for Cage’s skull.
The Tyrannosaurus bataar is a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Sofia Santos/Shutterstock
Okay, we’d better science this up a bit. Tyrannosaurus bataar was a dinosaur not wholly dissimilar to the Tyrannosaurus rex, existing more than 70 million years ago. It had powerful jaws and teeth, and large back legs but tiny arms. Its name is a bit contentious, though; some refer to it as Tarbosaurus bataar, others Tyrannosaurus.
Either way, it looks like Cage has accidentally got his hands on a national treasure. If he doesn’t want to face-off against those palaeontologists, he’d better make sure it’s gone in 60 seconds. Kick-ass.
Okay, we’ll stop now.