Updated December 04, 2002 01:00 PM

Nicolas Cage has been in the news all month, first for his pre-Thanksgiving breakup with Lisa Marie Presley (who was his bride for just three months), and then for his upcoming movie with Meryl Streep, “Adaptation,” which opens Friday.

Now, he’s also beating the drums for another film, “Sonny,” which marks his directorial debut. The movie traces the story of a young gigolo, played by James Franco (the Golden Globe winner for the TNT biopic “James Dean”).

Sonny desperately tries to make a fresh go in life after he’s discharged from the army. Mena Suvari, of “American Beauty” and the “American Pie” movies, plays his love interest.

While ducking questions about Presley (just as he did on Tuesday’s “Today” show), Cage, 38, did speak in general terms about dealing with life’s up and downs.

“We’re all going to get faced with hardships in life that are not going to be pleasant,” said the actor-director. “It’s going to come up, and as artist you have one option: you can take the pain that you feel and turn it into a positive and survive.

“In other words,” he said, “it’s like being snake bit. When you’re snake bit, you can take out the poison and do something positive with it.”