Nicolas Cage has embarked on a new fitness regime to slim down in an effort to make his waist the same size as a snake's.

The Hollywood actor was in South Africa working on his new movie Lord of War when he had a life-altering encounter with a cobra.

He explains, "I was going home from work and there was a cobra in the road... and I said, 'This animal's beautiful! Back up the car. Let's look at it.'

"The cobra saw us and he reared up his head he hissed at us and then he lunged at the car and attacked the tyre of the car we were in.

"That night, I went home and I had a dream about the snake and I thought, 'Man, I'd like to have a snake waist. That animal has a 2-inch waist, I'd like to be snake-waisted.' I'm a 32, so I've been working out ever since. I cut the portions down and went to 5 to 8 miles of running (each day)."

He adds of his newfound appreciation of running, "It's great. I don't wanna sound like I'm bragging, or anything, but I do feel like I'm breaking through different barriers when I run. It's like a meditation of sorts."