Nicolas Cage is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He’s a cannonball, made of pure entertainment energy, fired right into our face. There’s no use ducking or dodging Cage; he’s like a Terminator sent on an acid-trip back through time. The only hope is to join him on the journey and hope that one doesn’t get thrown off the ride. Even people with only a passing familiarity with Cage’s career must be aware how much he stands out among other actors. If Cage can grab attention in a world where Charlie Sheen and Gary Busey, remain at large, then he’s doing something right.
To be clear, I’m not someone who is into celebrities. I don’t follow them on Twitter, nor am I prone to dwell on their headline making antics. Nicolas Cage is a unique breed though. In his own words he’s “actively anti-celebrity”. For those who aren’t Cage fans (for whatever reason) consider this a fun read, and give the guy a chance. Today I’ll highlight 15 reasons why everyone should be a fan of Nicolas Cage. Or at the very least, don’t dismiss him. (He’ll haunt you if you try) Before we commence, a quote from the book of Cage…
"There's a fine line between the Method actor and the schizophrenic." - Nicolas Cage
15 His Surprisingly Humble Beginnings
Prior to diving into the deep end of the Nic Cage pool, it’s important to get some perspective on his modest upbringing. Despite Cage’s well-known family ties (he’s the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola) the Long Beach California native, made it on his own steam. Far from wealthy, his mother was an ex-dancer who struggled with depression and his father was a professor of literature. Like seemingly every kid in America, his parents were divorced by the time he was twelve. By all accounts his upbringing was about as typical as most kids. Good, bad and everything in between.
If you are curious what movies Cage watched to influence his unorthodox acting style and choices, well thank his dad for that. Cage’s father was one of his biggest influences. He exposed Cage to a wide variety of films such as Nosferatu and The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. In other words, 1920’s German expressionist, silent horror films were the magic seeds of what would become; Nicolas Cage. As far as that whole ‘nepotism’ thing goes, well Cage changed his name from Coppola early on in his career to avoid such knee-jerk accusations. If you were thinking his Uncle Francis handed him a career on a silver platter, think again. Considering the career Cage has had, that would have to have been a platter full of crazy.
14 He’s Willing To Go Absolutely Nuts Onscreen
Cage’s work may not be for everyone, but you have to give him credit for bringing something new and original to the table. While some have faulted Cage for his frenzied, larger than life performances, they are missing the point. What Cage has done is broken new ground in terms of acting. He’s bravely traversed into bold, new (mostly insane) territory. He's turned scenery chewing into an art form. He’s out there, way out there…and he’s proud of it. "I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion." - Nicolas Cage
We can’t just toss out Nicolas Cage’s willingness to go nuts and not cite a few key examples of his insanity. For our next entries we’ll be focusing on some of Cage’s most famously erratic performances. In truth, Nicolas Cage has movies we could spend hours dissecting like a dead frog in bio class. Problem is, no matter how much we probe, we still wouldn’t be able to explain why the frog’s legs are still kicking, or how it’s able to sing show tunes.
13 “NOT THE BEES!!!”
The 2006 remake of Wicker Man, featuring Nicolas Cage is likely the reason some of you are here reading this right now. If Nicolas Cage’s work in Wicker Man, didn’t grab your attention then you may want to make sure you still have a pulse. The movie inspired tons of memes, it was referenced in all kinds of comedy articles, and it was the main source of countless YouTube ‘Nic Cage loses it’ compilation clips.
Even though Wicker Man flopped big time and was blasted by film critics; it has since become a cult hit. I’m not going to go into an overly detailed description of the movie because mere words cannot do this movie justice. The manic quote, “Not the bees!” originates from this film as well as other infamous scenes of Nicolas Cage freaking out and punching women. In the context of the movie, those bits make sense…well they mostly make sense. Despite the reaction the movie initially received, Cage has confirmed he was very much in on the joke and was aware of the absurdity of the film. People need to give this movie a chance. In terms of familiarizing yourself with Cage’s style; this starting point is as a good as any other.
12 Bad Lieutenant: Adventures in Nicolas Cage Hallucinations
The critics gave Cage a much easier time for the bat-sh*t insane, 2008 movie Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Much like Wicker Man, this is a surreal movie you have to sit down and watch to really get the full effect. You may even have to watch it twice because the first time you wont believe what you are seeing. No joke, people’s spirits actually break dance in this movie.
Nicolas Cage plays a cocaine/painkiller addict who also happens to be a detective in post-Katrina New Orleans. Nicolas Cage knocks this movie out of the park. As his character slowly descends into depravity and utter madness you have no choice but to trudge along with him. No matter how depressingly dirt low Cage’s rogue cop sinks, he still remains oddly heroic. Any other actor in this role may have gone full on villain, thus forcing you to detest the lead. Cage however is a tough guy to hate. The movie works on several different levels. It can be viewed as a black comedy, a crime movie, a weird drama…or just another in a long line of offbeat Nicolas Cage spectacles.
11 ‘Face/Off’ = Nicolas Cage At His Cagey-est
Twenty years may have flown by, but I can still recall seeing the 1997 action thriller, Face/Off in the theater opening day and having a blast. A maniacal criminal terrorist (Cage as Castro Troy) literally switches faces with a straight-laced, FBI agent, Sean Archer (John Travolta). Following the face swap, the two leads also switched lives - which was where the fun truly began. Everything after the sci-fi, face switching lunacy was a glorious, violent mess. The face swap gimmick essentially allowed Cage to lose his sh*t at every available opportunity.
How the hell can anyone hate this movie? Face/Off is pure cinematic gold not only for action movie buffs but also for Nicolas Cage fans as well. John Woo’s action spectacle was a perfect vehicle for Nicolas Cage to spread his crazy wings and fly ape-sh*t in every direction imaginable. Cage went full on ‘bad guy’ in this movie and did not hold back.
10 Nicolas Cage Tones It Down...When Necessary
Aside from the previously mentioned standout movies, Cage is also known for off the wall performances in movies such as Sonny, Dead Fall, Vampire’s Kiss and countless others. However, Nicolas Cage is very capable of turning in nuanced and subtle performances as well. Sure, his calmer parts aren’t necessarily the movies the internet loves as much, but every actor needs to balance things out.
Lord of War, Joe and the brilliant Adaptation (which is a movie that gives you TWO Nicolas Cages for the price of one) also don’t translate as well to comedic YouTube compilations. Even Kick-Ass featured Cage in a surprisingly reserved take on an otherwise bat-sh*t vigilante. The man has range. Cage has proven time and time again that he can easily turn in a subtle, down to earth performance. In such cases these roles stand out and are appreciated even more so. Although, when watching such movies you can’t help but feel that bubbling up underneath his calm exterior is a volcano of crazy.
9 He’s a Friggin’ Academy Award Winner
Clearly Nicolas Cage is best known for playing insane characters and gobbling up the scenery. That’s his legacy. Due to his unique reputation, as well as a slew of movies catering to a niche fan-base, some forget Cage is an Academy Award winner. In fact, Cage was nominated twice for an Academy Award, and won back in 1995 for his legendary role in Leaving Las Vegas.
In the film Cage played an edgy, suicidal alcoholic named Ben Sanderson whose life was a complete and total mess. The movie is a tough watch as it cuts deep in terms of subject matter but it’s very well regarded. Aside from his big win for the movie, Cage earned the late film critic, Roger Ebert's respect too. Ebert included Leaving Las Vegas on his coveted "Great Movies" list. Academy awards aside, Cage also received nominations from BAFTA, the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild for many of his movies. In short, Cage’s talent has been recognized by the mainstream. How the hell could someone like Cage ever be ignored though?
8 Utterly Insane Life Experiences
Nicolas Cage has lived an extraordinary life with a ton of weird moments. In truth, this entire article could have simply been a review of some of his wacky off-screen highlights. A straightforward list of documented crazy may pique curiosity, but it wouldn’t necessarily turn you into a fan. Nevertheless, because Nicolas Cage is well known for such moments, let’s a give them their due. After all, you can’t write a Nicolas Cage article and not mention the time he bought a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull for $276,000. That’s crazy enough, but he later had to return the skull because it was stolen from Mongolia.
You also can’t write a piece about Cage and not bring up the creepy time he woke up at 2am and found a naked man wearing his leather jacket (not totally naked per say) and eating a Fudgesicle in front of his bed. But don't confuse that tale with the separate time Cage was being stalked by a mime. You get the point; these types of screwball incidents were about as common for Cage as a boring day is for the rest of us.
7 The Family Man
As everyone knows, Lord of the Rings’ and The Matrix were two huge, blockbuster, Hollywood franchises. However, guess who was offered lead roles in both movies, but turned them down because he didn’t want to lose time with his family?
Danny DeVito...Nah, just kidding, it was Nic ‘the family man’ Cage. Although Nicolas Cage is known for his impressive work ethic (as of this writing he’s hovering around 80 movies) he passed on both movies due to family. You don’t hear of that too often in Hollywood.
In the case of The Matrix, Cage turned down the part of Neo because he didn't want to go to Australia to film the part, which ultimately went to Keanu Reeves. Similarly, in the case of Lord of the Rings, Nicolas Cage turned down the key role of Aragorn. Since those movies were shot back to back, the franchise required a three year stay in New Zealand. When speaking with the avclub Cage had a surprisingly humble attitude about passing on that particular part. “… the thing is about those movies, I can watch them. I can enjoy them as an audience member. I don’t really watch my own movies. And so I genuinely do have the joy of watching these—especially with Lord of the Rings.” Oh yeah, on a side note, Cage actually made a movie called The Family Man back in 2000.
6 He’ll Do Whatever The Hell It Takes
There are many actors who do crazy sh*t in preparation for their movie roles. Nicolas Cage is no exception. Although when he goes out of his way, he does so in epic fashion. For example, in the 1984 movie Birdy Nicolas Cage actually had two teeth removed (without anesthesia) in the interest of better understanding his character. Meanwhile, many of us can't even stand getting our teeth cleaned. In the 1988 movie, Vampire’s Kiss, Cage ate an actual cockroach for a scene that took three takes. I'm going to repeat that, he ate a roach.
What...is roach eating and teeth pulling not enough for you? Fine, how about this; for the 2013, movie Joe, Cage personally requested that he be allowed to handle a venomous snake for a scene. To be clear, the snake was deadly and very well could have murdered him as venomous snakes are prone to do when held by untrained people. The director requested that Cage ‘not die’ prior to shooting the scene. Cage of course promised he wouldn’t die, and the scene was shot without a horrible death ever taking place. My guess is, had that snake tasted the blood of Nic Cage, it simply would have warped into another dimension anyway.
5 He Earned His Internet Cred
Nicolas Cage is one of the rare celebrities, who has somehow managed to maintain the respect and admiration of the internet. Keep in mind; the internet collectively hates pretty much everything and everyone. Even if people don’t begin with hate, it certainly seems like they eventually get there. Case in point, the backlash against movies like Star Wars: Force Awakens or once popular actors like Will Smith, or even once prevalent directors like Zack Snyder.
How has Nicolas Cage managed to remain off the haters sh*t list? Is it because Cage keeps his fans entertained with constant witty tweets? Nope, he doesn’t even have an official Twitter page. (Or Facebook) The respect seems to have been earned based on his filmography and his distinctive acting style. Even his least successful movies have legit entertainment value, which is more than you can say for others in his field. In an interview with The Guardian, Cage’s net fame came up. What Cage had to say about the trend was pretty revealing. “The internet has developed this thing about me – and I'm not even a computer guy, you know? I don't know why it is happening. I'm trying not to… lemme say this: I'm now of the mindset that, when in Rome, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
4 Inspired Fan Art
How many celebrities do you know who inspire tons of their own fan art? Well as a direct result of the internet's love affair with Nicolas Cage, an immense amount of fan art has been created in his honor. You may have seen some of it floating around and wondered what the hell it was all about, or why it existed. Nicolas Cage fan art is a trend on Reddit, Tumblr, Deviant Art and countess other sites. Basically anywhere images can be posted and commented on, bizarre Nicolas Cage fan art can and will be posted. Once example of Nicolas Cage fan art was 'The Nicolas Cage Matrix'.
Back in 2011 someone pieced together a chart, chronicling all of Nicolas Cage's movies up to that point. The spectrum had a broad range and attempted to pin down Cage's performances into four distinct categories. Rubbish, serious, brilliant and of course, mental. Jeez, in terms of being a Cage fan I feel like a slacker. All I've done is written this one article about the guy.
3 Charity Work
It commonplace for many big-time Hollywood stars to donate to various charities. Those who have more (in this case, LOTS more) helping out those who are less fortunate is commendable. Nicolas Cage however is actually known for being ridiculously charitable. We're talking over the top, 'Oprah' levels of charity. Cage generally keeps his charitable donations off the radar, but Forbes officially listed him as being "one of the most generous men in Hollywood".
Just to really hammer home how charitable the guy is, lets quickly refer to a website called Look To The Stars, which tracks charitable celebrity efforts. Cage presently supports fourteen causes and six separate charities. The notes on the site also indicate that he donated $2 million to provide shelters, medical and psychological rehabilitation for child soldiers, and donated $1 million to help victims of Katrina. When it comes to charity, Nicolas Cage doesn't f**k around.
2 He Crashed His Own Official Movie Marathon
Those among you who aren’t hardcore Cage fans, may be unaware of his insane cult following. (It’s not just an internet thing) One example of Cage’s rock-star popularity is an event known as the 'CAGED Movie Marathon'. The event began in 2014 and has been going strong ever since. The marathon takes place at the Alamo Drafthouse and celebrates Nicolas Cage’s birthday as well as his countless unique movies.
Sadly, Cage himself has never attended…until this year, 2017, when he literally crashed his own movie marathon. His surprise appearance was even topped off by him entertaining the crowd with a dramatic reading of a piece that inspired his work; Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” He even hung out and watched all five of his movies, which he chose himself. The selections were Joe, Lord of War, Bangkok Dangerous, Bringing Out The Dead and Army Of One. I’m going to assume Red Bulls and plenty of coffee were served to keep the crowd fully in sync with that many hours of non-stop Cage.
1 Super Cage
Last but not least, we have to discuss Cage's near turn as Superman, the man of steel. There's no use going into the weeds regarding this failed effort by Tim Burton, Warner Bros. and Nic Cage to relaunch Superman. A great documentary has already been released called The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened? The doc thoroughly detailed everything there is to know about the doomed production. Basically, the project slowly fell apart and ultimately deprived the world of a Nicolas Cage version of Superman.
The reason why I'm referencing Nicolas Cage's attempt at Superman is because I think it pretty much encapsulates Cage and the reason you should be a fan. When pics leaked years back of Cage in costume, the internet initially mocked the failed project. There are many articles slamming the mere prospect of Cage as Superman and how terrible the movie likely would have turned out. But once again, the main point of what Cage does is lost amidst easy jokes and rampant negativity. Both Cage and Burton were attempting to put a unique, inventive spin on Superman; something different to entertain the masses. That's what Cage is all about, taking chances and breaking ground. Would the movie have been a mess? Maybe. The point is, you never know unless you try. Sometimes in life, going mad is completely necessary. Nicolas Cage taught me that.
And now I'm off to go find some roaches to eat.