The Top 10 Nicolas Cage Myths Deconstructed
In recent years, various Nicolas Cage ‘truths’ have presented, circulated and reinvented themselves with the help of critics and the blogosphere. We propose that all of these are in fact Nicolas Cage Myths, and it is time to deconstruct them all.
Nicolas Cage Myth 1: ‘Nicolas Cage is a wooden Actor’
Nicolas Cage Myth 2: ‘Nicolas Cage is an over the top actor’
Seeing the problem here already? How can he be both?! Nicolas Cage is the master of variety, with an impressive range of acting ability, giving outstanding performances in a number of genres and acting styles; from intense drama to fantasy/ science fiction, romantic comedy to horror, actorly art house to blockbuster action. Could anybody who has ever seen Nicolas Cage movies ever describe him as wooden?
I mean, seriously?
The only thing that has ever been wooden about Nicolas Cage is his wooden hand in Moonstruck! Even his more ‘contained’ performances, such as in National Treasure, Knowing or Bangkok Dangerous, have a very powerful energy to them, a presence, a tension, the inner conflict of the character somehow intensely conveyed.
Over the top?
Let’s make one thing very clear. Nicolas Cage is the master of quirky crazy, the Tsar of Zany, hyper real, abstract, intense, jazz style characters and performances. And that is part of what makes him the iconic, original and sublime actor he is. He creates characters like no other actor could and is unafraid to step over the invisible line and take us beyond our often cosy versions of reality. Performances like Peter Loew in Vampire’s Kiss, Ronnie Cammareri in Moonstruck, Castor Troy in Face/Off, and more recently Terence Mcdonagh in Bad Lieutenant, undoubtedly have this quality in varying extremes. But, this sweeping generalisation of him being ‘over the top’ does not account for the vast spectrum of roles he actually plays, nor the multidimensional facets of each of his more manic characters.
In some ways it is easily tempting to polarise Nicolas Cages’ performances, but, the most powerful thing about his characters is they are never one thing and not the other, they are never just black or white, but often shades of grey and all the colours, shades and tones inbetween. It is precisely this is that creates the conflict within his characters, who are never one dimensional. The criticism that he is wooden or over the top is both entirely inaccurate in description and degree.
Nicolas Cage Myth 3: ‘Nicolas Cage always plays himself’
Oh dear..there are so many holes in this particular myth that the argument cannot even contain itself. To the critics, how do you know who ‘himself’ is? Perhaps if there is a sense of familiarity, it is because Cage is so good at bringing the character to life that you feel you know him personally?! Perhaps what you really mean is his characters are ‘all the same’?… See Myths 1 and 2. Or perhaps what you are experiencing is the Nicolas Cage trademark unquestionably stamped upon each of his roles. It is true he brings a quintessential element to each of his characters that is uniquely Cage. He really is the only actor who could bring his characters to life, and that is precisely what makes him such an incredible actor.
Nicolas Cage Myth 4: ‘Nicolas Cage always plays the same character.’
Le sigh. See Myths 1, 2 and 3.
Nicolas Cage Myth 5: ‘Nicolas Cage can’t act’
Martin Scorcese, Werner Herzog, Jon Turteltaub, David Lynch, John Woo, Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, Martha Coolidge, Alex Proyas, Gore Verbinski, The Cohen brothers, The Pang Brothers, Alan Parker, Joel Schumacher, Dominic Sena Spike Jonze…..How do you explain it? He slipped them all a tenner, or spiked their drinks? Or could it be that world renowned directors want Nicolas Cage for their movies because he is a highly regarded, talented actor? Not to mention the array of awards and honours he has received over the years for his talents, acting achievements and contributions to the creative world, including an Oscar?
Nicolas Cage Myth 6: ‘Nicolas Cage only gets work because his Uncle is Francis Ford Coppola’
Yawn. Even if he had a reluctant bunk up to the first rung of a very tall ladder because of his genes, Nicolas Cage has carved his own place in the film world through years of dedication and sheer hard work. He deliberately distanced himself from the accusations of nepotism by changing his name. Martha Coolidge gave him the part in Valley Girl, a film that launched his career and remains a Cage Classic amongst fans across the world even today, without knowing his family history.
Nicolas Cage has a successful, enduring and prolific career spanning decades, family heritage or not. This staying power is down to his own talent as an actor and his being held in high esteem by many directors. (see Nicolas Cage Myth 5.)
Nicolas Cage Myth 7: ‘Nicolas Cage is crazy / weird’
Nicolas Cage himself has mentioned that in his early career he was interested in generating a public self image as being off the wall and edgy. And perhaps there are elements of his character where it has been suitable for publicity to reinvent this image in recent times, for example his interviews during the run up to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice including recalling his magic mushroom experiences with his cat.
Whether or not this is the real Nic Cage? who knows! For those of us who like things a little ‘weird’ and ‘crazy’, that which is considered ‘normal’ is ‘weird.’ And often boring and unchallenging. Isn’t it time to unlock our heads from the cosy and prescriptive definitions of mainstream society about what is considered normal or weird? As an actor and possibly as a man, Nicolas Cage steps outside the box and that is something to be celebrated in a world where the majority never question the ideology they exist within. Perhaps, rather than crazy or weird, this is THE definition of art.
Nicolas Cage Myth 8: ‘Nicolas Cage makes bad movie choices’
For the people who love Nicolas Cage in his more so-called ‘actorly’ roles, ‘The Rock’ was a ‘Bad Choice’ and ‘a bad career move’ right after receiving an Oscar for a dramatic role in Leaving Las Vegas. Not so for the millions of fans who voted for him as best actor in an action movie in the Blockbuster awards. For those people it was an excellent choice, and remains for some, one of the best action movies of all time.
Ghost Rider is another film where people have jumped on the bandwagon of criticism. It wasn’t a bad choice for the movie going public who sent the box office tills ringing with an unequivocal *kerching!*
And, ‘Bad choice’ for whom? Not wanting to point out the ridiculously obvious, we are of course entitled to our own opinion of a movie, but if we don’t like it, that says more about our own tastes, likes and dislikes, than about the choice an actor made to star in a particular film!
Nicolas Cage Myth 9: ‘Nicolas Cage has sold out and / or chooses roles for the money’
First up, are any of us in a position to judge anyone else for working for money? Seriously? Do the rest of us work for free? Actually, Nicolas Cage has, he gave his fee for ‘World Trade Centre’ to charity. More importantly here though, Nicolas Cage has always been an actor who follows his own integrity and dances to the beat of his own drum. In that regard, he is to be admired for not pandering to the pressure of his critics, but going down the road less travelled, following his own passions knowing this is the only way he can truthfully create as an actor and artist. He has taken risks and made bold choices often going against the grain, and sidestepped the swamps of self expression that other actors so often drown in.
A master of many genres and servant to none, able to switch it up constantly – for example from a corrupt cop in a Herzog movie touching upon the ‘bliss of evil’ in Bad Lieutenant, to a fantasy role as a master sorcerer in a Bruckheimer / Turteltaub movie The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Cage is an actor with absolute conviction with a talent supreme.
Nicolas Cage Myth 10: ‘Noone likes Nicolas Cage any more so he should stop making movies’
Despite the clammy negative grip of the media upon the general public, there are millions of fans who have admired the actor throughout his whole career, younger people who are discovering his work for the first time, and former anti-Cage ideological sheep stepping out of the critical shadows and coming out as Cage fans. People from across the world and generations enjoy, admire and appreciate the films of Nicolas Cage, which is precisely why he has such a successful and enduring career.
A final appeal to the critics, including the general public who reinvent the Nicolas Cage myths above, go watch his movies, all of them. Go without the fashionable anti-Cage overcoat, go naked without preconceptions and observe a master at work.
I truly hope you allow yourself to observe from beyond and outside the box created by the myth makers, and possibly feel as much humbled-to-foolish as a Nicolas Cage critic as I have felt bemused-to-angry as a Nicolas Cage fan, having watched his work and personal life being casually dragged through a slurry of inaccurate mud slinging over the years.
Whether a Nic Cage hater or a Nic Cage lover, or somewhere in between, whatever your own opinion, the outstanding library of Nicolas Cage films speaks for itself – unapologetic, impressive and alive – an eternal testament to all that a unique and talented actor has brought to a century of film.
Within this library, a transcendent truth reveals itself, irrespective of passing phases of popularity or otherwise. Nicolas Cage Myth makers: Nicolas Cage is the most magnificant actor of our times, some things are True, whether you believe them or not.
(c) Lula Argante, Cagealot Castle 2011