The Extraordinary and Enduring Career of Nicolas Cage
As a young actor, Nicolas Cage always strove to make a name for himself based on his own ability, not his lineage. As the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, when auditioning for his first major role in ‘Valley Girl’, Nicolas Coppola changed his name to Nicolas Cage. He chose Cage both as en homage to the Marvel Comic book Superhero Luke Cage and out of admiration for the avante-guarde musician John Cage.
Martha Coolidge gave him the part of Randy in Valley Girl without realising the family connection, and it was this film that launched his unimaginably successful acting career.
Nicolas Cage has boldly and successfully side stepped the swamps of self expression as an actor, defying classification and never once settling for just one kind of film. His performances have traversed the acting landscape from romantic to horror, dark to light comedy, intense drama to family adventure, arthouse to fantasy / science fiction, quirky to conventional, independent to mainstream.
His early career saw him in a diverse range of roles, including drama, comedy and developing a reputation as a somewhat quirky, anarchic and punk rock actor. After his success as Leading man in Valley Girl, notorious early roles included alongside Matthew Modine in Alan Parker’s film about two grown up boyhood friends left with physical and mental scars after serving in Vietnam, ‘Birdy’, the male lead in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’, where much to the bewilderment of his co-stars Nic famously played his character with a ‘Pokey’ voice and wanted to portray him in a hyper surreal way. This unique performance led to Cher championing him for the lead role in highly acclaimed 1987 romantic-comedy ‘Moonstruck’.
Nics’ work in these early days is filled with unforgettable films that have endured as cult classics, including the Coen Brothers’ universally loved quirky comedy ,‘Raising Arizona’; the darkly comedic psychological thriller ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ with the infamous cockroach eating scene; David Lynch’s 1990 offbeat film ‘Wild at Heart’ as a hyper surreal Elvis and as a struggling artist in erotic thriller, ‘Zandalee’
With dazzling diversity, Nic then went on to deliver a a kaleidoscopic mix of roles, highlighting his mastery in a number of different genres.
This included much lighter fare, the romantic comedy ‘Honeymoon In Vegas’ and his Sunshine trilogy: ‘Guarding Tess’, It could happen To You’ and ‘Trapped In Paradise’which was sandwiched between highly undersung neo noir thriller ‘Red Rock West’, a heist movie ‘Deadfall’ directed by Nic’s brother Christopher Coppola, and ‘Kiss Of Death’where Nic plays a violent and thugish gang leader.
In 1995, Cage gave a highly acclaimed performance as a suicidal alcoholic in Mike Figgis ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and won an Oscar for best actor with his harrowingly accurate portrayal.
Confirmed amongst the film industry and his peers, with a score of other awards and honours for his performance, ever the eclectic, and continuing to defy expectations, Nic then went on to what were considered by some as less ‘actorly’ roles, in a series of big budget action films including ‘The Rock’
(1996) and ‘Face/Off’ (1997).
The former proved hugely popular with the public and Nic won a blockbuster award for best actor in an Action movie and the latter received critical and commercial success, confirming his place as an acclaimed actor in the action genre, one which was a bold departure from his previously known career.
1998 saw the beginnings of what later went on to be a major aspect of Nic’s work, a move into the fantasy/sci fi genre and supernatural roles, his first being as Seth in ‘City Of Angels.’
A dynamic mix of comedy, to dramatic, to action, to fantasy roles set the scene for things to come in Nicolas Cage’s career.
Next came crime Brian De Palma’s action thriller ‘Snake Eyes’ followed by darker more edgy fare dealing with more challenging subject matter, including Schumacher’s crime thriller ’8MM’ and Scorsese’s ‘Bringing Out The Dead’.
In 2000, known for his love of cars, Nic returned with an action movie full of car chases ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’. He followed this up with the more light-hearted romantic family movie ‘The Family Man’ (2000), war time drama as an Italian Soldier in ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’(2001) and John Woo’s ‘Windtalkers’ (2002).
Also in 2002, Cage returned to a dramatic role and more quirky characterizations playing two twin brothers in ‘Adaptation’, his performance resulting in his second Oscar nomination and huge critical admiration.
The same year saw his directorial debut with the brave and beautiful story ‘Sonny’, a film dealing with the taboo subject of male prostitution.
Highly acclaimed ‘Matchstick Men’ followed in 2003 where he played a con artist with compulsive obsessive quirks.
Continuing to mix things up and defying being pigeon holed, another theme began to emerge in Cage’s work, family and children oriented movies. Continuing to make those films that appealed to what Nic later when on to call ‘the midnight audience’, this actor demonstrated time and time again how deftly he could dance between the most extreme of genres.
2004 saw his return to ‘intelligent action’ with the family friendly box office hit, ‘National Treasure’ as eccentric historian Benjamin Gates.
Then came two movies that gained critical acclaim but only moderate commercial success possibly due to mismarketing, ‘Lord of War’ in a role as an arms dealer, coinciding with his work with Amnesty International in highlighting the plight of child soldiers, and ‘The Weatherman’, a ‘seriocomedy’ with an unusually low key and introspective performance leading to much awards buzz for his performance.
Then in the ‘children and family’ theme bracket came the first of Nic’s voice roles in a children’s animation in Ant Bully (2006) a theme that continued with ‘G-Force’ and ‘Astroboy’ in 2010.
In the same year, Nicolas Cage performed in Oliver Stone’s ‘World Trade Centre’, with a sensitive and heart rending portrayal of one of the police officers involved in the tragic 9/11 attacks, his fee for which Cage gave to charity.
A foray into the horror genre came in 2007, after seeing the original Wickerman for the first time and inspired by his friend Johnny Ramone, Nic appeared in a reimagining of the movie, which later went on to be one of his most criticised and commented upon movies, almost gaining it cult status in it’s own right and contributing to Nic gaining the reputation as the actor with the most internet memes.
The same year saw the return of Nic playing a supernatural character, and for the first time bringing to life the comic book character ‘Ghost Rider’. Having been a huge comic book fan and in discussions to play Superman years before, Cage felt Ghost Rider was much more aligned with his own vision, having grown up on the comics and fascinated by how, like Hulk, something so scary can also be a force for good.
Sticking to the supernatural theme, the science fiction movie ‘Next’ came next, followed by the return of Benjamin Gates in the family friendly second National Treasure movie, ‘National Treasure: Book Of Secrets’.
In 2008 Cage wanted to make what he called a more ‘international’ film and handed himself over to the vision of the chinese film makers the Pang brothers, for a remake of their ‘Bangkok Dangerous’, shot in Thailand and definitely a departure from Hollywood blockbusters.
2009 brought another science fiction movie with an apocalyptic flavour, ‘Knowing.’ Nic gave a contained but passionate performance as a single father scientist faced with the unavoidable and tragic reality that a series of numbers from time capsule buried years earlier at his son’s school, are predictions for a series of disasters.
Nicolas Cage’s five most recent movies exemplify his eclecticism well: the ‘bizarrely brilliant’ midnight audience oriented ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans’ directed by Werner Herzog, in which he hails back to some of his earlier more abstract performances playing an increasingly depraved cop and garnering huge critical acclaim and awards; controversial, funny and violent cult comic book adaptation ‘Kick Ass’playing a father-come-vigilante superhero training his daughter to become a killing machine and giving a hyper surreal ‘Batman’ performance as a homage to Adam West in the process; in family friendly Disney fantasy movie ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ as a thousand year old Master Sorcerer, and most recently in his first period film as a 14th century teutonic Knight in the suspenseful supernatural thriller ‘Season of The Witch’and as an undead escapee from Hell in his first 3D film, ‘Drive Angry 3D’.
Currently playing at theaters is Joel Schumacher helmed thriller ‘Trespass’, and the thriller theme continues with ‘Justice’ due for release next month and Simon West’s ‘Medallion’ arriving on our screens early next year, along with the much anticipated Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance’ “requel” directed by cutting edge directing duo Neveldine and Taylor.
(c) Cagealot Castle