Opinion: What’s The Deal With Nicolas Cage?
OK, don’t get me wrong – Nicolas Cage is a fantastic actor. Take a look at most of his work from the late 1980s to mid ‘90s and it’s clear to see that some of his work was great. Since that period, with the exception of one or two projects, why then has he decided to appear in films which could be best described as lazy, big-budget action adventures?
Seeing his rugged image on any number of these promotional posters suggests Cage now sees himself as a cross between Bruce Willis & Arnold Schwarzenegger, which makes me cringe every time! With all due respect Nicolas Cage is a far better screen actor than both of these movie icons – with a more accurate comparison being towards the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Sean Penn. Yet unlike these acting greats, Cage decides to lend his talents to films like Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) & Ghost Rider (2007). Why in all that’s good and holy in cinema would an actor do such a thing? More money? More fame? Let’s take a look…
In being part of Hollywood’s illustrious Coppola dynasty, Cage, to his credit, changed his last name in order to escape favouritism among the industry’s elite and to ultimately gain his own image and identity. This trend of independence would continue throughout his early career as he appeared, and later starred, in a number of offbeat films from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) & Rumble Fish (1983) to Raising Arizona (1987) & Wild at Heart (1990). He also tried his hand as a lead in the romantic comedy It Could Happen to You (1994) which widened his range both as an actor and to the movie-going public. It was in 1995 however that Nicolas Cage really grabbed the headlines, in turn propelling him into the category of potential acting greats.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995) was a hard-hitting romantic drama and starred Elizabeth Shue opposite Cage. It focused on an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who moves to Las Vegas in order to drink himself to death. Not the most up-beat of films by any stretch but one which stays with you, mainly due to Cage’s Oscar-winning performance. It really is a tour de force of acting; both daring and direct. Cage’s use of method and improvisation allowed him to connect with the underlying despair that alcoholism brings, followed by moments of erratic outbursts when intoxicated. A risky role to take but one of the best performances of the nineties.
As an independent film; shot in super 16mm and with only a few million dollars of budget, Leaving Las Vegas was the ideal project for an inventive performer such as Cage to get his teeth into. With room to experiment, it was a rare part for an actor to play, one which every actor must dream of, and Cage nailed it. He beat the likes of Sean Penn & Anthony Hopkins to Best Actor at the Academy Awards and became the hottest property in Hollywood. So, what next for someone at the top of their game? A new challenge? A lucrative pay cheque? Well his next few choices certainly ticked both of these boxes that’s for sure.
The Rock (1996), Con Air & Face/Off (both 1997) were all fast paced, summer blockbusters in which Cage played the seemingly ordinary guy caught up in an extreme situation. To be fair all three are enjoyable action romps as they make use of their respective multi-million dollar budgets. You can also see that Cage is really enjoying himself on screen; hurtling around and saving the day – all very different to his calm and collected early acting style. Surely no one can begrudge him of letting his hair down and killing a few bad guys? But for me it seems that Cage, with these three films in particular, is far better suited to playing the ‘‘ordinary guy’’ and not the ‘‘action hero’’.
In this case, he excels as the nervous chemical freak, as the reserved Army Ranger, and as the confused, yet dedicated F.B.I. agent. Yet, when we see him dashing towards the camera in a vest, or being captured in slow-motion with explosions going off all around him, it just doesn’t seem right. Also, from uttering what can best be described as atrocious screen dialogue, this doesn’t help matters in any shape or form. It is as if Cage has given up on creditable material in order to live out a childhood fantasy.
Perhaps I am being too harsh! To Cage’s credit, all three where box-office successes as cinema-goers did flock to the theatres. Nicolas Cage: the new ‘‘super action hero’’ for the new millennium has arrived. Hmm… It seemed that the unique triumphs of Raising Arizona & Leaving Las Vegas were long gone.
There was brief respbite however. After so-so roles in City of Angels (1998), 8mm (1999) & Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001) Cage, thankfully, chose to play Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation (2002). He was now back on form, really getting into the role of playing the seemingly weird and wonderful American screenwriter. Acting fans the world over must have issued a huge sigh of relief seeing Cage’s performance, as he was Oscar-nominated once again.
This, sadly, was over ten years ago. Since then Nicolas Cage has decided to star in what could be best described as ‘‘mixed’’ action flicks. The likes of National Treasure (2004), Ghost Rider & Next (both 2007), coupled with their annoying sequels, have once again managed to attract the acting talent of one of America’s finest screen actors.
It is a real shame that someone as gifted as Nicolas Cage seems to believe that ‘‘trying something new’’ equates to appearing in dumb, lazy blockbusters. It just goes to show that no matter how talented and well-respected an actor you are, the Hollywood money-making machine will inevitably reel you in and turn you into a slow-motion silhouette, spewing out appalling declarations like ‘‘Put the bunny back in the box…’’
Hang your head in shame Nicolas!