Nicolas Kim Coppola. Better known to us as Nic “Craaaaazy Eyes” Cage. As the saying goes, you get two performances; stoic, and batshit crazy.
Born into extended Hollywood royalty (his uncle is Francis Ford of the Coppolas), there was a time when he was one of the biggest actors in the World, and someone who seemed to be able to balance $20m paydays with smaller, weirder movies.
In the last 10 or 15 years though he has become somewhat of a standing joke in Hollywood for a string of horrendous action thrillers like Bangkok Dangerous, Knowing, Drive Angry, Stolen, Indiana Jones rip-off National Treasure series, not to mention the remake of The Wicker Man [shudder]. Maybe it was the huge $80m tax bill he owed (sack that accountant Nic). Or maybe he lost a series of bets, the forfeit of which were the lead roles in the aforementioned movies.
Even Nic’s buddy Sean “King of the Dicks” Penn threw their friendship under the bus at the end of the 90’s saying Cage was “no longer an actor” but rather “a performer” because of his blockbuster role choices. Note to Sean Penn: no one who married Madonna at the height of her pop star, superwhore late 80’s days can call anyone else a sellout.
Either way his evident inability to turn down film roles led to the following incredibly funny sketch http://youtu.be/eExfV_xKaiM
Let it not be forgotten though that amongst the many turds are a lot of great Cage roles. He is one of the most entertaining and engaging actors of the last 25 years, for good and bad. It would be all too easy to pick a top 10 worst, so in the spirit of celebration here are our top 10 favourites:
10. Con Air (1997) as Cameron Poe
Kicking off the list is Con Air. The ridiculous testosterone filling in his late 90’s action triple whammy sandwich. As Cameron Poe, a man best described as the love child of Steven Seagal and Michael Bolton, he got to play a man hell bent on delivering his daughter a bunny by any means necessary. Like a sweaty convicted Santa Claus. Nice. It also identified Cage as a man unafraid to wear stupid hair for a movie, something he would do again many times later on in his career. It was big, dumb fun on a plane. Plus super creepy performance from Steve Buscemi as a peodophile who likes tea parties in airplane graveyards. Yikes!
9. The Rock (1996) as Stanley Goodspeed
The first of the aforementioned trio and only just pipping Con Air to the post by being slightly less ridiculous. Only slightly though. It does require you to buy the notion of Nicolas Cage as an F.B.I. biochemist. And bomb disposal dude. Also has Sean Connery going “yesh” and Ed Harris menacingly quoting Thomas Jefferson. Alcatraz is a fairly terrible place to hole up with VX gas though Ed. No stupid hair this time. Did have the worst fucking name though; Stanley Goodspeed. Really? Dumb. The role that marked Cage as an action star to watch.
8. Kick Ass (2010) as Big Daddy
Fine, this wasn’t by any means a Nic Cage movie. His part may have been small, but it was integral and played just right. Equal parts concerned parent, Batman-lite superhero and contract-killer-ninja-child-pimp he looks like a geography teacher who stumbled into the wrong movie. Not since Adaptation has he looked so everyman with his To Catch A Predator moustache and wirerim glasses combo. He may have been upstaged by everyone else in the movie, but with it being released in the same 12 months as Knowing, G-Force and The Sorcerers Apprentice, it was good to remember just how good he can be.
7. Wild At Heart (1990) as Sailor Ripley
The late 80’s and early 90’s was a bit of a golden period for Cage in term of diversity of role choices. He was an interesting choice to play the sociopathic Sailor opposite Laura Dern’s tall, sexy vixen Lula. Essentially a cross between Romeo & Juliet and Bonnie & Clyde, the star crossed, doomed lovers narrative is given the David Lynch perversion treatment. Cage is great as the snake skin jacket wearing, southern drawling Sailor who justs wants to love his lady and kick people in the head.
6. Matchstick Men (2003) as Roy Waller
Nobody does a nervous tick quite like Nic Cage and here he got to bring them all out as Roy Waller, the phobic con artist who is on the verge of a lucrative heist when his long lost daughter turns up. Cage is able to pull out his famous “uh, uh, uh, you know, uh [rest of crazy sentence, creepy smile]” bit on multiple occasions as his phobias get the better of him. Also showcased the versatility of Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman who were both on great form as his supporting cast.
5. Lord of War (2005) as Yuri Orlov
A surprisingly restrained performance given he was playing an international multi-millionaire arms dealer who went toe-to-toe with African warlords. One of the standout moments was watching him go off the rails wandering around an African slum in the middle of the night on the verge of a number of horrendous incidents. Is also memorable for being the last great Jared Leto role before he decided to go off and become every rock star cliche available.
4. Adaptation (2002) as Charlie Kaufman & Donald Kaufman
What’s better than one Nic Cage role in a movie? Two, evidently. That’s right; double the Cage, same great price. The circumstances of Adaptation, for those who don’t know, are crazier than a crazy Cage stare. Writer Charlie Kaufman was asked to adapt a book, The Orchid Thief, as his next project after Being John Malkovich and Human Nature. Being an adaptation of someone elses work rather than an original idea, the notoriously neurotic writer got block. So instead he wrote a screenplay about a version of himself trying to adapt the book and getting block so instead writing a screenplay about himself writing the book but….well you get the point. Not content with that he invented a twin brother for himself called Donald who was essentially a vision of himself as he wished he was. Carefree, outgoing and without the crippling neurosis. For anyone aware of Kaufman both physically and socially, Cage was a weird but ultimately brilliant choice as he nails both the introvert writer and his outgoing fictional twin. Plus he gets to have conversations with himself and no one can call him crazy. Win win.
3. Face/Off (1997) as Castor Troy/Sean Archer
Nic’s first foray into playing multiple characters in the same film and a great showcase for his many talents. Insane crazy face? Check. Dodgy sex offender moustache? Check and check. Rollercoaster pitch and volume in the delivery of his lines? Big fat check. Face/Off is brilliantly entertaining if you don’t stop and think for a moment about how ridiculous it actually is. John Woo went full dove. Nic Cage went full crazy. John Travolta went full creepy, Joan Allen went full…..well actually she didn’t really do anything. Also gave the world one of the greatest Cage lines in movie history “Peach. I could eat a peach for hours”.
2. Leaving Las Vegas (1995) as Ben Sanderson
The moment before he became the World’s most bankable action hero for 12 months Nic Cage was an Oscar winning Hollywood darling for his brilliant portrayal of a self destructive alcoholic writer who takes his last pay cheque to drink himself to death in Vegas. In the process he meets a hooker with a heart of gold, played by Elisabeth Shue, with whom he signs a non-interference pact, meaning all she can do is ensure he doesn’t die alone. Heartbreaking in the extreme, it is a truly fantastic performance and worthy of his award.
1. Raising Arizona (1987) as H.I. McMcDunnough
A more diverse one-two you’ll struggle to find, but for me, Cage’s first class comic performance, in what I think is still in the Coen Brother’s top 5 movies, has never been bettered. It’s easy to forget when Cage has tried so very hard to make himself unintentionally funny in serious roles, that he is actually very good at being intentionally funny in comic roles. Raising Arizona is a quick-as-a-whippet screwball caper involving multiple bungling crooks trying to steal an quintuplet from a very wealthy family who have so many kids, well, they wont miss that one. Cage is the love struck, put upon H.I. who will do anything to make his childless and barren wife, played by Holly Hunter, happy. With support from the always amazing John Goodman, who is introduced emerging from a shit pipe in the rain like a lagoon monster. More of this please Mr Cage.
Do you think this is right? Have I missed any roles that you think deserve to be on this list? Get in on the conversation and let us know