Montreal Film Journal

NICOLAS CAGE: HOLLYWOOD'S DARK PRINCE





"I've always had a fascination with the bizarre, the surreal, the Grand Guignol, the grotesque. I've always liked imperfections. I never really wanted to sell perfection."
- Nicolas Cage


Born Nicolas Coppola on January 7th 1964, Cage is the nephew of (you guessed it) Francis Ford Coppola. His first credited part is in the classic high school comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), but he was just an extra. I think he has one line or something like that. You probably wouldn't even notice him. His first starring role was actually in Valley Girl (1983), in which he plays a goofy punk, but he truly was noticed as a gifted performer with the psychological drama Birdy (1984). Cage then entered the big leagues with studio films such as his uncle's Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and the Oscar-winning Cher vehicle Moonstruck (1987). That didn't stop him from making smaller, darker flicks such as David Lynch's Wild At Heart (1990), as well as an unfortunate bunch of duds like the forgettable Trapped in Paradise (1994), while continuing his conquest of Hollywood with more audience-friendly roles in feel-good comedies such as It Could Happen to You (1994). Cage finally received recognition from the industry with his memorable Oscar-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas (1995). He then surprised everyone by turning to big kick ass action movies, such as The Rock (1996) and John Woo's critically acclaimed smash hit Face/Off (1997). Most recently, Cage has played twin screenwriters in the mind-blowing Adaptation (2002).


"I've always wanted to do work that's stimulating and exciting on an escapist level, but also to do movies that are a bitmore thoughtful and thought-provoking and poetic."




Coppola Movies


RUMBLE FISH (1983)

"(about the Coppolas) It's a family that's loaded with
grudges and passion. We come from a long line of
robbers and highwaymen in Italy, you know. Killers, even."

THE COTTON CLUB (1984)

"I love Francis and his movies, I would
have liked to have been in any of them."

PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED (1986) [ review ]

"I didn't want to be Kathleen Turner's babe. I just wanted to play a character. So I thought, How can I make this guy really far out? I said,
"I want to talk like Pokey." Because to me it was funny. And also, it was the way a lot of guys in high school sounded before their voice changed."




War: What Is It Good For?


BIRDY (1984)

"If Picasso could paint surreal, why
couldn't actors try to achieve that as well."

RACING WITH THE MOON (1984)

FIRE BIRDS (1990)

TIME TO KILL (1991)

CAPTAIN CORRELLI'S MANDOLIN (2001) [ review ]

"To me this part was a lot of work - to sort of rethink who I was, playing an Italian soldier in the 1930s. It's a different world for me."

WINDTALKERS (2002) [ review ]

LORD OF WAR (2005)
[ Here's a movie that's mostly entertaining and insightful, if rather derivative - think "Goodfellas" meets "Syriana" meets Ordell Robie's AK-47 speech in "Jackie Brown". And while I like my Nic Cage, his character is kind of a blank and his relationships with model wife Bridget Moynahan, fuck-up brother Jared Leto and ATF nemesis Ethan Hawke aren't very involving. Sorry, Jean Carlo. ]


Movies in which Cage plays a champion rower


THE BOY IN BLUE (1986)




Unlikely Couples


VALLEY GIRL (1983) [ review ]

"My chest hair was shaved like a triangle, for a Superman look."

MOONSTRUCK (1987) [ review ]

"I almost got fired for trying to play my character
- scripted as a young, romantic Italian guy -
as the monster from Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast."

CITY OF ANGELS (1998) [ review ]

"I wanted to create a subliminal essence where you're
not really sure why it's different or other, but it is."




Crime Dramas


DEADFALL (1993) [ review ]

"Sometimes when I'm working on a part, I'll do the exact opposite of Method acting. I'll read a line in the script and play with it vocally, externally - I'll try to find a melody or a rythm for it - and then, only after I've got that down will I go beyond the line and put in whatever other stuff it needs to make it come to life."

RED ROCK WEST (1994) [ review ]

KISS OF DEATH (1994) [ review ]

"It was revenge that fueled much of my ambition."

BANGKOK DANGEROUS (2008)


Movies in which Cage plays a "sex-god/brooding artist"


ZANDALEE (1991)



The Twists Of Humanity


VAMPIRE'S KISS (1989)

"Vampire's Kiss was sort of my experimental laboratory
where I tried things out, facial expressions and attitudes."

WILD AT HEART (1990) [ review ]

"I thought, Let's be Elvis. I've always called that my Andy
Warhol performance, because I tried to subvert the image."

LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995) [ review ]

"I think he's in so much pain that he's decided no to feel any pain at all. It's an interesting irony to me because on the one hand, he's destroying himself. On the other hand, if it were not for this drinking, he would not have found what I consider to be true love."

WORLD TRADE CENTER (2006) [ review ]




Sunshine Trilogy


HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (1992) [ review ]

"I've always been a victim of the over-the-top, grand romantic
gesture. I've made a romantic fool of myself many, many
times, by performing grand gestures when I'm not wanted."

GUARDING TESS (1994) [ review ]

"I'm looking for movies with morality
and characters with a conscience."

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (1994) [ review ]

"I'd like to see less cynicism in the movies, more passion and chivalry and a sense of what it means to be honorable."




Midnight Trilogy

"I used to have this thing I called my Sunshine Trilogy, and now I'm in my Midnight Trilogy."


SNAKE EYES (1998) [ review ]

"I wanted this guy not to be your typical image of a New York detective, with a cigarette and a leather jacket. I wanted him to be more of a bon vivant
in attitude and attire. I fell in love with this rust colored suit, and I thought the Hawaiian shirt worked well with it. He's a man of questionable taste. "

8MM (1999) [ review ]

"He's Everyman, an ordinary man who gets pushed into
very extraordinary situations and then becomes extraordinary."

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999) [ review ]

"I wanted to work with Scorsese, and I felt that what paramedics do is so important to the community, and people don't really know what they do. When they get there, it's like, "You're late!" or "Couldn't you come any faster?" or "It's about time!" or "Don't take me to the hospital!" and all that. But Marty would say that they're saints. And I think it's important that people know what these people go through."




Crime Comedies


RAISING ARIZONA (1987) [ review ]

"I based my character on Woody Woodpecker. Comic
books and cartoons have had a lot of influence in my life."

AMOS & ANDREW (1993) [ review ]

"It's a social comedy about important issues, contemporary issues. There was one night, very strange night, when the riots broke out in L.A, and we were in fact shooting riot scenes the same night. It was an odd, gloomy day. I thought, this is strange. Well I thought, well, you know, art imitates life. This is something, this is a reality."

TRAPPED IN PARADISE (1994)
[ I've seen this a few years ago, I barely remember any of it... Robbers stuck in a small town on Xmas eve, one of them Cage and another Dana Carvey, right? Wasn't Jon Lovitz in this too? ]

MATCHSTICK MEN (2003) [ review ]




Explosive Action Flicks

THE ROCK (1996) [ review ]

"Action only gives you a certain amount of time to convey a point as an actor, so it teaches you to be succinct. The other thing I like about action is that it's pure cinema, an experience you can only get from the movies."

CON AIR (1997) [ review ]

"After The Rock, Con Air was natural for me. I've done
some of my most original stuff in those films."

FACE/OFF (1997) [ review ]

" I wanna take tired old action conventions and breathe a sense of being out of control into them. I wanted Castor Troy to have a more mod look than the usual way we see gangsters in movies, with that Armani suit. So at the start of the movie, I've got him carrying gold guns and wearing gold cuff links. He's sort of the Liberace of crime."

GONE IN 60 SECONDS (2000) [ review ]

"Part of my drive as a young man was to do action. I've always been an action kind of guy, but no one saw me that way until Jerry Bruckhiemer came along. He had a vision. That's why I went back to work with him again."



Worldwide Adventure


NATIONAL TREASURE (2004)

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS (2007)




Sad Bastards


THE FAMILY MAN (2000) [ review ]

ADAPTATION (2002) [ review ]

"I knew it would be a challenge when I signed on for the part. If you can imagine playing one character with one mindset and getting that down, then changing clothes and trying to get into the mindset of the other brother, and then switching again."

THE WEATHERMAN (2005)



Directed by Nicolas Cage

SONNY (2002)

"I was very adrenalized by the experience. I was excited to be surrounded by so many creative people in all walks of the filmmaking process."


What-The-Fuck? Trilogy

THE WICKER MAN (2006)

GHOST RIDER (2007)

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL - NEW ORLEANS (2009)


Sci-Fi

NEXT (2007)

KNOWING (2009)


Next

SEASONS OF THE WITCH (2010)
KICK-ASS (2010)
THE HUNGRY RABBIT JUMPS (2010)
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (2010)