In defence of Nicolas Cage

Hollywood's most misunderstood genius

Back in 1996, Nicolas Cage won Best Actor at the Oscars for an emotional performance in Leaving Las Vegas. During a typically understated acceptance speech, he gushed, “I know it’s not hip to say it, but I just love acting and I hope there will be more encouragement for alternative movies where we can experiment and fast-forward into the future of acting.” Skip ahead 22 years and a lot has changed. A slow leak of bonkers news stories (he once did ‘shrooms with his cat), some cruel Internet memes and a series of questionable career choices have shaped his modern image as a talentless, slack-jawed goofball – halfway between Fred Flintstone and Johnny Bravo. What ever happened to the maverick artist that ripped up the Hollywood rulebook in the ‘80s and ‘90s?

Well, he’s still there, lurking beneath the surface, ready to pounce if we let him. But the public perception of this rough diamond is very wrong. Just watch his latest movie Mom and Dad. It’s a totally mad black comedy featuring a riotous turn from Cage that could only come from his completely unique talent. It’s yet more proof that cinema needs nonconformists like him in order to progress and push the boundaries of acting. Here’s why we all need to stop sneering and learn to love The Cage.

He’s one of the best actors we’ve got

Sure, his recent run isn’t winning any awards. But that’s partly our fault. Stereotyping him as a slow-witted moron meant casting agents stopped giving him the big gigs. Think back to his heyday (late ’80s to late ‘90s) and you’ll soon see sense. Raising Arizona (1987) was an early Coen Brothers hit. In 1990, David Lynch signed him up for underrated frightfest Wild At Heart, before Leaving Las Vegas earned Cage Best Actor at the 1996 Oscars. Next came The Rock with Sean Connery, Face/Off opposite John Travolta, Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead and Steve Buscemi-starring Con Air – all classic movies. Give ol’ Nic a chance and he’ll produce the goods. Why else would China have voted him the world’s greatest actor?

His charity work is commendable

In his official role as a UN ambassador (Goodwill Ambassador for Global Justice for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, to be precise), Cage has supported victims of human trafficking, donated millions to help end suffering of child soldiers and got stuck in with the Hurricane Harvey relief project. He also won a UN award for his humanitarian work and has been involved with Amnesty International for years. Sure, many actors incorporate philanthropy into their image, but not many do it in such a modest manner. Good job, Nic.

He’s great in interviews

A lot of actors project a stainless, soulless image to the press. Hollywood isn’t a forgiving place, and a bad writeup or out-of-context quote can derail a career. Nic Cage has no fucks left to give and we love him for it. Just look at these fantastically weird quotes:

“I think I jump around more when I’m alone.”

I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion.

“Every great story seems to begin with a snake.”

Interestingly, most people don’t think Nic’s in on the joke and use that to mock him. But he’s all too aware of the mad things he says and does. For example, in 2006 a viral meme from his Wicker Man remake swept through the Internet like wildfire.You don’t go around doing the things that character does – in a bear suit – and not know it’s absurd. It is absurd,” Cage revealed to the Guardian. “Originally I wanted to play that cop with a handlebar moustache and like a really stiff suit, and the producers wouldn’t let me do it.” Oh, Nic! “And then you would have known how in on it we were.” Being self-aware is the perfect shield against ridicule, because it makes you much less fun to poke fun at. What a clever Cage.

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He’s going to be buried in a pyramid

Yeah, you read that right. Nicolas Cage has a nine-foot-tall stone pyramid in one of New Orleans’ most famous cemeteries ready to go should he keel over suddenly. He’s like Tutankhamun of the 21st Century. If that isn’t reason enough to love him, then we don’t know what is.