Why I Love Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage. The man is ubiquitous. Using his upcoming film The Sorceror’s Apprentice as a starting point and working backwards through movies already released, Cage has appeared in some 25-odd films over the last decade. This isn’t the most of any major actor–Samuel L. Jackson is at about 60 productions over the same period if you include all his television and voice-over work–but you get the sense that somehow Cage stands out in most peoples’ mind as that actor who you just can’t escape.
Part of the reason for this is that more people want to escape Nicolas Cage than they do Sam Jackson. To a lot of folks, Cage is unforgivably ridiculous, in part because he’s just so…Nicolas Cage-ish. The man’s incorrigibility is noteworthy enough to inspire websites dedicated to imagining “Nic Cage as Everyone” and a New York Times profile–not on Cage the individual, mind you, but on Cage the screen presence, who evokes a “mixture of genuine appreciation and more than a touch of bewilderment.”
The NYT profile does an admirable job of trying to distill what makes Cage Cage, and how on Earth someone who has starred in so many ridiculous movies (have you seen him in The Wicker Man?) continues to get work. It’s basic conclusion is right on: Nic Cage is a car crash of self-assertion, constantly projecting himself to the audience regardless of the film or scenario, and often with catastrophic results from which you can’t look away.
Put less pretentiously, Nicolas Cage is always playing Nicolas Cage. Soft-spoken, slightly spacey/mildly confused, and demonstrably troubled, regardless of what’s happening in-scene. His patented drawl never wavers; the Cage accent is a part of every character he’s ever played. The only thing that ever really changes is his hair.
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t the fact that he can’t ever convincingly slip into a role the mark of a bad actor? Well…yes. But I don’t care. Watching Nicolas Cage act is like watching a sweetheart kid with severe dyslexia trying to read: the little tyke is trying so hard, so visibly throwing himself into the act, that it’s endearing. You can’t help but root for him.
In this vein, it can’t be said that Cage makes acting look easy; time and again, you can see the strain on his face as he delivers his lines. You get the sense that he’s worked all night in his trailer to perfectly deliver even the simplest bit of dialogue, obsessing over how to imbue it with painfully obvious emotion. Rarely does he ever say something that isn’t overwrought; even when he’s playing a reticent tough guy like in Con Air, it’s still somehow over the top, even though he’s supposedly a man of few words.
In contrast to Cage, slicksters like George Clooney or Tom Hanks effortlessly deliver on screen. If Cage is the earnest kid with a learning disability, these guys are the braniacs that never study for a single test and always get As. Sure, they’re nice guys; they’ll always claim that they’re going to do poorly on that big test and won’t brag about their grades afterward. But you can just tell that it comes easily to them. Cage, on the other hand, is like a workhorse of mediocrity. He’s so invested in seemingly ridiculous roles and films that it’s downright impressive.
So cheers to Nicolas Cage: the actor who can never not be himself and the guy who seems to want to have fun as an actor rather than be a teacher’s pet beholden to the Soft Tyranny of Quality Acting. Indeed, despite having a film career derided as crappy by probably everyone you know, Cage recently told Empire magazine that he has “no regrets.” And why should he? He gets paid millions to be himself; the rest of us suckers do it for free.
Photo by rscrobinmx99
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