Subject: Nicolas Cage (born Nicolas Kim Coppola), 46-year-old American actor
Date of Assessment: April 16, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Indefatigable, resolute, gumshoe (as in “gum on my shoe”)
Negative Buzzwords: Clueless, intense, flashlight
The Case: The following may sound like a rather cruel statement, but I can’t think of a single friend or acquaintance (nor even an enemy) of mine who has admitted to being a Nic Cage fan since last century. Perhaps there’s a secret society — just as obtuse as Nic himself — out there that prays for his exceedingly rare display of lucidity in movies like Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. Admittedly, I loved the guy in the fairly underrated Raising Arizona, and it tickles me to watch those old 80s flicks — Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Rumble Fish — where Nic just pops up outta nowhere in manner of “Where’s Waldo?” Now, however, the man is a bewilderingly impenetrable mess, and most of us seem to agree that more Nic Cage is not a good thing; yet he still gets plenty of acting work. Somehow, all of his characters’ esoteric banter must hold appeal for audiences, who persist in rewarding many of his movies with amazing ticket sales. It all makes very little sense.
At some point, Nic stopped acting and started earning an absurd number of millions by waving around a flashlight while wearing an intense expression. That’s actressin’ at its finest, according to Nic’s career in (baffling) pictures. And after over sixty films, it’s impossible to discuss all of Nic’s works (nor would anyone even want to do so), but for every Adaptation, Nic’s also participated in nonsense like Face/Off, City of Angels, Ghost Rider, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It’s kind of amazing, really, how such a commercially successful actor can manage to wade through so much crap, and it also makes one hope for more missteps like Bangkok Dangerous, which entered cinemas (in Sept. 2008) as a sole new wide release but saw only a $7.7 million opening weekend. Does a major flop even matter any longer? Well, Nicole Kidman has had several bombs in the past five years, and it’s just now beginning to negatively affect her career. Perhaps there is hope, after all.
For a long time, I wondered whether Cage was purposely making bad movies or just didn’t give a shit. Now, there’s little question about what will motivate Nic to continue making really shitty movies. In his personal life, Nic has backed himself into at least four corners of his own financial ruin. The guy has collected so many ancient relics and creepy shrunken heads, and he’s completely obsessed with Superman and Elvis. He was even prepared to embarrass himself as the former in a deal that (fortunately) never materialized, and he portrayed a sailor version of the latter for David Lynch’s Wild at Heart. Hell, he even collected Elvis’ daughter at one point. Nic’s obsessions, with acting among them, are something of a novelty, and he’s given very little thought to the eventual fallout. Well, thanks to a hell of a lot of reckless spending and willful blindness on Cage’s part, the guy can’t really afford to quit working in the next several lifetimes or so. Now, he just needs to keep working purely for the money. To him, the quality of a script — or the question of whether there even is a script — isn’t even a slight consideration of what work he will take. Quite simply, whomever is willing to pay Nic the most (or anything at all) will get him to star in their movies. In other words, it’s only going to get worse.
These days, I’m beginning to think that Nic’s performances in films like Adaptation and Leaving Las Vegas were mere flukes. After all, this guy has a terribly long acting resumé and he’s got many more movies in various stages of development. Yet, Nic’s reliability as an actor has been highly variable, so there’s always the possibility that he’s taking a scattershot approach and truly doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. Perhaps this can all easily be explained through Nic’s erroneous approach to acting:
I went on Dick Cavett many years ago and met Miles Davis. And I was talking about things like art synthesis and Picasso and you can do with acting what he did, or with music, and Miles came out and he got it, you know, he was looking at me, he gave me this, like - he nodded and he winked at me. Miles Davis, you know. And we were sharing the trumpet. And ever since then, because he accepted whatever my philosophy was, I believe that I wanted to approach acting as jazz. And so he became like a surrealist father of sorts, along with Walt Disney. And I thought, “Okay. Well, this time, I’m going to just let anything come out, whatever it may be.”
Apparently, what comes out of Nic lately is the assumption that audiences will love it if he dresses in a bear suit and punches women, but I admit that I’m taking an easy shot there. Thing is, Nic makes it so easy to hate him. And I’m not knocking jazz, which makes for some great music, but as an acting “method,” it’s met with results that are far too erratic. During the same press conference mentioned above, Nic also talked about Jerry Bruckheimer’s “genius ability” to structure his movies like algebraic equations, an observation that Nic must have been gleaned on the set of the inexorable G-Force and he (presumably) applied to the incomprehensible, divine-nature-of-math, “pointless exercise” of Knowing. What other (allegedly) respected actor would ever find profundity in Bruckheimer’s exhausting method of storytelling? That’s Crazy Cage for you.
Ultimately, Nic Cage is an abomination, a monster, among actors. Anyone who can rake in over $50 million last year yet still go bankrupt doesn’t live in the same world as we do. Quite simply, the man possesses no bloody concept of reality. Naturally, Nic chose to sue his financial advisor for leading him “down a path toward financial ruin,” which I suppose negates any sense of personal responsibility for purchasing yachts, a private jet, and a total of fifteen palatial estates around the globe. And, in a few decades, when Nic realizes the negative net totality of his cinematic legacy, he won’t blame himself for an endless series of bad script decisions and a jazz-based acting method. Instead, he’ll blame Hollywood for letting him get away with it for so long and audiences for continuing to buy tickets for all those horrific movies. Or maybe he’ll even blame Miles Davis for winking at him.
Prognosis: Nicolas Cage shows no indication of ever regularly appearing in halfway decent movie. Further, Ghost Rider 2 and National Treasure 3 are in the works. Need I say more?
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.