Even though Nicolas Cage has become a meme of his former self, back in the day he made some pretty cool movies. Cage, with his ability to bring comedy, action and a certain strangeness to every role he’s ever played, has ensured some over-the-top memorable scenes and fans are just waiting for him to get a good role that he can really sink his teeth into again. Until that happens, here are some facts about Cage’s long list of feature films that add just a little extra dimension to one of the world’s most eccentric actors.
1. Gone In 60 Seconds
Gone In 60 Seconds gave us Angelina Jolie, a blonde-haired Nicolas Cage in the role of Memphis Raines and a plot resembling a watered-down Fast And The Furious movie. And who could forget Eleanor, the 1967 Ford Mustang GT500. Eleanor was originally supposed to be a Ford GT40 and was brought to life by production designer, Jeff Mann, hotrod builder, Steven Stanford and car designer, Chip Foose. The car was given a “Hollywood” makeover so as to not be overshadowed by the Ferrari, Jaguar and Lamborghini that also appear in the movie. What some may not know is that there were 12 of these made-over Mustangs built for the film, of which only 7 survived all of the stunts. The scene where Nicolas Cage flies through an intersection while driving Eleanor, was made possible by The Vincent Thomas Bridge in L.A. being closed for an entire day. It is to date the only time in L.A.’s history that the bridge was inaccessible to the public.
Romantic comedy, Moonstruck, almost didn’t star our favorite zany actor. When Nicolas Cage first read for the role of Ronny Cammareri, the filmmakers weren’t overly impressed with his interpretation of the character. However, Cher was having none of the negativity and told them she’d quit the movie if Cage wasn’t her co-star. This came after Cher almost turned down her own role, because she had done two movies in short succession and also couldn’t really see herself as Loretta Castorini. In addition to this she thought the movie would be a box-office failure. Fortunately it turned out to be a huge commercial success and was nominated for six Oscars of which Cher won one for Best Actress.
3. Vampire’s Kiss
It seems that Nic Cage’s ‘meme’ face may have been cemented as early as 1988 when the wonderfully weird comedy horror, Vampire’s Kiss, was released. Despite some of his facial expressions in this film having a forever-home on the internet, Cage has expressed that the role of Peter Loew has been one of his favorites. He has also claimed that the deleted scenes represented some of his best work. Cage got into an altercation with director, Robert Bierman, over the bat used for the apartment scene. Cage apparently wanted nothing to do with the fake bat created by a special effects expert and instead insisted that his assistant traipse around Central Park to capture a real bat. So insistent was Cage that Bierman eventually told him he would die if a real bat bit him, which resulted in Cage reluctantly accepting the fake bat. As if that wasn’t weird enough, Cage also had no qualms about chewing on a live cockroach while filming another scene for the movie.
It’s impossible to think of Face/Off without picturing the creepy animatronic bodies used to portray Nic Cage and John Travolta as they were literally getting their faces peeled off. Or to forget Cage’s crazed expression as he joins a choir for a few seconds, dressed as a priest.
In this wacky movie, Castor Troy, portrayed by Cage, sports two golden guns with dragons carved into the handles. These guns were Cage’s idea since he was born in 1964 which was the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
Also, since CGI was not yet as widely used as it is today, the action scenes were mostly real. One of these include the scene where Troy crashes a plane into a hangar. This was shot using 13 different camera angles to ensure a perfect scene.
And did you know the magnetic boots worn by Sean Archer, portrayed by Travolta, are the same as those worn by the Goombas in the Super Mario Bros movie?
5. Raising Arizona
Raising Arizona was another of Nicolas Cage’s very early hit movies. Released in 1987, this comedy is pure entertainment from start to finish. He wasn’t, however, allowed to fully let his freak shine through. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced and directed the film and forbade Cage to ad-lib his scenes or completely be his usual unusual self. This caused the relationship between Cage and the Coen brothers to become strained. On the other hand, John Goodman, who also starred in the film, is believed to have had a very good relationship with the brothers.
But Joel and Ethan had bigger problems to contend with after the film’s release, as there was an outcry over their depiction of the state of Arizona. Many accused the brothers of portraying Arizona as having ‘hick’ citizens with terrible fashion sense. Things got so heated that Joel Coen eventually released a statement in defense of the film. This did little to quell the wide-spread ire, though.
6. Leaving Las Vegas
Proving that Nicolas Cage really is (or was) a terrific actor, he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1996 for his role in the movie Leaving Las Vegas, beating out Anthony Hopkins and Sean Penn. Cage’s heartbreaking performance centered around his character, Ben Sanderson, moving to Las Vegas with a plan to drink himself to death after losing his family and job.
The tragedy of the film started even before a single scene was shot, when the author of the novel on which the movie was based, killed himself. He was only 33 years old. Coincidentally, Cage wore the same watch and drove the same model BMW as O’Brien and only realized this when the late author’s parents commented on it.
7. Con Air
Perhaps the most memorable thing about Con Air is Nic Cage’s very apparent Southern accent and his long greasy hair. Or maybe it is Steve Buschemi’s creepy portrayal of Garland Greene who sang Whole World In His Hands with a little girl everyone was certain would end up dead. Both Steve Buschemi and John Cusack’s parts were written exclusively for them but John Cusack ended up hating the film and refused to grant interviews on it.
Some would agree that for the most part, Con Air is fairly cheesy with an even cheesier dialogue (“put the bunny back in the box”). But what some may not know is that it was nominated for 2 Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Sound. No one was surprised however, when the movie lost out to fan-favorite blockbuster: Titanic. Also, the bunny scene as mentioned above, was dreamed up by Cage himself who wanted the scene to be symbolic of the pain and loss his character had suffered.
8. It Could Happen To You
While it is fairly well known that the movie, It Could Happen To You, was based on a real life event, the only part that is actually true is the waitress being given millions by a cop after he won the lottery. The two people that make up the true story, were never an item and each married another person. Robert Cunningham shared a $6 million Lotto prize with Phyllis Penzo after they bought a lottery ticket together in lieu of a tip.
They each picked 3 numbers and after winning, Penzo bought a house, a car each for her daughter and husband and did some travelling. Cunningham kept his job and only retired in 2018 after 38 years on the force. He bought a house with his millions and is now living out his retirement with his wife and two sisters-in-law.
9. Matchstick Men
Matchstick Men is one of Nicolas Cage’s best movies. In it he truly shines in the role of Roy Waller, an OCD and Tourette Syndrome-afflicted con artist with a slight leaning towards agoraphobia. Despite the fact that the movie is good, it pretty much flopped at the box office with very low profit margins.
In the film, Alison Lohman portrayed a 14-year-old girl (Angela) when in real life she was already 23 years old. She arrived for her audition dressed as a 14-year-old and even the producer could not tell that she was a lot older than she looked. Angela pulling off the ultimate con towards the end of the film and leaving Waller penniless after robbing him, was the twist no-one saw coming. Some who were involved with the filming believed this was a too harsh and negative twist, but Ridley Scott fought to keep the scene in the movie.
10. Ghost Rider
It was almost inevitable that Nicolas Cage would eventually play the starring role in the Ghost Rider movies based on a Marvel Comics character of the same name. The first Ghost Rider film was a huge success, scoring $115 million in the North American box office alone. Sadly, the sequel was terrible and panned by critics and fans.
When talks between Marvel and Hollywood were initiated in 1992 regarding the licensing of various Marvel characters, the idea of a cinematic adaptation of Ghost Rider was floated. Two efforts to get a movie made failed, with the second attempt including Johnny Depp as the lead before the project fell apart.
When Cage was finally cast in the role, he almost dropped out of the Ghost Rider project after the director walked away and Cage was offered a role in Hellblazer. However, the writer insisted on Sting for the Hellblazer role and Cage ended up going back to Ghost Rider. Sting did not play any role in Hellblazer after all, and Keanu Reeves was cast in the lead role. The movie was renamed Constantine.
During an interview about Ghost Rider, Cage said that his performance was inspired by his pet snake. Apparently, the snake would turn its back on him and sway back and forth which inspired Cage to spin around and leap at his victims in the movie.