05 March 2024

Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage (1964) is an American film actor and producer, who often plays eccentric wisecracking characters. His breakthrough came at the end of the 1980s with the Oscar-winning comedy Moonstruck (1988) and David Lynch's Wild at Heart (1990), which was awarded Best Film at the Cannes Film Festival. Cage won the Oscar for Best Actor with Leaving Las Vegas (1995). The action films The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), Face/Off (1997) and Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) gave him four of his biggest box-office successes in the years that followed. He received another Oscar nomination for his performance as twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002).

Nicolas Cage
British postcard by Pyramid, no. PC 8340.

Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart (1990)
French postcard by Sonis, no. C. 146. Photo: BAC Films. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990).

A passion for method acting

Nicolas Kim Coppola was born in Long Beach, California, in 1964. He was the son of comparative literature professor August Coppola and dancer and choreographer Joy Vogelsang. His grandfather is the composer Carmine Coppola and his father is the brother of director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire. His mother suffered from severe depression, which also led to hospitalisation. His parents divorced in 1976, but Nicolas always connected with his mother.

Nic was interested in the film business from an early age. He took professional acting lessons at the age of 15. Two years later, he dropped out of high school to concentrate on his career. Nicolas had a small role in his film debut Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982), starring Sean Penn and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Most of his part was cut, dashing his hopes and leading to a job selling popcorn at the Fairfax Theater, thinking that would be the only route to a movie career.

A job reading lines with actors auditioning for Uncle Francis' Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983) landed him a role in that film. He changed his name to avoid taking advantage of his uncle's success and being accused of nepotism. He chose the name 'Cage' after comic book hero Luke Cage and the avant-garde artist John Cage.

The same year, he broke through with a lead role as a punk rocker in the comedy Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge, 1983). Many films followed. For his role in Birdy (Alan Parker, 1984) with Matthew Modine, he had a tooth extracted without anaesthetic to immerse himself in his role. His passion for method acting reached a personal limit when he smashed a street vendor's remote-control car to achieve the sense of rage needed for his gangster character in The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984).

In 1987, he starred in two of the most successful films of that year, proving his status as a major actor. In the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona (Joel Coen, 1987), he played a dim-witted crook with a heart of gold who wants to start a family with police agent Holly Hunter. In Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987), he plays the man Cher falls in love with. The latter film earned him many female admirers and a Golden Globe nomination.

Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart (1990)
French postcard by Sonis, no. C. 146. Photo: BAC Films. Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990).

Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in Wild at Heart (1990)
Vintage postcard, no. Z 1064. Image: British poster for Wild at Heart (David Lynch, 1990) with Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. Caption: From the director of Blue Velvet.

A suicidal alcoholic who falls in love with a prostitute

In 1990, Nicolas Cage played a violent Elvis fan in David Lynch's Wild at Heart. Another important role was Leaving Las Vegas (1995), in which he plays a suicidal alcoholic who falls in love with a prostitute (played by Elisabeth Shue) in Las Vegas. For his role in Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage received the Academy Award for Best Actor.

After proving himself as a serious actor in 1995, a series of big-budget action films followed, such as The Rock (Michael Bay, 1996), Con Air (Simon West, 1996) and Face/Off (John Woo, 1997) with John Travolta. He played an angel who fell in love with Meg Ryan in City of Angels (Brad Silberling, 1998) and returned to action films with Gone in 60 Seconds (Dominic Sena, 2000).

In the 21st century, he also started a new career, as a film producer. Among others, he produced The Life of David Gale (Alan Parker, 2003), with Kate Winslet and Kevin Spacey. He played a heavy double role in Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002) - both scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman and his (fictional) brother Donald. For this role, he received his second Oscar nomination.

In World Trade Center (Oliver Stone, 2006), he played Brigadier John McLoughlin who became trapped under the collapsed WTC for three days. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, 2012) was the sequel to the Marvel comic adaptation Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson, 2007). In recent years, Cage has been facing major financial problems. Despite receiving over $150 million in total fees throughout his career, he had run out of funds and owed $14 million in taxes due to his lavish lifestyle (including buying exotic properties) after the housing bubble burst. In 2009, he had to sell two of his houses and several cars and boats. In 2022, Cage stated that he had paid off his debts. He also pointed out in a '60 Minutes' interview that he never went bankrupt to avoid having to pay off the debt.

He earned renewed critical recognition for his starring roles in the action Horror film Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018), the drama Pig (Michael Sarnoski, 2021), the action comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Tom Gormican, 2022) and the comedy fantasy Dream Scenario (Kristoffer Borgli, 2023). Cage was married to actress Patricia Arquette (1995-2001), Lisa Marie Presley (2002-2004), Alice Kim (2004-2016) and make-up artist Erika Koike (2019), but this marriage was annulled the same year. Cage married Riko Shibata in 2021. He has three sons. His eldest son, with Christina Fulton, Weston Coppola Cage a.k.a. Wes Cage, is the singer and guitarist of the oriental metal band Arsh Anubis. In 2014, Nicolas became a grandfather at age 50 when Weston welcomed a son, Lucian Augustus Coppola Cage. Alice Kim gave birth to Cage's second son Kal-El (2005), named after the Kryptonian name of Superman. Cage is a confessed comic book fan.

Nicolas Cage
American postcard by Fotofolio, no. F 528. Photo: Greg Gorman. Caption: Nicolas Cage, Los Angeles, 1990. Proceeds from the sale of this card benefitted Make Love, Not Aids.

Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes (1998)
French postcard by Cart.com for Centre Pompidou for the 'Rétrospective intégrale Brian de Palma, 2002. Photo: Gaumont Buena Vista International. Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes (Brian De Palma, 1998).

Nicolas Cage in Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
British postcard by Boomerang Media. Photo: Touchstone Pictures. Nicolas Cage in Gone in Sixty Seconds (Brian De Palma, 2000). Caption: Ice cold hot wired.

Sources: Dan Hartung (IMDb), Wikipedia (Dutch, German and English) and IMDb.

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