What the Hell Happened to Nicolas Cage?

Nicolas Cage

It may seem strange to ask “What the hell happened to Nicolas Cage?”  He certainly isn’t missing.  He appears in several movies every year.  But the Oscar-winning actor has gone from being a box office draw to a national punchline who can’t say “no” to any movie.

What the hell happened?

Nicolas Cage is part of the Coppola clan.  Francis Ford Coppola is his uncle.  Talia Shire is his aunt and  Sofia Coppola and Jason Schwartzman are among his cousins.  To avoid the appearance of nepotism, he changed his last name from Coppola to Cage early in his career.  He based his name on Marvel superhero, Luke Cage aka Power Man.

Cage’s earliest role was as an uncredited extra in the Robert Redford film, Brubaker in 1980.  In 1981, Cage appeared with Crispin Glover in a youth-oriented TV show called Best of Times.  The show was not picked up.

cage - fast times

In 1982, Cage appeared opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn and Phoebe Cates in Amy Heckerling’s classic high school comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Cage was originally cast in the Judge Reinhold role.  But since he was still a minor and could not shoot at night, he was given a smaller role as one of Reinhold’s friends.  Fast Times was the only time Cage was credited as Nicolas Coppola in a film.

 cage - valley girl

In 1983, Cage had his first major role in the teen rom-com, Valley Girl.

Deborah Foreman starred as a valley girl who falls for a Hollywood “punk” played by Cage.  It was a very 80’s take on Romeo and Juliet directed by Martha Coolidge, a New York filmmaker who was recruited to Hollywood by Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Entertainment.

Coolidge spent three years researching a rock-and-roll love story for Zoetrope, but the project fell through.  Years later, a screen-writer brought her the script for Valley Girl because “it was about a girl” and there weren’t many female directors at the time.

Valley Girl had a miniscule budget and only two weeks of pre-production.  The producers gave Coolidge nearly free rein to make the film she wanted so long as she didn’t go over-budget and  included four scenes with naked breasts.

During casting, Coolidge says she rejected all of the male members of the Brat Pack. “All those ‘Brat Packers,’ or whatever, they came and I rejected all of them. I almost cast Judd Nelson but I got so tired of all those pretty boys that I walked over to the reject pile, found a picture of Nic Cage and said, ‘Find me people that look like this.'”

At the time, Cage was living out of his car.  But Valley Girl helped put him on the map.  It got positive reviews and was a hit at the box office.

cage - rubmle fish

Later that year, Cage appeared opposite Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke and Diane Lane in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish.

Coppola directed two films based on novels by author S. E. Hinton.  The first adaptation was The Outsiders which was also released in 1983.  Cage auditioned for Dillon’s role in The Outsiders, but he didn’t get it.  He was offered Emilio Estevez‘s role, but turned it down.

Instead, Cage was cast in his uncle’s less successful follow-up to The OutsidersRumble Fish was the more progressive of the two films.  It proved divisive to critics and received mostly negative reviews upon its release.  Over time, it has come to be more respected.  Rumble Fish flopped at the box office.

Next: Birdy and Peggy Sue Got Married


Posted on February 9, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 272 Comments.

  1. What roles saved/ruined an actor’s/actresses’ careers?

    Well, before National Treasure, Nicolas Cage was considered to be a pretty good actor. He’d won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, enjoyed a comfortable action hero star role in fun movies like The Rock and Con Air. He worked with Scorcese in Bringing Out the Dead and played a really great role as Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation.

    Then he makes National Treasure, which is a huge box office success, but critics didn’t think much of it. Suddenly he’s made the studio enough money that they let him do whatever he wants, and he’s pretty much set for life. Cue The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider, more National Treasure, and then the descent ends with him in movies like Season of the Witch, Left Behind, and the Croods.

    [–]AnalTyrant 17 points 10 months ago
    You also have to keep in mind that he got screwed over by his business manager several years ago, and lost a ton of money. That kind of forced him to start taking any role that came his way, in order to keep making money. That’s why he’s all over the place in the roles he takes, and the quality of the films he acts in.

    Every time I see a trailer for something he’s in I just think “what a shame that he’s been reduced to this.” Like you said, incredible talent in the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s with some great memorable roles (Raising Arizona is probably one of my favorite comedies) but he’s just been forced to do garbage now, just to get by.


  2. Nicolas Cage on WatchMojo’s Top 10 Celebrity Nerds


  3. Hey, Nic Cage and I have something in common: we once both worked for our uncles. Though being in “Rumble Fish” probably beats Mr. Lustre Care Wash, as fun as it was!


  4. Welcome to the Basement: Left Behind (2014)


  5. Nicolas Cage. No really. So it’s 1994 and Guarding Tess was his latest movie. Parts of it were filmed in Baltimore, where I lived, and they did a screening pre-release at the theater close to harbor. We had just finished Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and we see Nick with a bodyguard leave the Tess screening early. He was ranting about the audience and how they had no taste.

    We both were heading for the exit, and this theater had a weird parking garage, where it let you into the lobby for the theater but you couldn’t leave through that same door. You had to enter the garage from an outside. So I see Mr. Cage pulling on the door, making the same mistake that two dozen people make every day despite a large sign on the door saying NOT AN EXIT. Cursing and bitching.

    So I walk over to say the garage entrance is a few feet away right out the theater exit, and he spins around from the door and walks right into me. He screams at me to get out of his way, the bodyguard picks me up by the shoulders and flings me against the wall. No apology just roughed up for trying to help.

    TL;DR Nick Cage is a dick and his bodyguard threw me against a wall.


    • I saw that, though Nic cage was saving Vince Neil from making the situation worse. I heard he grabbed a woman by the hair and threw her down; I honestly don’t know what the deal was.


  6. 15 Actors In Desperate Need Of A Box Office Hit


    We always knew that Nicolas Cage was a mad genius, but we had no idea just how insane he was. Left Behind? Stolen? Seeking Justice (With Guy Pierce?!)? Season of the Witch? These are the types of films we’d expect from someone like Steven Seagal, not the star of Leaving Las Vegas and The Weather Man!

    If there’s one thing we can say about Cage, its that he’s managed to avoid typecasting. He’s a chameleon who treats all of his roles with equal respect, throwing himself headfirst into every single film in which he stars. Whether he’s Jerry Bruckheimer’s muse in films like Con Air, The Rock, and National Treasure, or he’s punching out strangers whilst wearing a bear costume in The Wicker Man, Nic Cage is a tremendous actor, no matter what role he’s playing, or how obviously terrible the movie might be.

    But that’s the thing about a wildcard like Cage: one can never count him out. His noteworthy turn as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass reminded us that, no matter how bizarre his career choices may be, Nicolas Cage is still one of the greatest actors of our time. There’s surely a method to his madness, but he’s the only one who knows what it all really means.


  7. Criminal Opened to today to bad reviews. The one smart move cage did turn it down . Costner accepted it. LOl i guess one mans trahs another man treasure


  8. Nicolas Cage’s Latest ‘National Treasure’ Sequel Takes Place on the USS Indianapolis

    You might not know this, but basically everything he makes is a National Treasure sequel. Big news: Nicolas Cage has a new movie coming out, and judging by its first trailer, released today, it’s yet another installment in the National Treasure franchise. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait a second, there are only two National Treasure movies and a potential third movie has been the subject of intense back-and-forth speculation and planning for almost ten years, so much so that all the rumors have their own considerably robust Wikipedia page,” you would be right. In the nine years since National Treasure: Book of Secrets was released, Cage has made an astonishing twenty-four movies, which is a number so high it should honestly be illegal.


  9. Movie Nights: Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

    He’s a vampire he’s a vampire he’s a vampire!


  10. Nostalgia Critic Real Thoughts On: The Ghost Rider Movies

    Can Doug and Rob really decide which one is worse? It’s a tough call. Is it Ghost Rider or Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance?


    • Why Marvel won’t give Ghost Rider a movie

      Nic Cage isn’t interested in coming back

      Even if the stars somehow aligned and Marvel did decide to tackle a third Ghost Rider film with Cage, the actor has indicated he’s not really all that keen to climb back on the motorcycle, given the chance. As he told Collider, “I’ve said what I have to say. I don’t want to say never…anything’s possible. But I doubt, highly, that I would be in a third installment of that.” It doesn’t get much more cut and dried than that. Cage certainly sounds like he’s done with the franchise at this point, and you’d imagine many Ghost Rider fans (at least those who are fans of the comics) aren’t complaining.


  11. It is funny lebeau people complain that some of their favorite actor never pick good films but when they make good films their so called fan avoid the film and it flopped. When cage makes quality flicks like bringing out dead ,matchstick men,weather man and bad lieutant those movies flop. Then when he makes films people deem bad like national treature ghost rider gone in 60 seconds knowing , the rock and con air those films make a lot of money yet people still criticize him for those roles. In a way it is catch 22 people complain their favourite actor never make quality films but when they do people do not see them. So in a way their is not pleasing movie audience.


  12. Nicolas Cage and Wife Alice Kim Separate After 11 Years of Marriage

    Nicolas Cage and wife Alice Kim have decided to part ways.

    The actor’s rep confirmed to E! News that the couple, who have been married for 11 years, separated back in January. The pair have a 10-year-old son together, Kal-el Coppola Cage.

    Cage and Kim’s whirlwind romance was one for the books. The movie star met Kim when she was a waitress at Los Angeles restaurant Kabuki back in February 2004, and ended up putting a ring on her finger two months later! The couple tied the knot at a ranch in northern California in July of that year.

    A few years back, Cage explained that his seemingly sporadic decision to wed Kim, who is 20 years his junior, was so she could travel with him to South Africa while he shot the 2005 film Lord of War.

    “You can connect the dots; And we did it because we loved each other,” he told The Guardian.

    “I made a very clear decision to marry out of my own zip code,” he said. “I mean, way out of my own zip code. I married into another culture, and it’s interesting because in Korea they call me the Son-in-Law.”

    This was Cage’s third marriage. The 52-year-old was previously married to actress Patricia Arquette from 1995 to 2001, and then briefly wed Lisa Marie Presley for roughly four months in 2002, however their divorce wasn’t finalized until 2004. Cage also has a 25-year-old son, Weston, from a former relationship with model Christina Fulton.

    People was first to report the story.


  13. 15 Actors Who Desperately Need A Hit

    Nicolas Cage

    Google “wasted potential” and you’ll probably find a gallery of Nicolas Cage images. Despite winning an Oscar and having a wealth of box office smashes behind him, Cage is mostly in the straight-to-video doldrums these days, churning out weirdly expensive thrillers that largely don’t seem to recoup their cost.

    His only big theatrical hits from the last five years are animated film The Croods (which wasn’t sold on him showing up) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance…which was terrible enough that it pretty much killed the franchise regardless.

    Quite why a third National Treasure film hasn’t materialized yet, considering that the first two grossed over $800 million combined, is truly baffling. Nevertheless, Cage is far too talented to continue wasting his skills on bargain bin garbage, so hopefully he’ll bounce back over the next few years.


  14. joanne joplin

    Practical writing – Incidentally , people have been needing a a form , I encountered a template document here


  15. 15 Craziest Nicolas Cage Performances Of All Time

    Nicolas Cage has put in some strange performances of the years, so let’s take a look at some of the weirdest, craziest decisions he’s ever made.


  16. nic cage cage career is similar to michael ciane. both actors balance oscar winning films with ridiculous films that became iconic flop. Both actors name became associated with bad films . Nic could make a comeback like caine did b y taking supporting roles in top notch films


    • In life, it’s usually said about someone what they can’t ____ themselves out of a paper bag. Well, in Nic Cage’s case, he can act his way out of a paper bag rather easily. It just depends if he’s still taking paychecks to recoup his finances. We know he’s capable of weightier roles, it just depends on if and when that happens.


  17. nic can balance pay check role and popcorn flicks. but you can agree the similarit between his career and michael caine


    • Oh, I agree with you, but the thing is I think Caine took hack projects because he was uninspired and it paid well (I can’t argue with someone wanting to get paid anyway), whereas Nic Cage kinda has to. I mean, after that Jaws 4 nonsense, Caine went and did “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, which I think is a pretty cool film (Hey, I actually like 1986’s box office & critical bomb “Half Moon Street” too, even though it misses the mark, but I don’t think as badly as it was reported).
      Sure, Nic Cage could balance out his current filmography,, but who knows if he will, since a lot of his choices are on the edge, since he’s kind of on the edge to begin with (which probably lead to his money troubles). Well, some people are on the edge, and they like it there, I guess.


  18. caine grew up poor so that explains tkaing big pay checks he can. cage has always preferred off beat roles anyways .crorods 2 is coming out next year so that give him chance to attach his name to a hit


    • I mentioned “Half Moon Street” in my earlier message, but I forgot that Caine was in 5 films that were released in 1986 (which included a supporting oscar win for “Hanna and her Sisters” and a film I find interesting, “Mona Lisa”, which also starred Bob Hoskins & Cathy Tyson, and directed by Neil Jordan).


  19. I am sure caine was given a lot of flack for his choice of roles in heyday like cag e


    • Roger Ebert mentioned that Caine was in some of the worst films of the last 20 years in his 1986 review of “Half Moon Street” (which he gave 3 stars to; another great review by Ebert), but also said that he remained untouched by it due to his unshakable self-confidence and quiet good humor (yeah, that sounds about right).


  20. Caine has a hit film for every decade. I would say he had more hits then cage. caine is not afraid to joke about his flops. before cider house rules caine career was in the dumps though. After winning his 1st oscar cider house his first hit in 13 years


  21. had this site has been made in early 90s I am sure ciane would had a blog for him


  22. Nicolas Cage – A brief look at his career and the three upcoming films ‘In Army of One’, ‘Men of Courage’, and ‘Dog Eat Dog’


  23. Good Bad Flicks: Drive Angry (2011)


  24. 10 Actors Who Suffered The Most In 2016

    Nicolas Cage

    Nic Cage should be due for a comeback any day now, but 2016 did remarkably little to further that cause. He was in five (?!) in 2016 alone, four of which went straight to DVD. The only theatrical release – Snowden – was one of the year’s biggest bombs, and he only had a couple of scenes in it.

    Indianapolis: Men Of Courage somehow cost $40 million to produce, and earned less than a million back, in addition to a whole lot of terrible reviews. He made two crime movies, one called The Trust with Elijah Wood and the other being Dog Eat Dog with Willem Dafoe. Both movies actually got a few decent notices, but they didn’t cause Cage’s agent to get flooded with offers either.

    Finally, there was Army Of One, a true-life comedy where he plays a man who tried to track down Osama Bin Laden. It’s a movie where Russell Brand also appears as God, which should tell you all you need to know about the quality of the humor.


  25. Cage should take juicy supporting roles. a villian in superhero flick


  26. I came across this review of “The Wicker Man” that I cut out of The Buffalo News entertainment section back in the day, which was written by critic Jeff Simon, Here’s what Simon said:

    THE WICKER MAN. Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, and Leelee Sobieski in Neil LaBute’s remake of near-classic cult horror thriller about neo-pagans on an isolated island. “A creepy anddisturbing thriller that falls apart at exactly the point where the original is so strong- a finale whose apocalyptic imagery burns in your brain. In this one, it just snaps, crackles, pop and sputters. LaBute changed the isolated community to a goddess-worshipping matriarchy which caused all sorts of misgivings but he’s more a misanthrope than a misogynist. It may be a failure as a remake but it’s an honorable one, with Cage doing some of the subtlest work of his life in the first half”. 97 minutes (Rated PG-13 for scares and intensity) **1/2 (Jeff Simon)

    I posted this because Simon gave it a respectable 2 1/2 stars, and actually thought it was pretty good till the end. I GUESS Nic Cage was subtle in the beginning of the film here, but all I know is that later he wasn’t just off the chain, he ripped the post that was attached to the chain right off.


  27. Nicolas Cage is wondering whether the role of Ronald Reagan would damage his career


  28. tv might be a good fit for cage. a criminal mind like show.i could see himplaying a detective. or even a cable sitcom similar to episode mocking his real life persona


  29. he got a razie nom his career is sinking even stallone is oding better then him


  30. Dear movie bad guys: Please stop robbing banks near Nicolas Cage


  31. 2016: The Year in Cage

    We’re already almost a full month into 2017, and as we get dragged kicking and screaming into the future, there are probably a lot of people who don’t want to look back on 2016. It’s understandable. A lot of talented, influential people died last year, we got a trailer for a Cloverfield movie that turned out to not be a Cloverfield movie at all, and then there’s that whole current state of America thing. But, in all that mess, there were a lot of things people missed. Unemployment dropped to its lowest rate since Bush, and Nicolas Cage starred in his highest number of movies in one year since 2011. Unleashed upon us were two idiosyncratic crime stories, two historical biopics, and one, well, Army of One.


    • Off the topic of film for a second, I just think unemployment (or as a friend calls it, unenjoyment) numbers are a little sketchy, due to people losing their benefits or being off the grid. I guess things are better, but numbers can lie.


  32. PICTURED: Nicolas Cage’s son Weston, 26, arrested for DUI after crashing car into tree following police chase


  33. It’s Cage versus Travolta in the sublime overacting Olympics of Face/Off


  34. Top 5 Best Nicolas Cage Performances


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