Nicolas Cage is having a hard time of late. Staring in a line of critically and commercially unsuccessful features, such as this month’s Trespass and Justice, some are declaring this the end of his career. This, however, is totally untrue. Because, in Nicolas Cage, we have one of the greatest actors in a generation and a talent such as his cannot be suppressed.
Now, this is quite a claim. There are many who see him as an actor who will take any job and merely gets lucky with the roles that have worked. There are those who see him as a sell out after he turned his back on the quirky, character driven roles he made his name in. Indeed, even Sean Penn claimed in 1999 that he was “no longer an actor”. But these are the complaints of critics who do not understand him.
Despite garnering (weak) comparisons to Klaus Kinski due to his marvellous turn in Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, Cage is unlike any actor we have seen. A better comparison would be to Bob Dylan. A confused artist himself, Dylan has gone through his career writing the music he wants to write. From turning his back on the folk scene to write rock n roll, to changing his style from rock to gospel and to releasing a cover album of Christmas songs, Dylan has changed the style of his music numerous times. The same can be said of Nicolas Cage.
Making his name in films such as the Coen Brother’s classic Raising Arizona or the madcap Vampire’s Kiss, after his 1995 Oscar win for his searing performance in Leaving Las Vegas, Cage changed his direction. He went on to star in a trio of action classics, The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off, which sent him straight on to the A-list. He started making Hollywood films, films he had never made before. He turned in a magnificent performance in Adaptation, and then soon starred in family film National Treasure. These erratic choices have allowed him over the years to pick and choose whichever films he wants: The Wicker Man, World Trade Centre, Astro Boy, Kick-Ass. He continues this trend to this day.
This idea of making films that he enjoys is the sign of an actor not wishing to be typecast. For there is no genre Cage has not attempted. Whether it be comedy, action, romance or even erotica, Cage has done it all. He has worked with Scorsese, Coppola and Herzog. He has traded quips with Connery and eaten live cockroaches voluntarily on camera. His scope is amazing.
Which other Hollywood actor can boast a CV such as Cage’s? No one. He is by far the most interesting and eclectic actor working today, and deserves none of the negativity aimed towards him. Sure, he has been in some stinkers. But will he be remembered for Ghost Rider or for Leaving Las Vegas? And remember, Al Pacino was in Ben Affleck’s Gigli. We all make bad choices.