The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Listen to this episode

S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Oh, I see. Right now I see. Charlotte greatest.

S2: People? No, I.

S1: What’s in the box.

S2: Yo, you’re blowing up.

S1: Damn, you old. Oh.

S3: Hi, I’m Dana Stevens, Slate’s movie critic, here with another Slate Spoiler special podcast. This week, I’m excited about the spoiler because we have some real expertise on the topic, and the topic is a complicated one. It is the actor Nick Cage. We’re going to be talking about the unbearable weight of massive talent, the new Nick Cage movie in which Nick Cage plays himself in various multiple versions. And it’s a kind of a buddy comedy action thriller. But most of all, I would say it is a meditation on the career of this unique actor. And here to talk about Nick Cage is Keith Phipps, who is a film critic, the co-editor of the newsletter The Reveal and a writer for Here and There. Can you name some of the places you’ve been publishing lately, Keith?

Advertisement

S1: Oh, sure. I you can read me a lot at GQ, The Ringer, TV Guide and Vulture. Those are my main places. But, you know, I’m elsewhere, too.

S3: But most of all, you’re here right now because you’re the author of a new book called Age of Cage Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career. And as we were discussing a moment ago, before the mics were on, this couldn’t be better timed. The release of the unbearable weight of Massive Talent. Given that it’s a film all about the self-reflexive ity of Nic Cage and this is part of or a large part, I think, of what your book is trying to understand.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, absolutely. And a kind of I made the film a little bit wearily, too, because because like, you know what? If we come to different conclusions, what if they have a totally different take? And what if it’s bad? So but, you know, we’ll get into that. I, you know, I’ll tip my head. I enjoyed the film. So that was a relief actually watching it a couple of weeks ago at the Wisconsin Film Festival.

S3: That was actually the first thing I was going to ask because since this is a spoiler special, the very first thing I like to ask is good or bad. Like, I don’t want to make people wait for that delivery of that verdict because then we can really get into the weeds on the movie itself. So you did like massive talent.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: I did.

S3: I was maybe a little disappointed by this movie, even though I enjoyed large stretches of it. And that’s just simply because it’s such a rich idea to have Nick Cage play himself. It’s something, as we’ll talk about, that he’s already done throughout his career and is maybe in a way always doing. And I feel like the conceptual richness of this movie’s premise was never quite fully explored. But we’ll get into all that.

S1: I think what you’re saying is totally fair because I think there’s a ceiling on this film’s ambition, and that ceiling could have been a lot higher than it is. I almost feel like in some ways the buddy comedy ness of it takes over the meta elements of it because I find Cage and co-star Pedro Pascal are just super fun together. We’d like to see them in another movie, perhaps without this meta trapping. I did find the commentary pretty amusing as well, and it goes a little deeper in references and a little deeper thematically that I might have expected, too.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Well, let’s get into the premise first so we can we can set up exactly what we mean when we say this is a Nick Cage on Nick Cage movie in a different way than adaptation, which is, of course, the first movie that comes to mind in a different way than adaptation, the Spike Jones film, which is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Nick Cage playing a double role. This casts him as a sort of older and younger version of himself, among other sort of myriad avatars of Nick Cage that appears. Do you want to just give us that basic premise and set up the movie.

S1: The Nicolas Cage in the film maps on to the real Nicolas Cage in you know, there’s there’s there’s a heavy overlap there, but certainly not a 100% overlap. But he’s this is a struggling actor who’s kind of at a downturn in his career, a little desperate to get a role that will put him back on the A-list to the degree that he you know, the film opens with a fairly well after a after a short intro setting up the plot. Elsewhere, it opens with him pleading for an unnamed director played by David Gordon Green for a part, you know, a big part in his new film. He’s somewhat estranged from his ex-wife and distant from his teenage daughter. He lives at what they don’t call it the Chateau Marmont, but basically it’s the Chateau Marmont. And he’s overspent and overextended and unhappy with the direction of his career, to the point where he is occasionally hard hit by visions of his younger, wilder self who is disappointed in the way that he’s turned out and wants him to return to his his you know, his sort of wilder roots, you know, more more carefree routes and take a chances, both in his personal life and his career.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Can I take a little time out before we get to the sort of main meat of the plot of the movie to ask about the younger Nick Cage, Nicky Cage, as he appears in this movie? Can you talk about what he looks like and just the scenes where he confronts his younger self?

S1: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely a circa 1990 Nicolas Cage, even circa 1990. It’s a very specific reference that I have to imagine was Cage’s own addition to the plot. Archer that’s in the script, rather it’s how he appeared on the talk show Wogan, which is a which was a much watched British talk show at the time. And if you watch this clip, if you go to YouTube and just look. Nicolas Cage, Wogan Hogan. It is a but a five minute clip of either someone losing their mind on television or putting on a very smart piece of performance art, or maybe both at the same time. I’m not sure who comes out in a leather jacket, does karate kicks, yells, screams at the audience in enthusiasm. At one point, he takes his shirt off, doesn’t he?

Advertisement

S3: Throws playing cards at the audience? Or is it cash that he’s throwing?

S1: It’s cash. I believe it’s been a while since I watch a clip. But yeah, it is just obviously an attention getting appearance, whatever the motivation or whatever the amount of performance involved in it. But that’s that is the guy it makes sense that that particular moment on the cage timeline at his most like sort of, you know, unhinged and happy to be, you know, the joker in the deck of of Hollywood would be the one who’s who’s haunting this older cage, who is a professional, who takes acting very seriously and wants to just kind of work and. That in some ways at least maps on pretty directly on to the cage as he presents himself in interviews. I cannot claim any insights into who Nicolas Cage is, what he actually thinks, but that certainly the caves you meet in profiles later in his career.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: You mean somebody who is torn between kind of action blockbuster roles and and more personal roles?

S1: No, somewhat. Someone who is so who’s rarely into acting, who just likes to keep working and wants to do interesting, interesting work. And as less wrapped up in the idea as he had early in his career of being a rebellious kind of punk figure in Hollywood.

S3: I mean, but there’s something about the cage as seen in this movie, which is spelled, by the way, with a K neck with a K to differentiate him from his real life and icy self. That seems like it throws back to an earlier decade of cage. And I wonder, as somebody who’s just literally written the book on it, what you think of this? I mean, this image of him as kind of a burnout who can’t find his place in Hollywood seems like something you would have said about the Nic cage of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice years, you know, from 2010 to, I don’t know, the late teens or so. Whereas I feel like right now, I mean, he just made this movie Pig. That’s really this very unusual choice. And he’s kind of riding high. I mean, this is not an accuracy quibble. Exactly. I’m just I’m just wondering where this movie is trying to locate the ever shifting figure of this particular celebrity.

Advertisement

S1: Yeah, I think it really speaks to the cage. I mean, pig is kind of but feels like the beginning of a comeback. And in some ways, this almost feels like it could be the end of a particular chapter where he was kind of lost in the VOD Redbox wilderness, cause I watched all those movies he made in the teens. There are, you know, it’s one after the other.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: He’s so prolific, right? The guy has made over 100 movies at this point in his life.

S1: And they’re heavily you know, the output has only ramped up over the years. I mean, he spent a lot of the teens doing these, you know, lower budget films that did not make it to theaters very often. And a lot of them are honestly more interesting and ambitious than you might think. Some of them are not. There’s work with some promising directors and work with, you know, Paul Schrader in a couple of films here. And, you know, I think insofar as he had, you know, I think the choices he made or he went for the most interesting projects he could during this time. But there were there’s a lot of just sort of drifting from film to film because it’s it’s a job. And I think that, you know, that’s the Nicolas Cage we kind of meet here, or at least that impression of that Nicolas Cage as as I imagine by the screenwriters more than the cage of the last, let’s just say, year, because I think I think Pig was a film that kind of reminded people that this was an actor of massive talent. To borrow the phrase for the title. Sure.

Advertisement

S3: Seems to me like it’s been a really long time since Nick Cage gave a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of his career or his choices, you know? And sometimes that has served him well and sometimes it’s served him ill. But the actor in this movie, the fictional Nick Cage, seems like someone who’s a little more caught up with concern with his reputation. He’s also deep in debt, which I think Cage is not anymore, but famously has been in the past. So, I mean, in an interesting way, it’s sort of mining a low point of the real life Nick Cage’s career and personal life in order to create a conflict for this fictional Nick Cage.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Right. It’s sort of like the public perception of who Nicolas Cage might be. But also I think it’s respectful in a way that you can kind of reclaim and reclaim some dignity about that public from that public perception of him. You know, he turned down the role several times. But I think, you know, I can see why he actually took it in the end, because he is as much as self-deprecating as as as he is in it and as as many, you know, sort of little jabs it takes at the somewhat, you know, the downturn in fortunes that he’s experienced. It is really respectful of him. And to circle back, presenting as someone who takes acting seriously, which is something that is runs throughout his career. I mean, if you watch his acceptance speech for the Oscars, for leaving Las Vegas, it’s really simple and heartfelt. You know, I know it’s not cool, but I just really love acting. And I do think that is at heart. You know, there’s something really true about that when it comes comes to cage himself.

S3: Yeah. I mean, I guess here’s where I could get a little bit into my critique of this movie, which has much more to do with it not going far enough and deep enough than with anything it does do. It’s it’s quite a fun romp, if a little bit shaggy toward the end. But the fact that, as you’re saying, it’s kind of mining. It’s mining this side of Nick Cage that is almost you know, we think of him as somebody who’s an ironic actor or a camp actor because he appears in so many over-the-top roles. But this part of him that’s very sincere and very hardworking, you know, has a really strong work ethic. As an actor, I feel like this movie leaves out some of the deepest wells of his neurosis and the things that really make him that the interesting figure of both public figure and. An on screen figure that he is, and that includes some stuff that you get into early in your book about his troubled relation to the Coppola family, which he is a member of. Right. He’s a nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. And his father, Coppola’s older brother, you know, was a hugely important figure in Coppola’s life. And, you know, he has, I think, a lot of or at least at the beginning of his career, it seems, had a lot of hesitancy about being identified as a Coppola, even though he worked several times for his his uncle directing him. And none of that gets folded into the movie. I mean, it’s I feel like this movie doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions, and maybe that was too painful for him to explore or he didn’t want that in the script. And obviously it shouldn’t be built only around, you know, those nepotism charges early in his career or anything like that. But I just feel like there’s so much more to Nicolas Cage that in his multiverse. Right. I mean, to use the terms of from another movie appeared in Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse in the Multiverse of Nick Cage. There’s so much more than is is dreamt up in the philosophy of this movie and that I found frustrating.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: That’s why you watch this movie. You have a laugh, you roll into the nearest bookstore, you buy my book and you. I know, I know what you mean, though. I do think there’s some of that in the Nicky Cage character, though, where, you know, this is someone who, you know, I cover this in the book. But like he was really uncomfortable with Moonstruck, you know, being a big hit and making him a heartthrob. The film comments right after that is Vampire’s Kiss, which is a, you know, a low budget horror film, dark comedy, which which contains some of his grandest gestures as a young actor, including infamously as a spoiler special, also known, you know as well that maybe a little bit eating a cockroach on camera.

S3: Which was his own kind of improv insistence. Right on doing that, right?

S1: Yeah. There was it was two takes to Subway. But but there’s a Los Angeles Times profile of him, as you know, at the height of Moonstruck, you know, popularity in early 1988, because it was kind of a slow burning hit. You know, it came out at the end of 87, and the expectations for it weren’t necessarily that high. And it just kept playing and playing and finding a bigger and bigger audience and making him more of a of a of a Hollywood star than he’d ever been before, despite being well known up to a certain level. And so the profile of him in the Los Angeles Times is the top of the page, is heaven looking, very dreamy, floppy haired, kind of a little tortured, you know, and the photomontages have a cockroach. So they’re really this is someone who was really kind of torn between, you know, working on Hollywood and this idea of himself as a rebellious I’ll try anything punk actor. So I think, you know, some of those neuroses, you know, while they’re not given very specific, you know, got into one specific detail, I think they’re kind of folded into that Mickey character.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: So to get back to the unbearable weight of massive talent for a minute, let us talk about Harvey, the character played by Pedro Pascal, who I think is every bit as important in making what works about this movie work as as Nick Cage’s honestly. And I mean, obviously it’s it’s a hard guy to play up against, especially when he’s playing all these versions of himself. But Pedro Pascal nearly steals the movie from him. It’s a wonderful character, and I wonder if you could talk about fandom. Nic Cage Super fandom, as expressed through the character of Harvey Gutierrez Yeah.

S1: Harvey Gutierrez is a character who’s a person whose vast, if sort of vaguely acquired wealth allows him to pursue a super fandom of Nicolas Cage to the point where he has at one point is discovered to like a shrine that includes things like a mannequin of cage holding the guns from face off and and other bits of cage arcana. And it’s just such a it could be such a creepy idea, but Pascal plays him is just so sweet and sincere and, you know, wholehearted in his appreciation of Cage’s career that it becomes a totally different dynamic at all. I mean, I mean, the cage within the film is disarmed by his, you know, warmth and honesty. And I think we are to watch it. So it becomes what could be a fairly unsettling story of obsession, becomes a really sweet story of two men bonding and becoming friends, you know, at a point where, you know, and I think, you know, other films to tackle as well. But I think, you know, at a certain point in your in your adulthood, it becomes hard to make new friends. And this becomes the story about that in some ways.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah, those are my favorite scenes by far of the movie are the scenes in the first third or so? I would say when they go from when these two men go from, you know, being in this odd sort of standoff where I mean, Nick Cage, fictional Nick Cage just assumes that this guy has does have an unhealthy obsession with him and is a creep and that, you know, he’s just doing a cynical cash grab job of attending this birthday party in Majorca at a fabulous house. And then in a couple of scenes, one, a drunken scene, I think their first night together and then later on a scene where they’re tripping on acid while unwisely driving on a narrow. A road on the side of a mountain that you see them really discovering each other. And as you say, you know, bonding and becoming close friends. And those moments are so sweet and endearing and the things that they bond over as well, many of which I think are drawn from Nick Cage’s own life, are extremely endearing. For example, their shared love of the German expressionist film, the cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

S1: Yeah. Apparently there is a deleted scene that is either part of the acid trip or some other part that pays direct homage to Dr. Caligari, which I hope surfaces in some way. But yeah, Cage has been talking about German expressionism as an early influence from the first interviews he’s given. I mean, it was something his, you know, sounds like his father basically gave him a crash course on classic world cinema at perhaps a too young age. But things like Caligari, enough for Art, made a deep impression on him, and you can see it in his art in quite a bit. I mean, it is I think he’s really one of the few actors of his generation to draw that heavily from expressionism. So it’s a neat thing for them to bond over that and, you know, being exposed to the wonders of Paddington two, they have his appreciation of that and coming to recognize that as a great movie. It is that that to me is a really nice moment as well.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Oh yeah. Then watching putting the two together is absolutely fantastic. And as long as we’re spoiling, it’s also it’s very sweet that that ends the movie. Right, because there’s this frame story about Nicolas Cage’s real life family, or rather his fictional character. His family played by Sharon Horgan as his ex-wife and Lily Sheen as his daughter, who are annoyed by his, you know, constant attempts to get them to watch German expressionist movies and, you know, bring them into his world. And he’s seen at the beginning as this real narcissist, right, in relation to his daughter. But then in the final scene, she manages to get him to bond with her over Paddington two. So you also see that the Harvey character has given something, right? Has given some sort of enrichment to the life of the Nick Cage character.

S1: In this kind of sense, that this is a friendship that will continue as well and kind of reinvigorated him creatively and some some fun ways, too.

S3: I also couldn’t resist the scene in which they tour, in which the Two Men tour the collection of Nick Cage memorabilia at Harvey’s mansion, which again, without, you know, without the right writing and acting for that scene, could have been a very creepy moment. But instead it plays with precisely that, that kind of creepiness and makes it somewhat endearing. I especially love when Nick Cage offers to buy the wax sculpture of himself. What movie is that from where he’s holding the two gold guns? Oh, of course. Of course. Castor. Troy. Right. But I just. I love the poorly made nature of that. That bad statue. It’s not exactly Madame Tussaud’s worthy.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Yeah, and I feel a little close because, like, I was looking around was like, I think I have some of those magazines. I think I bought those off eBay his first. I was like, Am I.

S3: Happy? That didn’t even occur to me. Of course he has a double. His double is, you know. So let’s talk a little bit about what I consider the weakest part of the movie, which is this action thriller plot that kind of takes over for the last almost half of the movie. I mean, I really felt like this movie started to lose it toward the end. And it was largely because those scenes just felt thrown together in order to provide some kind of conflict. So there’s this idea that the entire time that Nick Cage is visiting this mansion, these two are under tight CIA surveillance from this team, made up of two agents played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, who are mostly seen offsite, just kind of watching over security cameras as the action unfolds at the mansion. I found this a really weak subplot. And the idea that, you know, they thought Harvey was some sort of criminal mastermind. I mean, we know from the beginning that he can’t be. He’s just too sweet. As played by Pedro Pascal. It would be too cruel of a rug pull to the audience. So sure enough, it turns out that, you know, it’s actually one of his associates who is this terrible international criminal mastermind who’s kidnapped the daughter of what is it, the president of Catalonia.

S1: Does it matter? I believe so. But yes, that doesn’t matter.

S3: I mean, I guess I was talking about this with my co-host of the Slate Culture Gabfest this week, because it’s one of our topics on our show. And both of them pretty much unreservedly loved the movie and thought that I was being a crank and oppressed because I wanted this. I just wanted more from it. I just felt like it promised us so much. It gave us so much in that friendship, in those two performances. And it was just kind of weak that it felt like it had a really slapped on sort of screenwriting 101 action plot tacked on.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: It does kind of lampshade it I think it’s the closest it comes to you know, sometimes I think it plays like Adaptation Lite in some ways, but I think it’s close. That comes to paying direct homage to adaptation by talking about the third act. On the third act is different in regards to the screenplay. They’re there from Katie and then shifting into action mode, I did love seeing Cage in Make Up and this guy is getting to do like this, this, you know, character, you know, going undercover as another character which was, you know, not particularly convincing. Make up had a really big performance. I mean, you forget sometimes just how funny he can he can be. And I think this movie is a nice reminder of that. I felt like the weakest scene in the movie was the one where where he’s. Kind of being directed to investigate, you know, and keep, you know, actually drugging himself or whatever. It’s fine, whatever. But I like Haddish. I like Barinholtz in general. I feel that they’re a little wasted in this movie and the growth kind of disappear. I mean, I think Barinholtz his character dies and Haddish his character’s fate is ambiguous, but we don’t get anything wrapping that up either. I like fir is important as important they are and driving the plot that feels a little neglected in the end.

S3: Yeah, exactly. It’s not me criticizing their performances, but they don’t really have characters to explore. And yeah, very confusing. What happens to her at the end. To the extent that I thought maybe I had missed it, like did I look down at my notes and not see what the fate of Tiffany Haddish his character was?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: It feels like a scene missing kind of moment.

S3: Let’s stop our conversation about the unbearable weight of massive talent for just a minute for a word from our sponsor. All right, Keith, back to our conversation. So I feel like we’ve talked our way through enough of the storyline now that we can get into the bigger questions or lack of bigger questions, just sort of what does this movie leave you with as somebody who has just gone on, you know, I assume multiple year long journey through the 103 films of Nicolas Cage. I mean, one thing that struck me is that we’re not done assessing his career. You know, there are so many lists out right now because of this movie of, you know, the 40 greatest Nic Cage performances and the ten most iconic. You know, Nic Cage moments and things like that. And they’re all really fun to read and pursue, as is your book. But it’s all a work in progress, right? I mean, he’s 58 years old, but he is nowhere near slowing down. And it seems like he’s got a lot more stuff on his plate still for the future. So where are we in the midst of Nic Cage’s career and our response to it?

S1: I’m just really interested in seeing what happens next. I mean, it’ll be outside the scope of my book unless, you know, 40 years from now I write another one, I guess. But but I think he’s nicely positioned to kind of reenter the world of interesting work that people pay attention to. You know, we’ll see what happens. I mean, he’s doing his first proper Hollywood film right now. Renfield, when she plays Dracula, which which I’m very curious about. But I think also, you know, a few more independent films on the way that look pretty intriguing. But I mean, you know, you think about what’s next for him. I don’t know. You know, I you know, I think at the beginning of every decade of his career, it would have been impossible to predict what was going to come next. There are so many kind of sliding doors moments in his career when when if he had done, say, Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey, which was certainly a possibility that, you know, puts it in a whole different direction. Superman lives, if that had happened, which is if at a whole other direction. But I hope it’s you know, I hope what’s next is good, though, because I really do think that, you know, the one two punch of pig and on Broadway to message how it kind of you know serves as a reminder of those who have not been paying obsessive attention over the last couple of years, that he’s a really dynamic performer with a lot of range that and it brings something to him to a movie that not really anyone else can.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Since you mentioned Superman Lives, which is a project he was connected to that never came into being. I’m curious and it correct me if I’m wrong, but has he he’s never played a superhero or a super villain? Am I correct? I mean, for a comic book collector whose son is named Kal-El, the original name of Superman from his home planet, I just I’m rather baffled that he hasn’t been offered. Or maybe he’s constantly turning down, you know, those kind of Marvel DC roles that every actor of his stature seems to have taken at some point.

S1: How are you forgetting ghostwriter Dana?

S3: The flaming motorcycle skull super hero of our dreams?

S1: I don’t I don’t really care for either of those movies too much, but I think it was it’s not a bad superhero character for him to have taken on. And he’s got some interesting interpretations of it. But I don’t think those films are particularly interesting and they kind of arrive at a weird moment in superhero movies where past that first wave of excitement with the Spider-Man movies and X-Men movies and were before year before Iron Man. When that comes out, when the MCU kind of kicks things into a new phase, it just kind of, you know, like there’s a little bit of fatigue had already set in when he when he played ghostwriter and plus the film I don’t think is is great. What’s funny, though, is I went to my daughter’s fifth grade class to, you know, the teacher asked to come in and talk about what it is to put out a book. And I asked what Nicholas Cage films they knew and Ghostwriter was the one they knew most. So I feel like there’s a lot of there’s a generation of kids just lapping up every single possible Marvel offshoot. So, you know, to them, he is ghostwriter and to a lesser extent, drug crew. There are two. And he did actually play Superman very briefly in the teen Titans, go to the movies film, which which is a lot of fun in general. And of course, he’s he’s in Spider-Man into the Spider-Verse. But in terms of live action ghostwriter is his is it sequel are the only times he’s he’s done that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Do you know whether he’s been offered a lot of those roles and turned them down? Because it seems like for a supervillain, I mean, or a Bond villain, it just seems like he would be top of the list for those kinds of roles.

S1: Yeah, I don’t know. And also I should mention Kick-Ass, which he plays, which is kind of a, you know, Adam West, Batman homage and attitude, attitudinal, all superhero, dark comedy. But yeah, I don’t know. He doesn’t take on a lot of, you know, he likes to be the star of the film. And, you know, villains are rarely the star of the film. And so I don’t know specifically if he’s turned anything down, but I can’t imagine. I kind of have to imagine he’s chosen. You know, he would choose to enter that world very carefully, if at all.

S3: Okay. I think we maybe are done with this slate, but I think at worst, pleasant at best, you know, rollicking adventure, the unbearable weight of massive talent. It speaks a lot to the weirdness of Nick Cage’s career that this extremely weird premise is far from the strangest. He’s ever done. And I wonder and I was thinking about this in reading your book to you, if you would have any particular recommendations of lesser known cage movies. I mean, we all have these iconic images of, you know, the con airs and face offs and Wild at Hearts and these huge roles that he’s played in our minds. But he’s been in so many odd choices and, you know, things that people might not have heard about. Can you name two or three from the past, weirdly, but goody kind of Nick Cage roles and then also looking forward to the future besides Renfield, which we talked about, you know, a more mainstream big budget movie, some weird stuff that might be coming up in the future.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Sure. I mean, but I had a chance to screen a couple of cage movies at the Music Box Theater here in Chicago when my book came out. The first one that came to mind is thing I’d want to see on the big screen and played a crowd was Matchstick Man, which is the Ridley Scott film he did in 2003. That kind of fell through the cracks at the time. I mean, was it like a huge flop or anything, but also wasn’t a huge hit? And I don’t I hope I think it’s been a little bit rediscovered since then, but it’s just this meat he co-stars opposite Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman. He plays cage plays a con artist, not con man. He’s very specific about that. His character is who has some sort of combination of OCD and two rats that he struggles against in his work. And, you know, I think it’s a really good performance in that he starts with the humanity of this person and then adds on the mannerisms, whereas a lot of actors might’ve just gone with the mannerisms. First it’s got to meet Twisted, which was kind of fun to see with a crowd because not everyone knew what was coming. The another one I think the twins were kind of I thought my favorite cage films come from the 2000, but it was kind of like an undefined era for him. But I do. I really love the Werner Herzog film Brotherhood at Port of Call New Orleans, which I also one I think kind of fell through the cracks and was somewhat misrepresented by the trailers, which emphasize these really big expressionistic moments of performance when there’s actually a lot more in that film, which I find a really touching movie about, you know, whether or not someone can come back from a lifetime of really awful behavior, what it takes to redeem that, you know, what it takes to stop, you know, to to kind of turn your life around in addition to, you know, scenes of, like, ghosts, you know, breakdancing ghosts and other such big moments.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Hallucinated lizards, play.

S1: Lizards. Yeah, and so on and so forth. It is a singular, singular film, but one I enjoy a lot. And then I guess, you know, you have to have the stomach for it. Well, I was lucky for both of them, but I mean, the one that really I mean, I have to point out, Mandy, which was really one of the real sparks of inspiration for my book, you’re seeing that with a crowd and recognizing this was an actor who was doing something new and interesting after watching him all these years, he can still surprise me. So yeah, that’s definitely what I would recommend, which is this really, you know, how do you describe it? It’s it’s really artistically bold revenge slash horror film, but grounded in these really deep emotions. I mean, it is you know, it’s a violent film in which he takes on a whole cult of, you know, killer religious cult. But also I find a really touching movie about loss and and sadness.

S3: Not unlike pig, in a way. Mandy Right. I mean, with it with a woman in the place of the pig, but it’s the revenge thriller that is also about love and how, you know, this his desire for this gory revenge springs from his great love.

S1: Was a lot more ax fights than pig. And then the one he made right before that is a darkly comic horror film called Mom and Dad versus that one.

S3: Dana No, definitely not. Don’t even if I’ve heard of it, it.

S1: Got some attention at the time, but it’s directed by Brian Taylor, whose half of the Neveldine and Taylor team behind Crank and the second ghostwriter film. But it is a the premise of the film is that Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play parents who with with the community around them suddenly find themselves fighting the uncontrollable urge to kill their children. And, you know, it’s a wild, violent, you know, dark comic horror film. But in the middle of it, there’s this flashback in which both characters, but especially cages, lay out all the discontents of middle age, all their frustrations with parenthood, the things they all hate, the hate about getting older. And it is just really heartfelt. Confessional moment in the middle of this is what a very well done and you’re crazy violent comedy again not for all tastes, but if it sounds appealing, check it out.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah, that sounds very much to Nick Cage’s taste in that I feel like he likes to play the sort of dark fantasy angle of a lot of his characters, like what is the worst thing you could imagine? That’s the thing he’s kind of going to enact for you on the big screen. All right, Keith, I’m going to take another moment out for a word from our other sponsor. And then I want to go out on your recommendations for weird Nicolas Cage movies to come. All right. So, Keith, before I let you go to promote your wonderful book Out in the World, I know you’ve been talking about Nic Cage on every conceivable podcast, so I really appreciate you coming on mine. But I just wanted to get your recommendations for future Nic Cage movies to look out for that might go under people’s radar. Because as we’ve been saying, he does so many movies in so many genres that it’s kind of hard to keep up with the smaller ones.

S1: Yeah, I have no idea how big a deal these films will be when they come out and there’s there’s a few in the pipeline that, if nothing else, have some promising casting. There’s a film called called The Retirement Plan, which I honestly don’t know much about, but which reunites with Ron Perlman, his his co-star at a not very good film called The Season of the Witch. But, you know, I enjoy Ron Perlman. He has a pair of Westerns coming out called The Old Way and Butcher’s Crossing, which I’m curious about because, you know, Westerns, this is would be his first. And Butcher’s Crossing especially is based on an acclaimed novel that I’ve been I’ve been told by people who have read it is a great role for Nicolas Cage. So those are all I’m looking for. And of course, first Renfield, he plays Dracula. Come on. You just want to see Nicolas Cage play Dracula?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Who is Renfield in Renfield?

S1: Nicholas Hoult and the rest of the cast as Awkwafina. And Ben Schwartz. And Ben Schwartz especially. It seems like a would be a fun for all to see play opposite cage in some scenes.

S3: Oh, that is a fascinating cast and premise for a movie. Just the idea of centering a movie around Renfield, who’s always, you know, the guy who sort of slavery in the corner, not a not getting the spotlight. So when Renfield comes out, will you come back on and spoil that one with Mickey?

S1: Oh, I’ll come back and spoil anything you want me to.

S3: It’s been a total pleasure talking to you, Keith. You are the author of Age of Cage Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career. I hope if people were intrigued by our cage conversation that they will dig deep into the cage of verse by checking out your book. So thank you again so much for coming on to talk about the unbearable weight of massive talent with me.

S1: Absolutely.

S3: That does it for this Slate Spoiler special. You can subscribe to the Slate Spoiler special podcast feed in whatever podcast app you’re using. And if you like our show, you can read it and review it in the Apple Podcasts store or wherever you get your podcasts. And as always, if you have ideas for movies or TV shows you would like us to spoil. Or other feedback to share. You can send it to spoilers at Slate.com. Our producer is Jasmine Ellis. Alicia montgomery is the executive producer of podcasts at Slate for Keith Phipps. I’m Dana Stevens. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll talk to you again very soon.