Nicolas Cage is one of Hollywood’s most striking enigmas. Equal parts serious actor, leading man, comedian and general madman, Cage has had his approach to acting called into question time and time again. While admittedly the Oscar winner has become a bit of a punch line as of late (see Nic Cage as Disney Princesses), one thing he can never be accused of is being lazy. Whatever role he takes, Cage commits to the fullest extent, always delighting his true-blue fans.
To celebrate Nic’s half-century, join us as we look back at 6 absurd roles made totally believable by Nicolas Cage’s mastery of his craft.
Vampire’s Kiss (1989)
Vampire’s Kiss is one of those many movies that people hear about but never actually see. Is it one of Nic Cage’s most over the top performances? Absolutely, but that’s not a bad thing. Cage plays Peter Loew, a literary agent with delusions of grandeur who believes he has been turned into a Vampire after a bat flies into his apartment and attacks him. Cage’s unsettling transformation from human to beast is incredible—he rants, raves, torments a pretty girl from the steno pool, and even eats a live cockroach (which Cage actually did 3 times to get the scene just right). Loew is a berserk character, but Cage shines as a man driven mad by his own delusions.
City of Angels (1998)
Inspired by Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, this film has Cage playing Seth, an angel who falls in love with Maggie, a mortal doctor (Meg Ryan) who has a penchant for pears. Cage’s performance enables the audience to gradually move past the ludicrous plot and to identify with Seth as he begins to experience human emotions and feelings of pain and pleasure. Cage skillfully conveys Seth’s childlike confusion, wonderment at and acceptance of his new form, and also his grief when tragedy inevitably strikes the new couple.
Without a doubt, Next features one of Nic Cage’s more questionable hairstyles, but his coiffe doesn’t detract from his performance. In this fairly forgettable movie, Cage plays Cris Johnson, a seedy Las Vegas magician who can see two minutes into his future. While the film’s preposterous premise weighs down the proceedings, Cage gamely plays the reluctant clairvoyant who is recruited by the FBI to help stop a potential nuclear attack. Using all his wiles, Cage truly sells his portrayal of a man burdened by a power that he hasn’t asked for but that he is willing to use to save the world and the woman he loves (a comely Jessica Biel).
Ghost Rider (2007)
You knew this was going to be on the list. A comic book enthusiast (to put it mildly), Cage jumped at the chance to play Johnny Blaze in a big screen version of Ghost Rider. After selling his soul to cure his father’s cancer, Blaze becomes a professional stunt rider by day and the bounty hunter of the damned by night. Cage’s transformation into a supernatural vigilante is truly sincere and his true fans are able to accept the absurdities and enjoy the show. Should you just read the comic book? Probably, but then you’d miss Cage’s fearless and fun performance as one of Marvel’s most beloved icons.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)
Many people were quick to hate on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it’s actually an acceptable family film starring Cage of all people. We were shocked too. Cage plays Balthazar Blake, a former apprentice of Merlin who is dedicated to keeping the evil sorceress Morgana le Fay imprisoned for the sake of humanity. While he battles his foes, he takes the bumbling NYU student Dave (a charming Jay Bauchel) under his tutelage. Cage tackles the role of a mentor and protector convincingly, blending the right amount of wisdom, humor, patience and sacrifice.
Cage brought much enthusiasm to the role of Big Daddy in Matthew Vaughn’s big-screen adaptation of the beloved comic, Kick-Ass. Channeling the spirit of Adam West’s Batman, Cage plays Big Daddy as a single parent with a penchant for vigilante justice, making him incredibly sympathetic…for someone who might be mad. Using his powers only for good, he trains his only daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Mortez Grave), to play with guns instead of Barbie dolls as the two take on evildoers. Kooky, dangerous and righteous in his own lunatic way, Cage’s Big Daddy is unforgettable.