A Caged Actor

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Nicolas Cage, the winner of Best Actor for his role as the self-destructive alcoholic Ben Sanderson in "Leaving Las Vegas," poses with his Oscar at the 68th annual Academy Awards 25 March at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. AFP PHOTO Kim KULISH (Photo credit should read KIM KULISH/AFP/Getty Images)

It may be hard to believe at this point in time—but there was a period when Nicolas Cage was one of Hollywood’s most interesting actors. His talent transitioned in the late ‘90s from thought-provoking films to large-scale blockbusters. While that transition made Cage a lot of money, his acting reputation took a major blow in the eyes of the movie industry.

The awkward presence, unexpected shifts in mood and odd dialogue patter were once some of Nicolas Cage’s greatest assets as an actor. Those quirks made him a different breed of Hollywood leading man. He wasn’t traditionally handsome and certainly didn’t have the typical presence of a movie star. He showcased his particular gifts in films like Raising Arizona, Moonstruck and Wild at Heart. In 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas—Cage gave arguably the performance of his career. His work in the movie landed him an Oscar for best actor. Vegas was a low budget project that dealt with a lot of complex characters and themes. Cage’s follow up project to Leaving Las Vegas surprised a lot of people in the industry at the time.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 16: Actor Nicolas Cage on June 16, 1990 parties at Bar One Nightclub in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Nicolas Cage appeared in 1996’s The Rock following his Oscar win for Vegas. The Rock was a big budget action movie that definitely was a change of pace for Cage at that time. The Rock was hugely successful and Cage followed up the film with two more high adrenaline films—Con Air and Face/Off. Those two projects were also popular and Cage seemed interested in starting a different type of career for himself. What made Cage unique in his early dramas he brought with him to the action genre. At first, especially in The Rock, Cage’s style was exciting to see in a new setting. But, as the action titles continued to roll into theaters year after year, the act became quite tired.

It’s hard to say why Nicolas Cage fell so madly in love with the big films. The money and mainstream exposure obviously could have had a lot to do with it. The biggest disappointment regarding the current state of Cage’s career isn’t that he has spent the last 20 years or so as an action star, but that he has made so many bad action films. His choices often seem to be simply money based—that may be an inaccurate assumption—but it’s hard to figure out why else he would make a film like 2007’s Next (a film that has Cage playing a magician who can see into the future). There have been a few interesting films sprinkled into Cage’s filmography since he became primarily defined for his action performances. Projects like Adaptation., Lord of War and Joe showed that the actor is still immensely talented and that makes the majority of his film choices even more frustrating for his supporters.

There are a variety of reasons why Nicolas Cage’s current career is disappointing. To a younger generation of filmgoers he is looked at with almost no reverence. To those old enough to remember his heyday he is looked at as a disappointment. Nicolas Cage is still a greatly talented actor and for the sake of every film fan—hopefully he realizes that one day soon.

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