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Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad? Your Guide to a Great Mystery of Our Time

Nicolas Cage: Good or Bad? Your Guide to a Great Mystery of Our Time

Pop quiz: Which of the following statements about actor Nicolas Cage is NOT true:

  1. He once woke up at 2 a.m. to find a naked man in his bedroom eating a Fudgsicle.
  2. He won $20,000 in a night’s roulette session and then gave the cash to an orphanage.
  3. He was stalked by a mime.
  4. In one movie, he played the lead role but never said a single word.
  5. He blew a $150 million fortune.

The answer is . . .

Actually, it’s a trick question. They’re all true!

Yup, Nic Cage has had an … interesting life and career.

A maddening puzzle

Cage presents a puzzle, both professionally and personally. 

Let’s start with the acting. 

Is Nicolas Cage a good or bad actor? It’s a question that has bedeviled the greatest minds of our age, much like the $1 million math problem that has stumped humankind for more than 160 years. 

The cult classic sitcom Community devoted an episode to the question “Nicolas Cage: good or bad?” In the show, the professor tells the class the question has no answer, but the character Abed determines to resolve the matter. The pursuit drives him to the point of madness.

You can’t blame Abed. Cage has won an Oscar for Best Actor (for Leaving Las Vegas), but he has also received multiple Worst Actor nominations at the Golden Raspberry Awards. 

He has starred in a slew of Hollywood blockbusters (The Rock, Gone in 60 Seconds, Con Air, Face/Off, National Treasure, and National Treasure: Book of Secrets), but he also appeared in a string of straight-to-video releases. “Nicolas Cage is the King of the Good Bad Movie,” bestselling author Shea Serrano declares.

Only Cage can star as a fictionalized version of himself in a film titled The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

The Godfather and Elvis

Cage, the man, contains multitudes. Born Nicolas Coppola, he comes from Hollywood royalty. He is the nephew of the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) and actress Talia Shire (Adrian in Rocky). Cage is also a cousin of director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) and actor Jason Schwartzman (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Grand Budapest Hotel).

For a time — 107 days, to be exact — Cage was married to another pop culture royal. He had a whirlwind relationship with Lisa Marie Presley (RIP), the only child of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Was it a coincidence that Cage played an Elvis obsessive in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart? Or that he appeared as an Elvis impersonator in Honeymoon in Vegas

As with all things Nic Cage, we may never know the answer.

Lisa Marie was not Cage’s first or only wife. In fact, he has been married five times (as of this writing, anyway). His first wife was a fellow actor, Patricia Arquette. Cage and Arquette appeared together in Martin Scorcese’s Bringing Out the Dead. After their divorce, Arquette won an Oscar and two Emmy Awards.

Oh, and did we mention that Arquette comes from still another entertainment family? Her grandfather was a TV personality; her father had a role in the 1970s TV series The Waltons; and her siblings — Rosanna, David and Alexis — were all actors. 

Maybe Cage grew tired of all these star-studded family trees. His three other wives have all been “civilians.” 

Fun facts about Cage

You’re probably wondering, But what about the really crazy stuff?

Okay, here are some more Nic Cage facts, in no particular order.

  • He named his son Kal-El. Yes, that’s Superman’s given name.
  • That $150 million fortune? He spent it on things like a dinosaur skull (he outbid Leonardo DiCaprio), two European castles, a private island, shrunken pygmy heads, a giant pyramid tomb in New Orleans and a Lamborghini that had belonged to the shah of Iran.
  • A “drunk and rowdy” Cage, wearing flip-flops and leopard-print pants, was kicked out of a high-end Las Vegas restaurant.
  • He once took over an airplane’s PA, pretending to be the pilot. As soon as the plane landed, police confronted him and his pal, Charlie Sheen (another scion of Hollywood!). Little did Cage know that Sheen was carrying cocaine. 
  • He spent $80,000 on a two-headed snake.
  • As for the naked Fudgsicle eater, Cage explained that he was the victim of a home invasion. The intruder didn’t get violent, but he did wear Cage’s leather jacket (and nothing else).
  • Oh, and the stalking mime: That happened when Cage was filming Bringing Out the Dead. He characterized his stalker as “silent, but maybe deadly.”

You make the call

Why do we care about Nicolas Cage? At the end of the day, it’s not because he has made puzzling financial decisions or is linked by blood or marriage to an astonishing array of popular entertainers. 

No, it’s because over the past 40 years he has put together a filmography like no other. He has appeared in more than 100 movies (which, amazingly, doesn’t even put him in the top 20 of all time). 

Are the movies all good? Far from it. But the list includes a remarkable number of acclaimed or at least entertaining films, from early favorites like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Raising Arizona to his recent Dracula vehicle Renfield.

Are Cage’s performances all good? Well, that takes us back to the “Nicolas Cage: good or bad actor?” conundrum.

Decide for yourself. Dip into Cage’s oeuvre. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to solve the unsolvable puzzle. 

Don’t miss the Nicolas Cage marathon on AMC on September 16. You can catch the hits Face/Off, Gone in 60 Seconds, Con Air, The Rock and Ghost Rider. Other Cage films available on Shudder/AMC+ include Color Out of Space, Mandy, and Prisoners of the Ghostland.

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