Nicolas Cage has a formidable reputation, which is unsurprising given that he has been performing onscreen since 1981, but that was long before the internet got hold of him and his work. Now, in the fourth decade of a distinguished career, the Academy Award winner and his back catalogue are the inspiration for a range of ‘memes’ based on everything from his hair, to his tendency to deliver performances that seem to be somewhat off-the-wall.
He may not have enjoyed much box office success in recent years, but Nicolas Cage has a very devoted fan base that have a particular appreciation for projects and scenes in which he has a chance to go ‘Full Cage.’ This usually involves making some scary faces – often with wide eyes and a ghoulish grin – shouting very loudly, and gesticulating wildly. There may be screaming involved, and another person is very often the focus of his menace. Interestingly, a ‘Full Cage’ performance rarely fits in with a comedic project, because the actor creates such an intense persona.
He does ‘relatively buttoned-down’ well, as seen in films such as Honeymoon In Vegas, It Could Happen To You, Guarding Tess, City Of Angels, The Family Man, and The Weather Man. He is also more than capable of filling out an action role, as seen in The Rock, Con Air, Gone In Sixty Seconds, National Treasure and Drive Angry. He staked his claim on the comic-book genre with Ghost Rider, and makes well-crafted, critically-acclaimed, award-baiting performances seem effortless, in films such as Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, and Joe.
But, the most brilliant of Nicolas Cage’s performances are not the quiet, measured, nuanced roles, but rather those in which the actor specifically pushes the boundaries of expectation and delivers something completely unexpected. Quite why these are the most enjoyable is open to interpretation. Perhaps it is because his behaviour onscreen is so outlandish and outrageous that it is refreshing to watch real dramatic exploration, instead of pre-packaged, market tested blandness. Perhaps it is because Cage unleashes the kind of energy that audiences wish they could release in their every day lives. Either way, the actor never disappoints when cast in a role that provides an opportunity for off-the-wall antics – as these five examples demonstrate.