ACCORDING to Movie Web in an article published almost exactly a year ago, “Nicolas Cage used to be one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. But due to a slew of bad decisions and unnecessary expenses, Cage found himself debt-stricken and stepped away from the limelight. Since then, he has mostly starred in indie films. But Cage has paid off all his debts now while also gaining a cult following.”
I would go far as to say he’s a living legend. There cannot be a person on this planet who doesn’t know who he is, or has never heard of any of his movies. Except maybe that tribe where they kill anyone who tries to come onto their island. Cage is in theatres now with Renfield and has five further movies in post-production. What Movie Web says is still true though; there were years of shocking films and the glory days of the late ’90s and early 2000s seem very far away (because they are). But with Renfield – because Dracula movies will never get old – and 2022’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Cage is staging a comeback.
The Unbearable Weight is essentially that story. Cage plays a barely fictionalised version of himself, and good for him for being able to have a laugh at his own expense. The movie is art imitating art imitating life, and it’s so much fun (and funny) and tongue in cheek clever. Sweet, even. It’s on Showmax, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (and damn, he’s looking mighty fine for 60 years old). Here’s the PR by Vianne Venter.
In the movie, “Nick Cage” is a fictionalised version of the star, imagined as a once-highly respected actor who has fallen on hard times and is craving a return to box office glory and prestige. But his waning career is only one of his problems. The faux Cage’s megalomania has poisoned his relationships with his ex-wife Olivia (Emmy nominee Sharon Horgan from Bad Sisters, Catastrophe, and Together) and daughter Addy (Lily Sheen, the daughter of Kate Beckinsale and Michael Sheen), though he can’t see it.
Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictional Cage must accept a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a superfan (Critics Choice Super Award nominee Pedro Pascal from The Last of Us and The Mandalorian). But things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative (Emmy winner Tiffany Haddish from The Card Counter and Girls Trip) and forced to live up to his own legend, channelling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. With a career built for this very moment, the seminal, award-winning actor must take on the role of a lifetime: Nicolas Cage.
As Cage himself puts it, “This is [filmmaker Tom Gormican]’s invented version of Nick Cage – a neurotic, high-anxiety version of Nick Cage… This film is a real head trip for me.”
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was nominated for the 2023 Critics Choice Award for Best Comedy Movie, as well as two 2023 Critics Choice Super Awards – for Best Action Movie and Best Actor in an Action Movie (Cage). The film has an 87% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus says, “Smart, funny, and wildly creative, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent presents Nicolas Cage in peak gonzo form – and he’s matched by Pedro Pascal’s scene-stealing performance.”
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a sincere, authentic, and hilarious love letter to a larger-than-life legend – as you know and love him … and as you’ve never seen him before. It’s the role he was born to play. But when Cage superfans Gormican and his co-writer Kevin Etten sat down to write a weird little script that would at once celebrate, send-up and fictionalise their favourite actor, they were taking a gamble. The screenplay began as a “leap of faith,” says Etten, as the project was written on spec, with their subject having no knowledge of the filmmakers’ plans.
It was a true labour of love, but Cage was initially reluctant to participate. “I had no interest in playing myself in a movie,” he remembers. “But then I received a very nice letter from Tom, and I read his script. The first act really terrified me, and by the time I got to acts two and three, I thought: Tom is taking us on an adventure that is really quite exciting.”
Gormican’s intriguing and off-kilter ideas drew Cage in. “I call Tom ‘The Mind,’” he says, “because the film really is his fantasy, culled from perceptions in the media and on the internet, as well as blips in my personal life that have gone public. Essentially, the film is an imagination based on Tom’s interpretation of what my life might be like.”
Cage, who won numerous awards on the festival circuit last year for his lead role in the critically acclaimed drama, Pig, already has a Best Actor Oscar under his belt for Leaving Las Vegas, as well as a nomination for Adaptation. He’s done romance, comedy, drama, avante-garde and horror – think City of Angels, Moonstruck, Raising Arizona, Lord of War, Wild at Heart, and Mandy – and wild action movies like Face/Off, Con Air, The Rock, National Treasure and Kick-Ass. He’s also the voice of Grug in the animated comedy in The Croods.
As Gormican says, “There are very few actors that can do every genre equally well, who can switch from comedy to drama – sometimes within the same project.”
But why imagine an alternative existence for this Hollywood legend? Gormican says Cage is more than an actor. “He’s become a cultural figure. As culture gets stranger and stranger and fashion choices get more outlandish, you can trace like a direct line back to the patron saint of strangeness, Nicolas Cage. Just seeing his face makes people happy. ”
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that there turned out to be another die-hard Cage fan among the film’s ensemble cast. “Much of why I became an actor has to do with Nicolas Cage,” says Pascal, a real-life fan who adds yet another level of meta to the movie by playing die-hard Cage fan, Javi (below).
Javi serves as a kind of stand-in for the filmmakers’ Cage obsessions – and our own. “Javi embodies all of our own fanboy love for Nick,” says Etten.
IndieWire calls The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, “one of the funniest movies of the year.” Empire Magazine says it’s “A big, silly, scrappy bundle of fun, packed with Cage-related Easter eggs and in-jokes, but also a whole lotta heart,” and Variety says the film “has a delirious good time poking fun at Nicolas Cage, celebrating everything that makes him Nicolas Cage — and, in the end, actually becoming a Nicolas Cage movie, which turns out to be both a cheesy thing and a special thing.”