How Nicolas Cage almost sank his career

Nicolas Cage’s “Longlegs” has already earned a rare honor: a 100 percent new rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even before its release in the United States.

Cage plays a sadistic serial killer pursued by FBI agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe). As Harker digs deeper into the case, she discovers disturbing connections that link her to the killer.

Set for release in the United States on July 12, critics are already praising “Longlegs” as the summer’s standout horror film, a “Satanic twist in The Silence of the Lambs.” Slashfilm praises it as a “masterpiece”, calling it “The scariest horror movie of 2024 that gets under your skin and may never leave.”

Similarly, Flickering Myth praises it as “the scariest movie of the decade” and an “experience of pure terror.”

While these praises should be taken with a generous helping of salt, Cage’s recent rise to the ranks of respectability has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s important to remember that, for years, Cage traded artistic integrity for a quick paycheck.

Let’s call it the Bruce Willis route.

Willis will be forever linked to John McClane, the hero of the “Die Hard” franchise. The first of the five films was (and remains) a pinnacle of action cinema, with Willis’ charisma and cool lighting up the screen.

After “Die Hard,” Willis embraced dramas like “In Country” and “Sunset,” along with comedies like “Look Who’s Talking.” Despite some missteps like “Norte” and “Hudson’s Hawk” Willis showed his versatility and maintained a degree of respectability.

However, just over a decade ago, long before he suffered from frontotemporal dementia, things started to go wrong. In 2013, Sylvester Stallone called Willis “greedy and lazy”, stating that it was a “sure formula for professional failure.”

According to credible reports, Stallone had offered Willis $3 million for three days of work on “The Expendables 3.” Willis, however, wanted an extra million.

Stallone, it seems, was prophetic. Willis went from being the highest-paid actor in Hollywood to being the object of ridicule.

Oscar nominee John Travolta followed a similar, regrettable path. He now stars almost exclusively in low-rent VOD titles where his flagging brand helps secure financing and promotional opportunities.

He deserves better.

Cage’s career, unlike that of Willis and Travolta, has been a rollercoaster, marked by spectacular successes and notable nadirs.

The 60-year-old has been through it all.


From a very young age, the Californian emerged as a multifaceted actor with a gift for giving intense performances. Movies like “Raising Arizona” “Leaving Las Vegas,” for which he won an Academy Award, and “Adaptation” propelled him to stardom.

However, despite critical praise and a devoted fan base, Cage’s financial problems in the mid-2000s forced him to take on a series of less prestigious roles. During this period, Cage’s career path followed the same path as that of Icarus.

He accepted film projects more out of necessity than choice, to deal with mounting financial obligations and legal challenges. The result? A series of regrettable efforts that failed to showcase his talent. These films ranged from action-packed thrillers to B-movie horror movies.

While some were moderately successful at the box office, they did little to bolster his reputation as a serious actor. Despite these setbacks, Cage’s commitment to his craft remained constant.

He continued to explore very different roles, sometimes in obscure independent films or unconventional projects that allowed him to experiment with his acting skills. And if there is something that Cage likes, it is experimentation.

He’s like the Frank Zappa of Hollywood.

It was in these lesser-known works that Cage began to rediscover his creative spark. The manic smile began to reappear. Fast forward to the last few years, and Cage has staged an impressive comeback.

Movies like “mandy” and “Pig”are a testament to his renewed artistic vigor. In “Mandy,” Cage gave a tour de force performance as a grieving man seeking revenge, showcasing his ability to combine raw emotion with raw intensity.

Both critics and audiences praised her performance. The actor was praised for the depth and authenticity he brought to the character.

Similarly, in “Pig,” arguably his best work in the last 20 years, Cage’s portrayal of a lonely truffle hunter searching for his beloved pig won widespread acclaim. The film allowed Cage to delve into themes of loss, identity and redemption. Once again, he demonstrated his versatility and his ability to sell a powerful narrative.

Beyond possessing true acting chops, Cage has other admirable qualities that separate him from the arrogant Hollywood flock.

Cage is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. Although Coppola played a crucial role in launching his career, Cage has made deliberate efforts to establish his own identity in Hollywood.

The actor has consistently tried to land roles based on his merits rather than depending on his family connection. In today’s world, where cronyism and nepotism reign, his determination to stand on his own two feet is admirable.

In addition to distancing himself from his uncle’s influence on the industry, Cage has maintained a private lifestyle. Unlike narcissistic celebrities who use social media for validation and virtue signaling, Cage avoids that exposure.

That underscores his focus on acting as an art form rather than a means to garner attention, likes, and fake love.

For Cage, acting is a deeply personal and artistic activity. Have you made mistakes? Yes, definitely; There are too many to mention.

However, his talent never waned: Cage has always been a formidable actor. Unlike Willis and Travolta, who fell into the artistic abyss, Cage was saved from the abyss.

And that is worthy of celebration.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations and has a strong interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. Follow him on Twitter @ghlionn.

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