Nicolas Cage, b. Nicholas Kim Coppola, January 7, 1964.
Born the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, Nicolas Cage would change his last name to Cage when he decided to pursue an acting career. Knowing he would be accused of getting acting roles simply because he was the nephew of a renowed director, he chose the name "Cage" as a nod to musician John Cage. Why he also changed his first name to the version of Nicolas without an "h" is another story. It may have been a desire to give his name more character and take it out of the mainstream, but no one seems to know why that change was made.
Cage was born to August Coppola, a literature professor who happened to have a famous brother, and Joy Vogelsang, a dancer and choreographer. They would visit old Francis Ford during the summer, which opened Nick Cage to the world of cinema and drove him to pursue an interest in acting that began at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.
Cage was active in his high school drama club, but lost interest in high school during the eleventh grade. He opted to take the G.E.D. exam, passed it, and took his show on the road. His first professional role was as a surfer on the television series The Best of Times, which was short lived and barely a noticable cankersore in the history of television.
His first movie appearance was in 1982, a bit role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High which seemed to say that Cage was limiting himself to projects which contained the word "times" in the title. That would end with his first starring role, in the 1983 film Valley Girl. That would launch Nicolas Cage into a series of roles that would set up a long and memorable career.
Nicolas Cage would become one of those actors who seemed to be playing himself in his movies, taking a rather unconventional approach to romance, action and drama. Yet he would become well known for immersing himself in roles and turning himself into the character he needed to play. One story of his DeNiro-esque approach to acting involved having a tooth pulled without novocaine in order to better understand the pain felt by a wounded soldier in 1989's Birdy
Cage would build the foundation of his career in the 1980s, appearing in such films as Peggy Sue Got Married, Raising Arizona and Moonstruck. These memorable films would introduce us to the kind of off-beat characters that were not only unconventional, they were borderline insane. Cage's characters would continue to walk the thin line between genius and insanity because he had now put his stamp on a new variety of leading man, the Nicolas Cage leading man.
Cage's talents caught the eye of director David Lynch who cast him in 1990's Wild at Heart and it became a marriage made in heaven (or hell depending on your perspective). Playing ex-con Sailor Ripley, who has a strange Elvis fixation, the film would begin the long running Hollywood gag of making some connection between Elvis and Las Vegas in every possible Cage film from that point on. Note that his next two films were Honeymoon in Vegas and Leaving Las Vegas if you have any doubt.
Leaving Las Vegas was a darkly memorable turn for Nicolas Cage, taking him on a more broad sweeping swerve along the border of sanity than ever in the past. Cage was so interested in the project that he took far less money than he was being paid per film at the time. However, his role as an alcoholic purposely drinking himself to death won him an Academy Award for Best Actor.
"I'm a little shaky right now."
Nicolas Cage would then swerve in another direction. After many awards and accolades for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas he decided to become a big budget action star. He would choose three projects in this domain during the mid-1990s, starring in The Rock with Sean Connery, Con Air with John Malkovich and Face/Off with John Travolta. Each would have its own charm and he avoided the dangerous turn of copying formula success by making certain each project was a far different turn than the last. He avoided the lure both sequels and carbon copies most admirably.
In 1998, Cage took another weird turn as an angel who falls in love with a human woman in City of Angels (a film that for me personally was the biggest disappoinment in my movie watching career as I expected so much more). Cage seemed to be ending the millennium with a whimper instead of a bang, as he would follow City of Angels with projects like Snake Eyes, 8MM and Martin Scorsese's Bringing out the Dead, none of which really lead to the kind of critical and popular success Cage was accustomed to basking in. This may have somehow been related to the stories that Cage was slated to be the next Superman in a new Superman film, which everyone knows is a role that will eternally curse you if you accept it.
Starting off 2000 with a full plate, Cage starring in the romantic comedy The Family Man and the action film Gone in 60 Seconds while making his debut as a producer with Shadow of the Vampire. In 2001 he starred in the title role in Captain Corelli's Mandolin (no, he wasn't the mandolin). In what looked like an uncomfortable acting experience where Cage launches a bizarre Italian-ish accent, we are left wondering how much better this film might have been without it.
Cage continues to work, with a total of three films due out in 2002. Is he stretching himself too thin? Will he ever really mesmerize us again the way he once did? One can only wait, watch and wonder.
Dates, titles and film chronology researched at allmovie.com
Most spilled out of my brain after having watched almost all the above mentioned films.
And yes, I did almost put this under the wrong spelling of "Nicholas"
but as you can see, I did not.