Today, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Nicholas Cage, the Academy Award-winning American actor, producer and director. Nicolas Cage is one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, earning $40 million in 2009 according to Forbes Magazine.
Cage was born Nicolas Kim Coppola on January 7, 1964 in Long Beach, California. His father, August Coppola, a professor of literature, and his mother, Joy Vogelsang, a dancer and choreographer, divorced in 1976. He was raised in a Catholic family. Cage’s mother is of German descent and his father was of Italian descent (his paternal grandparents were composer Carmine Coppola and actress Italia Pennino, and his paternal great-grandparents were immigrants from Bernalda, Basilicata). Through his father, Cage is the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, and the cousin of directors Roman Coppola and Sofia Coppola, film producer Gian-Carlo Coppola, and actors Robert Carmine and Jason Schwartzman. Cage’s two brothers are New York radio personality Marc “The Cope” Coppola and director Christopher Coppola. He attended Beverly Hills High School, which is known for its many alumni who became entertainers. He aspired to act from an early age and also attended UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. His first non-cinematic acting experience was in a school production of Golden Boy.
To avoid the appearance of nepotism as the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, he changed his name early in his career to Nicolas Cage, inspired in part by the Marvel Comics superhero Luke Cage. Since his minor role in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, with Sean Penn, Cage has appeared in a wide range of films, both mainstream and offbeat. He tried out for the role of Dallas Winston in his uncle’s film The Outsiders, based on S.E. Hinton’s novel, but lost to Matt Dillon. He was also in Coppola’s films Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married.
Other Cage roles included appearances in the acclaimed 1987 romantic-comedy Moonstruck, also starring Cher; The Coen Brothers cult-classic comedy Raising Arizona; David Lynch’s 1990 offbeat film Wild at Heart; a lead role in Martin Scorsese’s 1999 New York City paramedic drama Bringing Out the Dead; and Ridley Scott’s 2003 quirky drama Matchstick Men, in which he played an agoraphobic, mysophobic, obsessive-compulsive con artist with a tic disorder.
Cage has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, winning once for his performance as a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas. His other nomination was for his portrayal of real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Kaufman’s fictional twin Donald in Adaptation. Despite these successes, most of his lower-profile films have performed poorly at the box office compared to his mainstream action/adventure roles. The suspense thriller 8mm (1999) was not a box office success, but is now considered a cult film. He took the lead role in the 2001 film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and learned to play the mandolin from scratch for the part. In 2005, two offbeat films he headlined, Lord of War and The Weather Man, failed to find a significant audience despite nationwide releases and good reviews for his acting in those roles. Poor reviews for The Wicker Man resulted in low box office sales. The much criticized Ghost Rider (2007), based on the Marvel Comics character, fared better, earning more than $45 million (the top earner) during its opening weekend and over $208 million worldwide through the weekend ending on March 25, 2007. Also in 2007, he made his directorial debut in Sonny and he starred in Next, which shares the concept of a glimpse into an alternate timeline with The Family Man (2000).
Most of Cage’s movies that have achieved financial success were in the action/adventure genre. In his second-highest grossing film to date, National Treasure, he plays an eccentric historian who goes on a dangerous adventure to find treasure hidden by the Founding Fathers of the United States. Other action hits include The Rock, in which Cage plays a young FBI chemical weapons expert who infiltrates Alcatraz Island in hopes of neutralizing a terrorist threat, Face/Off, a John Woo film where he plays both a hero and a villain, and World Trade Center, director Oliver Stone’s film regarding the September 11, 2001 attacks. He had a small but notable role as the Chinese criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu in Rob Zombie’s fake trailer Werewolf Women of the S.S. from the B-movie double feature Grindhouse.
Cage made his directorial debut with Sonny, a low-budget drama starring James Franco as a male prostitute whose mother (Brenda Blethyn) serves as his pimp. Cage had a small role in the film, which received poor reviews and a short run in a limited number of theatres. Cage’s producing career includes Shadow of the Vampire, the first effort from Saturn Films.
In early December 2006, Cage announced at the Bahamas International Film Festival that he planned to curtail his future acting endeavors to pursue other interests. On The Dresden Files for the Sci-Fi Channel, Cage is listed as the executive producer. Cage said: “I feel I’ve made a lot of movies already and I want to start exploring other opportunities that I can apply myself to, whether it’s writing or other interests that I may develop.”
In November 2007, Cage was spotted backstage at a Ring of Honor wrestling show in New York City researching his role for The Wrestler. The role was ultimately played by Mickey Rourke, who received an Academy Award nomination for his performance. Wrestler Director Darren Aronofsky, in an interview with slashfilm.com, said of Cage’s decision to leave the film that: “Nic was a complete gentleman, and he understood that my heart was with Mickey and he stepped aside. I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but … you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity, so he pulled himself out of the race.”
In 2008, Cage appeared as Joe, a contract killer who undergoes a change of heart while on a work outing in Bangkok, in the film Bangkok Dangerous. The film is shot by the Pang Brothers and has a distinct South-East Asian flavour. In 2009, Cage starred in science fiction thriller Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas. In the film, he plays an MIT professor who examines the contents of a time capsule unearthed at his son’s elementary school. Startling predictions found inside the capsule that have already come true lead him to believe the world is going to end at the close of the week, and that he and his son are somehow involved in the destruction. The film received mainly negative reviews but was the box office winner on its opening weekend. Also in 2009, Cage starred in the film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, directed by acclaimed German director Werner Herzog. He portrayed a corrupt police officer with gambling, drug and alcohol addictions. The film was very well-received by critics, holding a rating of 87% positive reviews on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Cage received lauds for his performance, with Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writing “Herzog has found his ideal interpreter, a performer whose truth lies deep in the artifice of performance: ladies and gentlemen, Nicolas Cage, at his finest.” This film reunited Cage with Eva Mendes, who played his love interest in Ghost Rider. In 2010, Cage starred in the period piece Season of the Witch, playing a 14th-century knight transporting a girl accused of causing the Black Plague to a monastery, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in which he played the sorcerer.
In 2012, Cage reprised his role in Ghost Rider’s sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. He voiced the character Grug Crood in the animated film The Croods, which was released in 2013. The Croods received positive reviews from critics and was a box office success grossing $585 million against a budget of $135 million.
Cage has been married three times. His first wife was actress Patricia Arquette (married on April 8, 1995, divorce finalized on May 18, 2001). Cage later married singer/songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley. Cage is an Elvis fan and used the star as the base of his performance in Wild at Heart. Presley and Cage married on August 10, 2002 and filed for divorce on November 25, 2002 which was finalized on May 16, 2004. The divorce proceeding was longer than the marriage.
Cage met his third and current wife Alice Kim, a former waitress who previously worked at the plush Los Angeles restaurant Kabuki, at the Los Angeles-based Korean nightclub, Le Privé. She bore their son, Kal-El, (after Superman’s birth name) on October 3, 2005.
In February 2011, Cage claimed to have created a new method of acting he calls “Nouveau Shamanic”. He claims to have used the acting style throughout his career and one day plans to write a book about the method.
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