Genius, madness or irony: Nicolas Cage, the most disconcerting actor of his generation (and anyone) | Culture | ICON

Several haunted mansions. Shrunken heads of pygmies. A pyramid-shaped tomb. A shark. A dinosaur skull (returned at the request of the Mongolian government). These are just some of the possessions that actor Nicolas Cage (California, 1964) accumulated in the boom years, despite warnings from his accountant about the delicate state of his finances. Until, suddenly, in 2009, the US Treasury claims the Oscar winner for Leaving Las Vegas the payment of a million-dollar debt, the accountant is fired and Cage begins a crusade to raise the money, which, in essence, translates into forcing the machine, increasing a rate of film production already quite high by then and starting to accept almost any project they offer you, supposedly temporary.

Its cache sinks, but the legend grows. The ups and downs of Nicolas Cage’s filmography become wilder and wilder, as a renewed interest arises in his figure, his hairstyles and his eccentric personal life. The old memes of Chuck Norris are being displaced by compilation videos of the most visceral performances of the interpreter, gifs of his gesticulations and merchandising with your face on sheets, cushions, sweatshirts, or underwear. In the midst of this phenomenon, an Audiovisual Communication student, Torïo García (Elche, 33 years old), in full intensive viewing of Cage’s films with his roommate, launches his particular contribution: the NicCagepedia, first a Facebook page with news and curiosities of the star, then a Twitter account, then a blog and, finally, a fanzine of six issues – the last one, published in March – where dozens of writers and illustrators end up meeting with admiration for the actor as a common denominator. Because none of this is a joke. “I have never been an ironic fan,” Garcia makes clear to ICON.

Neither does the cartoonist Paco Alcázar (Cádiz, 50 years old). Collaborator of Cinemania, from Thursday until 2014 and the now defunct satirical magazine Pride and Satisfaction, Alcázar decided to see, for pleasure, all the works of Nicolas Cage and became obsessed to the point of beginning to subject friends to several hours of speeches about his interpretations. Among those friends was Manuel Bartual, Astiberri editor, to whom he ended up raising the idea of ​​publishing a book as an exhaustive guide to Cage’s entire career, with files on each film and a portrait of the actor in each one of them. Follower of the NicCagepedia, Alcázar contacts Torïo García to do it together. The book, titled Nicolas Cage’s first 100 films, is now a reality and is published on April 15 under the label ¡Caramba !, by Astiberri.

Holly Hunter and Nicolas Cage in a scene from ‘Arizona Baby’, where they were directed by the Coen brothers.Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images

But before we get to the unclassifiable actor of the present, let’s reminisce a bit about the glory of the past. Nicolas Cage has an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas (1995), but also something better: a series of films known by several generations, either for their enormous popularity at the box office or for their cult status among fans and critics in the eighties and nineties. Peggy Sue got married, Arizona Baby, Moonlight Spell, Wild Heart, Las Vegas Honeymoon, The Rock, Face to face, Con Air… There are few actors with such a varied and remembered filmography. “The accumulation of Nicolas Cage’s films makes you realize that he is an author, not just any actor, that there is something with more substance behind everything he does,” Alcázar explains to ICON by videoconference. “Seeing it only from the angle of irony falls short. It deserves attention as a strange phenomenon within the world of interpretation ”.

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In the book, the authors argue that the filmography of 100 films that they fully review (up to Jiu Jitsu, released in 2020 and the actor’s 100th title, with four other new films expected to arrive this year) makes Cage “a genre that he offers to his followers, with a continuity that other actors do not have. ”. Something that relates him to classic cinema, when the main reason for going to see a movie was not the plot, but the star. And it does not stop offering new deliveries, despite the fact that, in theory, it already has its problems with the treasury at bay. “I have the feeling that he has forgotten how to live a normal life, so he can just be shooting all the time,” says García.

Paco Alcázar has come to draw, he estimates, “thousands of times” the actor’s face during the process of making the volume. “The 100 portraits in the movies were my challenge, my great goal as a cartoonist. I am a very bad cartoonist so I had a somewhat masochistic interest, because I had to fight against my own enormous deficiencies. I’ve seen myself in almost the same position as Nicolas Cage as an actor ”, he jokes. “He’s not a natural actor either, he has to get psyched up and do all that shamanic stuff [en referencia al Nouveau Shamanic, método creado por Cage a través del que invoca, siente y experimenta a sus personajes, en lugar de interpretarlos]Because you have great limitations, you need to make an effort. The results, like his, are sometimes good and sometimes make you wonder if he is serious. “

Cover of the book 'The first 100 films of Nicolas Cage', with several 'Nicolas Cage' on the cover playing the different roles that he has given life to in his long and unclassifiable career.
Cover of the book ‘The first 100 films of Nicolas Cage’, with several ‘Nicolas Cage’ on the cover playing the different roles that he has given life to in his long and unclassifiable career.Astiberri

“He is a guy who totally enjoys acting, he always behaves as if he were making the movie that will give him another Oscar,” says Alcázar. “And he takes it with a seriousness that the public is often not aware of. It breaks with a conception of North American cinematographic interpretation, which is naturalism. Starting with Marlon Brando, the actors try to be realistic and that whole generation of Pacino or De Niro comes, who want to be credible and appear human. Nicolas Cage doesn’t want to look like a normal human being, he intends to make extreme, theatrical performances. He tells you: ‘I am an actor and I am acting. This, in commercial cinema, nobody before or after has done it ”.

“Experimenting” and “evolving towards the future of acting” were precisely two ideas launched by Cage just 25 years ago in his speech of gratitude for the Oscar, in front of a stalls divided between those who decided to get up to applaud him and those that don’t. While the filmmaker David Lynch, who directed the interpreter in Wild Heart, has referred to him as “the jazz musician of American interpretation”, his fellow guild Sean Penn criticized him, considering that he was not an actor, but “someone who does performances”. “He has always been flamboyant with his acting philosophy and is somewhat patronized for that, but he has shown that he can do characters with a very wide arc. All this Internet stuff in the end has served him well, because he has become a modern icon. The kids know Nicolas Cage, but they don’t know who Sean Penn is. This has given his career a curious strength, because he is able to connect with an audience he has never addressed ”, believes Paco Alcázar.

The two authors agree that the work they have published probably would not exist without the phenomenon of the actor on the Internet and, in fact, before going deeply into the 100 films, they dedicate several sections to the most popular aspects of the mythology that surrounds them. . Among them, how could it be otherwise, their controversial hairstyles in movies like Con Air (Convicts in the air), Next O Bangkok Dangerous, whose main managers are the founder of NicCagepedia He has been in charge of searching with names and surnames to make them appear in the book. “There is a moment, towards the last part of his career, when the makeup and hairstyling team is more defined and is always the same.” It is not the only surprise that they have found reviewing credits. “Good vibes seem to be important to him, that’s why there are people with whom he repeats a lot,” says Alcázar. “He’s made tons of infamous movies with directors who weren’t directors, but stunt chiefs in some action movie. So he must think, ‘With that guy? Of course, let him direct me, I find him very cool! ‘ and she goes with a man who has not directed anything in his life, which is evident in the result ”.

Nicolas Cage and actor Jony Jaa pose during a press conference for the action movie 'Jiu Jitsu' in Nicosia, Cyprus in July 2019.
Nicolas Cage and actor Jony Jaa pose during a press conference for the action movie ‘Jiu Jitsu’ in Nicosia, Cyprus in July 2019.IAKOVOS HATZISTAVROU / Getty Images

And Nicolas Cage, how does he handle this memes? “He had a hard time understanding grace, because he takes himself very seriously. He pretends to be the best actor in the world and, well, he has the Oscar. He doesn’t look like a buffoon. He felt that those memes were a caricature of what he was doing, that he was being deformed. But the phenomenon has helped him in a very difficult moment in his career and I think that now he thinks differently ”, reflects Paco Alcázar. García considers that “the definitive proof” that Cage has ended up liking the parody is that he has agreed to play himself in The unbearable weight of massive talent (in Spanish, The unbearable weight of outsized talent), a film shot last year that follows his attempt to rescue his wife and daughter from the clutches of a drug trafficker who adores his films, in which Paco León takes part in his first English role. For Alcázar, “towards Nicolas Cage there is always a kind of admiration, which can sometimes be ironic, but never insulting. There is a great honesty in what he does and that even people who don’t like it notice it. He, in the meetings with fans, has realized that people love him for that ”.

The immersion in the life and work of Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew, who changed his last name to Cage to dispel any suspicion of nepotism, has led the authors of the book to feel even psychologically close to him. “I suppose something similar will happen to biographers, that they become so documented about someone that they end up empathizing. If Nicolas Cage were to enter here now, he would seem like a stranger, but also a friend ”, says Paco Alcázar. For his part, García rules out that Cage has built a character of himself: “His life is eccentric, but he really is like that. I would even say that he is the opposite of a character, he turns the characters into Nicolas Cage ”.

“Cage radiates a vulnerable element. A certain lack of conviction mixed, however, with an epic passion. Nic may seem ridiculous to us, but we love him because we are also ridiculous ”, declare García and Alcázar in the prologue of a book where, also, the reader is asked to commit to acquiring the possible sequel, The 100 second Nicolas Cage films. “Torïo and I want to continue making files on our own from the films that are coming out. I do not know if we will publish them on networks. We have already been bitten and we will continue until one of the three dies ”.

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Genius, madness or irony: Nicolas Cage, the most disconcerting actor of his generation (and anyone) | Culture | ICON