A cleverly edited YouTube video featuring a montage of Nicolas Cage “losing it” in the movies has racked up 1,677,816 views, which is probably more people than saw his recent trilogy of Razzie-worthy work, The Wicker Man, Bangkok Dangerous and Knowing.
The vid is an eyeopening look at Cage’s trademarked brand of extreme acting -- a method of over emoting perfected in the 66 movies he’s made since his debut (under his real name, Nicolas Coppola) in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Citing The Incredible Hulk star Bill Bixby as a major acting influence, he has always been, for better and for worse, one of our most completely fearless (and cuckoo bananas) actors.
This weekend’s Season of the Witch promises an extra helping of full throttle Cage and will likely do some bang-up box office, but the actor who is best known for hits like Adaptation, National Treasure and Leaving Las Vegas, has made many other, lesser known movies that are also worth a look.
One writer called Cage’s work in Vampire’s Kiss “a grand stab at all-out, no-holds-barred comic acting or one of the worst dramatic performances in a film this year” and 21 years after those words were written it’s still hard to judge. The story of a man who may—or may not—be turning into a vampire is best remembered as the movie in which Cage ate a live cockroach, but also features one of his most unhinged performances.
A few years later, somewhere between Honeymoon in Vegas and Guarding Tess, came Red Rock West, a genre busting movie—Ebert said it “exists sneakily between a western and a thriller, between a film noir and a black comedy”—that unfairly barely made it to theatres. Cage hands in some of his best work as a broke but honest drfiter, but only took the role after Kris Kristofferson turned it down.
Existing at the intersection of Vampire’s Kiss and Red Rock West is Wild at Heart, a film that perfectly showcases Cage’s manic energy. As Sailor, a lover boy on the run from hit men hired by his girlfriend’s mother—he’s a one of a kind—an Elvis wannabe with a snakeskin jacket and an attitude. It’s a bravura performance that, like the jacket which he says, “represents a symbol of my individuality,” is a symbol of his artistic individuality.