Why Nicolas Cage is so misunderstood

He also developed his own mystical ways of getting into character, which he has dubbed “nouveau shamanic”, whereby he uses techniques or objects to expand his imagination and “trick” him into believing that he is the character. For 2014’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, this meant sewing Egyptian artifacts into his costume, for reasons that are not entirely clear. In a recent interview, Cage professed he drew unironic inspiration from shamans, describing them as “really actors that were just going through stories in the village, and trying to bring answers to whatever the crisis was in the village“, while adding that he came up with the concept of “nouveau shamanism” because “it sounded cool”. This approach sounds mild compared to some of the Method shenanigans employed by actors like Christian Bale or Jared Leto, but the results on the screen carry a Cage-specific brand of intensity.

This intensity has been fodder for memes since they became their own language. But the memeification of Nicolas Cage has transformed him in the public imagination from a talented, methodical, if surrealist and eccentric actor, always working, always experimenting – to a selection of out-of-context facial expressions and scenes: Nicolas Cage yelling “not the bees!” from The Wicker Man (2006), reciting the alphabet in Vampire’s Kiss, impersonating a particularly disturbed priest in Face/Off… “We’ve had that memeification and transforming of Cage from just an actor to a really notable pop culture figure that transcends his filmography”, says Mitchell.

Fun as it is, the problem with all this digital silliness is that it detracts from his genuine artistry. “There’s people who just think it’s fun to watch [him], that [his movies] are bad movies and are [merely] enjoying when he freaks out,” says Gibb, “They’re not really seeing the nuance in him.” Cage-a-rama, Scotland’s first Nicolas Cage film festival, co-founded and programmed by Mitchell and Sean Welsh, actively avoids fostering that irony, which Mitchell finds “devaluing of him as an actor and ultimately devaluing him as a presence in other people’s lives,” she says. During Cage-a-rama, they try to “give space for that sincerity and pure love for Cage that we’ve seen grow over the years that we [have] run the festival”.

Nevertheless, it’s Cage’s status as a meme that enables the existence of a film like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. And in fact, as it forces “Nick Cage” to confront “Cage-mania”, it confirms, once again, that Cage is very good actor, actually. Perhaps too, it offers up a full stop to the jokey fandom that has percolated around Cage for the last decade – which can only be good for his career and the appreciation of his skills alike. In fact, a recent GQ profile put forth an obscenely simple idea, confirmed by his recent, extraordinarily wholesome Reddit AMA: maybe what best explains Cage is that he is “a sincere man in an ironic world”.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is released on 22 April in the US and the UK

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