Cult favourite Nicolas Cage has carved out an eclectic and brilliant career spanning the decades and across genres, with forays into action, drama and comic book adaptations to name but a few. To celebrate the release of his latest film, Dying of the Light, out on Blu-ray and DVD from the 2nd March 2015 courtesy of Signature Entertainment, we take a look back at some of his greatest roles.
Dying of the Light (2015)
This brilliant thriller, directed by Paul Schrader and executive produced by cinematic wunderkind Nicolas Winding Refn, stars Cage as Evan Lake, a desk-bound Langley CIA agent, forced into retirement by signs of early onset dementia. At the same time he discovers that his former nemesis, Jihadist Muhhamed Banir (Alexander Karim – Zero Dark Thirty, TV’s Tyrant), is not dead as has been assumed for the last two decades, but alive and receiving experimental medical treatment. Banir’s exact location is unknown but with the help of a disgraced young agent (Anton Yelchin), Evan sets out to track down and confront him before it is too late for both of them…
This classic romantic comedy won Oscars for Cher, Olympia Dukakis, and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, but Cage’s turn as the main romantic interest cannot be overlooked. Moonstruck tells the story of widowed bookkeeper Loretta Castorini (Cher) who has agreed to marry Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). When Johnny leaves for a trip to visit family, Loretta is tasked with attempting to mend relations between Johnny and his volatile brother, bakery operator Ronny (Cage). However, complications arise when Loretta and Ronny find themselves utterly and irresistibly attracted to one another…
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Cage won a Leading Actor Oscar for this film, in which he plays Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. On arrival, he forms a bizarre friendship with prostitute Sera (Elizabeth Shue) after nearly running her over, and they eventually move in together… but their self destructive patterns of behaviour threaten to drive them apart. Cage famously admitted to being genuinely drunk while filming some scenes, in order to add authenticity to the character.
Con Air (1997)
Cage stars alongside John Cusack and John Malkovich in this action thriller, and plays Cameron Poe, a US Army Ranger, imprisoned for involuntary manslaughter for seven years. When he becomes eligible for parole he is forced to share an airplane with some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, including notorious serial killer Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (Malkovich). When the criminals hijack the plane, Cameron has to find a way to stop them, all the while maintaining his facade as ‘one of them’.
This cult favourite is often cited as one of the greatest action films of the nineties- and with good reason. Nicolas Cage stars as Castor Troy, a criminal genius responsible for the death of the son of FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta). Troy has planted a time bomb that could wipe out Los Angeles – and refuses to reveal its location. Troy’s brother, Pollux (Alessandro Nivola) is also aware of the location of the bomb- so FBI scientists hatch an ingenious plot: using experimental surgery, they graft Troy’s face temporarily onto Archer’s head to allow him to question Pollux without suspicion. But once Archer has taken Troy’s face, Troy regains consciousness and forces the doctors to give him Archer’s face. Now Troy has practically the entire FBI fooled, and Archer is stuck with virtually nowhere to turn…
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
This remake of the 1974 action thriller of the same name was a major hit on release- and stars Cage alongside Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi and Timothy Olyphant. Cage plays Memphis Raines, a brilliant car thief who has his retirement plans delayed when his younger brother Kip (Ribisi) runs afoul of a vicious crime boss. Raines agrees to steal 50 luxury cars in one night, with the help of other car thieves, including Sara “Sway” Wayland (Jolie), in order to get his brother out of harms way. But first, he’ll have to outwit a rival group of thieves, as well as evade Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) and Drycoff (Olyphant)- the two detectives who are on his trail…
Cage was nominated for multiple awards, including an Oscar and a BAFTA, for his role in this Spike Jonze- directed dramedy, in which he plays screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, struggling to adapt “The Orchid Thief,” a non-fiction book about a fanatical orchid breeder, John Laroche (Chris Cooper). Also starring Tilda Swinton and Meryl Streep, the film was based on Kaufman’s real-life struggle to adapt the book, and when writing the screenplay, he honestly believed the film would end his career… instead it won countless awards, including several for his brilliant, innovative screenplay.
Lord of War (2005)
This film charts the rise and fall of arms dealer Yuri Orlov (Cage), starting in the 1980s in Little Odessa, selling guns to local mobsters, all the way through to the early 90s, where he formed a partnership with an African warlord and his psychotic son. Co-starring Bridget Moynahan and Jared Leto, the characted of Orlov is said to have been modelled on real life arms dealer Viktor Bout, who became one of the world’s biggest arms dealers after working as a Russian lieutenant, and was finally arrested in 2008.
Bad Lieutenant (2009)
This remake of Abel Ferrara’s crime drama was directed by Werner Herzog, and although it took inspiration from the original, it placed brand new characters centre stage. Nicolas Cage plays the drug/gambling addicted police officer Terence McDonagh, alongside Eva Mendes and Val Kilmer. The action takes place in a post- Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, and focuses on McDonagh’s investigation into the murder of a Senegalese family.
This wildly successful adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jnr’s comic book featured an all-star cast including Aaron Taylor Johnson as the titular reluctant superhero, alongside Chloe Grace Moretz as the irrepressible Hit-Girl. The action-packed comedy follows the exploits of Dave Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson), an introverted student and comic book fan who decides to become a super-hero, even though he has absolutely no powers or real incentive to do so. Cage provides wonderfully off-the-wall support as superhero veteran- and Hit-Girls father- Damon Macready, AKA Big Daddy.
Dying of the Light is available on Blu-ray and DVD from the 2nd March 2015, courtesy of Signature Entertainment. You can read our review here (posted at our sister site Cinehouse)