Since the start of his career, Nicholas Cage was recognized for his over-dramatized acting. His unforgettable style can be identified in his most famous films such as Face-to-face, departure from Las Vegas, and Air conditioning and certainly solidified Cage’s success as an actor. Although memorable, critics and audiences have often questioned Nicolas Cage’s approach to acting. One of Cage’s most criticized performances is in Neil LaBute’s 2007 horror remake of The wicker manwhich Rotten Tomatoes hilariously described as “strangely misguided.”
Cage’s performances in movies like The wicker man have produced several Internet memes, and at times his acting has been judged as humorous rather than profound. Google Nicolas Cage and you’re bound to stumble upon “not the bees” memes and pillows decorated with Cage’s face. That said, the actor hasn’t slowed down because of those judgments. In reality, Cage turned his overacting into intentional art. In 2017, Cage responded to criticism of his over-the-top performances by telling Variety that he “designs where the peak is.” Here’s exactly how Nicolas Cage turned absurd overacting into art.
Nicolas Cage’s Most Famous Overacting Performances
Earlier in Cage’s career, the selection of ridiculous roles seemed less intentional. Directed by Cage’s brother, Christopher Coppola, the 1993 film Deadfall was considered one of Cage’s worst films and one of the earliest examples of his overacting. Cage portrays an unhinged crime boss with plenty of opportunity to scream and throw his weight. Of course, the above Wicker Man and the unexpected masterpiece Front/Off are other examples, but don’t overlook his surreal performances in David Lynch The heart that is in Desert and the comedy of the Coen brothers Raising Arizona.
Another important example to mention is Cage’s role in the dark comedy horror film vampire kiss in which he plays a character who unexpectedly shouts out the alphabet and wholeheartedly believes he is a vampire.
According to Nicolas Cage in another interview with Variety, even then he addressed his roles as an artist. He says in this discussion that “in painting you can get abstract, you can get photorealistic, you can get impressionistic, why not try that with a cinematic performance?” In many ways, his approach in some of these films is akin to the Japanese acting style of kabuki theater, in which over-the-top performances and intensely expressive melodramatics were an intrinsic part of the emotional transmission. Either way, the actor certainly broke more rules and expectations this way and tried to establish new acting lines. Nicolas Cage’s cinematic efforts are paying off more than ever with his recent role in Michael Sarnoski’s film Pig.
The rediscovery of Nicolas Cage
The movie 2021 Pig, directed by Michael Sarnoski, was widely considered the new age of Nicolas Cage by both audiences and Cage himself. In his interview with Variety, Cage admits that before Pig he had “a few flops” and knew that eventually a young director like Sarnoski would come along and offer him a new role. In the film, Cage plays a lone truffle hunter who embarks on a wild goose chase when his truffle pig is stolen. The role opened new doors for the actor, including a role as himself in The unbearable weight of massive talent and in the 2023 movie Renfield like Dracula.
The unbearable weight of massive talent is a unique reflection of Cage’s overall career and his commitment to overplaying. According to Indiewire, this 2022 film encouraged audiences and Cage himself to accept that his career has “exploded with the advent of the internet and the resulting memification.” Cage is now “playing with the creation” of these memes.
The way Cage studies his roles has also come to the fore. While it can sometimes seem like Cage is improvising, the characters he creates are much more deliberate than that. For his 2023 portrayal of Dracula, he studied the performances of Bela Lugosi, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman to bring something classic to the role of Dracula. Although Cage promises to bring something familiar, he is also dedicated to bringing something new to Dracula in the way he moves and speaks.
Nicolas Cage in a new light
Although Cage is toying with his new image and ushering in a new phase of his career, he remains confident that his performances have always been fueled by genuine emotion. He tells Variety that in Confrontation he got so into the character that “there was a point where [he] thought [he] left his body. In his conversations with Indiewire, Cage reinforces the same, that the work he does and accepts “must be sincere.”
If you watch Cage’s recent interviews, you’ll learn that the actor isn’t just passionate about performing but movies in general. Cage is interested in experimental projects, silent cinema and German expressionism. As always, he is committed to pushing boundaries and realizes that “the very thing you’re afraid of, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is probably the very thing you should be going for”.
Despite the criticism applied to many of Cage’s roles, his more recent roles and his genuine flexibility in what he does have revived his career. Many moviegoers have a newfound respect for his methods and self-awareness.