In this very space, the acting of one Nicolas Cage has been
mocked. More than once. Sometimes it’s because of his bizarre habit of shaking
next to his head while explaining something. Sometimes it’s because
of the faces
that he makes when performing or the pacing of his speech.
Whatever the reason, though, it always seemed appropriate to mock his acting
talent, or perceived lack thereof. However, is the grief that the general
public gives Cage truly warranted?
Right off the bat, Nicolas Cage won the Best Actor Oscar in 1996
for his performance in “Leaving Las Vegas.” And he totally deserved it. But it’s
easy to write off one Oscar as a fluke. Heck, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Sandra Bullock
have won Oscars and everyone from Kate Hudson to Sylvester Stallone have gotten
nominated, serving as proof of the old adage that every actor has at least one
great performance in them. Cage, though, he dispelled that theory when he got
nominated for a second Oscar for his performance as screenwriter Charlie
Kaufman and Charlie Kaufman’s fictitious twin Donald Kaufman in 2003’s “Adaptation
The thing about Nicolas Cage’s acting isn't that it’s
necessarily bad. Sure, he’s had some clunkers but so has every actor that has
been around as long as he has. Overall, though, his acting isn't bad. Bad acting
ruins the illusion and makes the viewer aware that he or she is watching a
movie. Bad acting makes watching a movie a chore and can ruin an otherwise
When the black hole of charisma Megan Fox stepped on the
screen in “Friends with Kids,” an otherwise pleasant film suddenly becomes a
struggle. She has no chemistry with co-star Adam Scott, who has connected on
screen with everyone from Amy Poehler
to Mr. Feeny
. Yet, somehow a romance
between him and Megan Fox seems like a complete impossibility.
That is what bad acting is and that is what bad acting does.
A bad actor is hard to watch. That is not Nicolas Cage. When Nicolas Cage steps
onto the screen, he is captivating. The viewer cannot take their eyes off of
him. Maybe not always for the best reasons but it always holds true because
when given two choices, Nicolas Cage never takes the normal path. Instead, he
often seems to make the most ridiculous choice possible when it comes to his
The question really becomes what enables Cage to make these
riskily ridiculous choices? For one, he’s clearly trying to be his own man,
which is why he named himself after a comic book
character instead of keeping
his birth name Nicolas Coppola. Riding on his Uncle Francis’ coattails and
resting on the family name would have been the easy path to ensure a career. As
his performances have shown, though, taking the easy way has never been the
While some people may have played Big Daddy in “Kick-Ass” as
a more typical, albeit eccentric, hero-type, which would not really have been
out of line tonally with the film, Cage chose to do a parody/homage to Adam
West’s Batman. In “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call-New Orleans,” in which he
played a detective addicted to pain medication, he very easily could attempted
to fill the classic cop-with-a-secret. Instead, chose to play a drug addict
masquerading as a cop.
Bad actors exist. Heck, bad actors sometimes even thrive,
although eventually everyone catches on and those bad performers go from making
“American Pie” to making something called “Sharknado.” (That last sentence was
about Tara Reid
, in case anyone was wondering.) With a few, action-movie
related exceptions, bad actors do not have 30 year careers.
Is Nicolas Cage as good of a performer as someone like Daniel
Day-Lewis or Tom Hanks? No. But he is definitely not bad. Not by any stretch.