Nicolas Cage $20 million paycheck gone in 60 seconds
Nicholas Kim Coppola had some heavyweight career successes to live up to when it came to his family. Both his parents were well-respected achievers - his father August was a writer and professor in comparative literature (later to become Dean of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University) and his mother Joy was a renowned ballet dancer and choreographer.
Meanwhile, Cage’s uncle is none other than the acclaimed director (of films such as 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now'), Francis Ford Coppola.Cage’s mother suffered from chronic depression and by 1976, his parents had divorced. He attended Beverly Hills High School during his youth - which famously educated many other A-list stars such as Angelina Jolie, David Schwimmer and Lenny Kravitz.
Studying theatre at school as encouraged by his father, Cage began to realise that experience, not education, was going to take him where he wanted to be so he chose to leave school early in order to concentrate on his acting pursuits full-time.
Initially being linked with his well-known uncle was beneficial as it landed him a part in Cameron Crowe’s debut film, 'Fast Times At Ridgemont High' in 1982 (starring with a herd of soon-to-be-stars including Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Jason Leigh). This was soon followed by a lead role in 'Valley Girl' (1983) but his luck began to run dry and after a succession of audition rejections, Coppola decided to wave goodbye to his famous name connections. Worried that many people would judge him prematurely on the basis of his family credentials, Nicolas Coppola became Nicholas Cage, a surname chosen in homage to one his comic book heroes, Luke Cage.
Despite detaching himself from the obvious Coppola line, Cage continued to stay on close terms with his uncle and take advice from him. Cage’s next project, 'Rumble Fish came about thanks to a minor helping hand from Francis Ford-Coppola and he impressed enough to gain a part in 'Racing with the Moon' with another actor climbing the steep ladder to fame - Sean Penn.
Choosing to carry on piggy-backing off his Uncle’s success, Cage was cast in Coppola’s 'The Cotton Club' in 1984. After appearing in 'Birdy' the same year, he once again returned to the safe helm of Uncle Francis in 'Peggy Sue Got Married'. This film marked the end of the Uncle-Nephew working relationship though. It has been said that Cage’s chosen acting methods had become extreme (suggested that he had inherited his mother’s odd and often erratic perspective on things). So desperate was he to disappear into a role, Cage often performed in such a bizarre manner that he was seen as too flamboyant for many. Coppola had realised this after Cage’s surreal techniques incurred the wrath of studio executives who disliked his method.
One person who had valued Cage’s performances was the singer Cher and she subsequently requested he be cast as her young lover in the 1987 film 'Moonstruck'. The film came as a long-awaited triumph to Cage as his performance was applauded and he earned himself a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor, while Cher won an Academy Award for her role.
Meanwhile, Cage had begun dating actress Christina Fulton who later had his first child, Weston Coppola Cage in 1992. However, the couple’s relationship was not to last beyond this.
Just before Cage made 'Moonstruck', he had taken a part in what was to become something of a cult hit, 'Raising Arizona'. After Moonstruck came 'Vampire’s Kiss' in which Cage famously ate a live cockroach in the name of acting, only to be asked to do a second take!
Having won an audience in the underground world with his turn in Raising Arizona, Cage played a part somewhat reflective of himself in 1990 as an Elvis-obsessive in 'Wild At Heart' (Cage is a huge Elvis fan). A stream of films continued to fill out Cage’s CV for the next couple of years from his attempts to break into the ‘mainstream’ with 'Wings Of The Apache', to his more natural habitat in lower budget flicks such as 'Deadfall', directed by his brother Christopher Coppola.
Mike Figgis’ 'Leaving Las Vegas' was to be a huge benchmark for Cage in 1995. Thanks to Cage’s penchant for going beyond the call of duty in terms of role preparation, his part as an alcoholic writer took him first to Ireland to experience hardcore drinking in the land of writers first hand. His performance was rated highly by the critics and Cage won both a Best Actor Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
1995 was not only a good year for Cage on the work front, he also married his actress girlfriend Patricia Arquette - forging links between two great acting families. Cage had initially met Arquette in the early 80s and apparently proposed but Arquette had teased him by issuing him with a list in which he’d have to fulfill for her to accept his proposal. When Cage took the joke list with the same serious nature he approached acting parts, he managed to scare Arquette off and she subsequently avoided him for a while. Their relationship was famously tempestuous though and by February 2000 Cage had filed for divorce, withdrawing the papers two months later but finalising again by 2001.
Following the worldwide success of Leaving Las Vegas, Cage was in the position to negotiate the big-bucks offers on his own terms. The blockbuster budget film 'The Rock' (1996) saw him star alongside Sean Connery, followed the hits 'Face/Off' (1997) with John Travolta and the slightly less impressive 'Con Air' (1997).
This hat-trick of action hits left room for Cage to indulge in a romantic comedy in Joel Schumacher’s 'City Of Angels' on 1997 followed by a turn in Martin Scorsese’s 'Bringing Out The Dead'. By the time 'Gone in 60 Seconds' was released in 2000, Cage could command a whopping $20 million fee.
Cage’s personal life was keeping the tabloids fed too. It had become well known after his part in Wild At Heart that Cage was a real-life Elvis fanatic, so the media kicked up a frenzy when he began dating Lisa-Marie Presley in 2001. After marrying in Hawaii in August 2002, no one could feign surprise that Cage had filed for divorce by November the same year. Reasons for the divorce attracted much speculation, including the obvious unique Elvis trophy - his daughter - and the fact that Cage wasn’t ready to let go of his bachelor life-style.
The millennium began with Cage filming the big-budget adaptation of Louis de Bernieres’ novel 'Captain Corelli’s Mandolin' in Greece. Next followed another World War II film, 'Windtalkers', which saw Cage reunited with John Woo.
As a progression from his acting, Cage chose to make his directorial debut with 'Sonny' (2002) starring English actress Brenda Blethyn and Mena Suvari. Cage had been championing the project for years and had considered playing the lead part at first but realised he was too old by the time filming began so instead cast James Franco. A tense plot, the film was recognised by the critics and was nominated for a Grand Special Prize at the Deauville American Independent Film Festival in France.
Not content with having director credits added to his portfolio, Cage produced his first film - 'Shadow of the Vampire' - in 2000 with Saturn Films, the company he had founded with Norm Golightly. The film was a great success and earned a trunk load of award nominations including a Best Supporting Academy Award nod for Willem Dafoe.
Back at the acting helm, 2002 brought 'Adaptation' to our screens which saw Cage take a break from his big-budget action films and return to the land of the surreal and odd. Working with the Coen Brothers again (Raising Arizona), he plays another dual role in the same vein as Face/Off but as Charlie Kauffman (its real-life screenwriter) and Charlie’s fictional brother Donald. The part earned Cage his second Oscar and third Golden Globe nomination.
After the minor success of Ridley Scott’s 'Matchstick Men' in 2003, the following year was to be more on par with the highs of Cage’s career. His divorce from Lisa Marie Presley finally came through and he married Alice Kim, a 20-year-old sushi bar waitress who he’d only met six months before. Their son, Kal-El was born in October 2005 and in true Cage fashion, was named after the birth name of Superman in the DC Comic series.
In his working life, he saw an international hit for the first time in a while with 'National Treasure' (2004) - on similar lines to the plot of 'The Da Vinci Code' and a topic of fascination in the media at the time. The film took $173 million at the US box office and Cage confirmed his status as a versatile A-lister.
In 2005 came 'Lord of War' and 'The Weather Man', both of which failed to make any great shakes in the critic’s world. Yet 2006 marked a continuance of Cage’s appeal with the animation 'Ant Bully' and the more controversial 'World Trade Centre'. Director Oliver Stone attempted to explore the human characters involved in the 11th September attacks. Despite fears that many people would worry about the release coming too soon after the events of 2001, Cage played his role with delicate realism.
'The Wicker Man' was a slight blip on the Cage radar, generally as most considered it a mistake to re-make a classic that was considered 'untouchable'.
It has been noted from Cage’s naming of his second son (Kal-El) that he is a huge comic book collector and fan. The 2007 project of 'Ghost Rider' finally saw Cage come to play a character adapted from one of his favourite comic books (he also has a Ghost Rider tattoo).
So deep is his passion for comics that he has created his own series called 'Voodoo Child', which is published by Virgin Comics. Cage had been approached by executives at Virgin but was gazumped when it came an original concept. "I said I didn't have any ideas, but I told them my son might," he said. Together with 16-year-old Weston, they brainstormed to create the six- issue illustrated series.
He may have dropped the Coppola name a long while ago but it’s clear that success is simply in his genes.
In 2009, Cage continued his trend of appearing in movies based on comics and starred in 'Astroboy', which was based on a Japanese manga-style comic.
And when the opportunity came to play the role of Big Daddy in the superhero/action movie 'Kick Ass', Cage jumped at the chance. His predilection for playing comic book heroes will see him return as the demonic motorcyclist from hell in 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance', which is set for release in early 2012.
Meanwhile, Cage recently said in an interview with the BBC that his latest role in the supernatural thriller 'Season of the Witch', in which he stars alongside Ron Perlman, had allowed him to realise another childhood dream.
He plays a 14th century knight sent on a quest to rid his homeland of the plague and the actor admitted that he had been imagining himself playing this role since he was just five years old.
Although Cage's dream of taking the role as a knight has finally come true, his attempt to become the king of property development continues to go unrealised.
In December 2010, he was forced to reduce the asking price for the mansion house he bought for more than $17million in 2007 when it failed to attract a buyer.