No one does a better Nicolas Cage impersonation than former Saturday Night Live cast member Andy Samberg. In his numerous appearances on Weekend Update’s “Get In the Cage” segment, Samberg-as-Cage always managed to work in a jab at how real-life Cage has seemingly never met a script he didn’t like. Does a movie include high amounts of screamed dialogue and pay its actors legal tender? If so, it has all the elements of a classic Nic Cage movie.
Though he’s slowed down a bit in recent months, there was a period not too long ago when it really seemed like Cage was in every single movie. Or all the bad ones, at least — some so awful it was actually pretty crazy to see an actor with Cage’s resume (don’t forget he’s an Oscar winner — Best Actor for 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas) anywhere near the project.
Cage hasn’t accepted every role ever offered to him, though. Below, we run down the list of movies Cage actually turned down. Some he was smart to avoid, but there are others that he surely regrets missing out on.
Then, for good measure, we’ll take a look at a few movies we really wish Cage had indeed passed on. Sure, it’s fun to revel in so-bad-it’s-good trash like The Wicker Man, but you kind of have to feel bad for the guy. Some of the choices he’s made in recent years reek of a man whose primary goal is milking every last dollar he can out of a rapidly vanishing career.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)
Believe it or not, Cage dropped out of the running for the role of Aragorn when he learned Peter Jackson planned to spend several consecutive years shooting the Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand.
Yep, the heir of Isildur and rightful claimant to the thrones of Arnor and Gondor was almost played by Nic Freaking Cage and not Viggo Mortensen.
“I just want to think about his character. I don’t think about what I would’ve done,” Cage told MTV in an interview, suggesting some regret at passing on such an iconic role.
The Matrix (1999)
Cage was almost Neo, too. As he did with LOTR, Cage turned down the role that would turn Keanu Reeves from total joke into geek hero because it was being shot too far from home — Australia, in this case.
Whereas Cage as Aragorn would surely have made LOTR a very different franchise, can anyone really argue that Cage as Neo would have had a discernible impact on The Matrix?
DreamWorks studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg reportedly asked Cage to voice Shrek, but he was rebuffed because Cage just couldn’t picture himself as something ugly.
“We were talking about Shrek and I just didn’t want to look like an ogre,” Cage later revealed. “Maybe I should have done it looking back.”
Ya think? Shrek made over $300 million and spawned several sequels that made even more.
The Wrestler (2008)
In an exceedingly rare moment of restraint for late-2000s Cage, he stepped away from director Darren Aronovsky’s portrait of an aging pro wrestler who can’t figure out how to move on from the lifestyle that’s destroying him. The role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson went to Mickey Rourke and he absolutely owned it, turning in his best performance in many years.
“I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but… you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity,” Aronovsky told SlashFilm.com.
It’s the role most Cage fans would concede he was born to play, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Jason Statham got to be Chev Chelios, the crazed assassin who has to periodically electrocute himself and have sex under a slow-motion horse penis in order to remain alive.
Cage eventually got to work with Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but the magic had passed them by.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Even before Cage was a household name, he was narrowly missing out on iconic roles in all-time classic movies. In this case, it was John Bender in The Breakfast Club — a role that eventually went to Judd Nelson. Of course, pretty much every young and promising actor in Hollywood was linked to that particular role at one time.
During the film’s production, director John Hughes was said to be so upset with Nelson’s poor behavior on set that he considered recasting the role. Hughes died in 2009, so we may never find out exactly how close Cage was to being Bender.
Superman Lives (failed project)
In a story made famous by Kevin Smith of Jay and Silent Bob fame, director Tim Burton tried to revive the Superman franchise in the late ’90s with a reboot that covered the “Death of Superman” story arc from the comics — loosely, at least (the script was rumored to include a non-flying Superman and a giant, robotic spider).
Known to be a huge Superman fan — he named his real-life son Kal-El — Cage isn’t the one responsible for this role never coming to fruition. Instead, financial issues are said to have killed the entire project. Or maybe the studio heads woke up one day and realized they had cast a thin, balding madman as the most famous superhero of all time and couldn’t pull the plug fast enough.
Though no footage of the failed project is known to exist, there is this photo (which could be fake, but looks pretty legitimate) of Cage in a very Batman Forever-esque Superman costume. So weird:
Batman Triumphant (failed project)
For a brief period, Hollywood actually considered letting Joel Schumacher make a third Batman movie after the mystifying (but very glittery) messes that were Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.
Perhaps trying to find a way to top Arnold Schwarzenegger’s over-the-top performance as Mr. Freeze, Schumacher reportedly considered casting Cage as villain The Scarecrow.
One of the most compelling arguments in favor of the existence of God is that this never came to be.
Bonus: 3 movies that Nicolas Cage really should have turned down
National Treasure series (2004, 2007): These films turned a tidy profit and they aren’t the worst things ever, if you can stomach mindless action and look past fairly glaring plot holes, but they turned Cage from an actor with an edge into an interchangeable family action star. When your career reaches Brendan Fraser territory, you know you took a wrong turn.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010): So much for Cage being handed the reins of a major franchise (or what a studio hopes will be a franchise, at least) ever again. This was just a really bad movie, made worse by Cage’s dismal performance, and it deserved to flop at the box office as hard as it did.
Stolen (2012): In what has to be considered a new low in a career filled with a stunning quantity of lows, Cage starred in what was unquestionably a blatant rip-off of Liam Neeson’s Taken. This movie cost over $35 million to make and barely cracked $300,000 at the box office. Ouch.