The following was a speech I gave on Sunday, 9th September 2018 at Deep End Theatre as part of their “Lighting Talks” program. Happening every other Sunday in Portland, OR, the program allows community members to deliver a 7 minute speech on something they are passionate about (as long as it isn’t hate speech). After the speeches, the audience is encouraged to discuss what they learned and engage in conversation with the speakers.
Being me, I decided to talk about the understated brilliance of actor Nicholas Cage. During my actual speech, I mostly stuck to this as a script, while also adding more points in response to the audience. Please enjoy, and debate in the comments.
Nicholas Cage is the greatest actor of all time.
I know that most of you are likely laughing at this title, or believing I’m engaging in some sort of hyperbole. Even after recognizing that art is subjective, most of you are probably asking how I can stand here and talk about a man who has arguably become more famous as a meme than as an Academy Award winning actor, and for me to have the audacity say that he is the greatest actor alive.
I have this audacity, because I’m not alone in this assessment. Actor Ethan Hawke regards Nic Cage as one of the most creative actors of all time, being both innovative and inspirational. This is the assessment I stand by: because I believed that when Nic Cage stops acting, we will be left with one of the greater assortments of work in film history.
I don’t really remember the first time I ever really knew of Nic Cage, but I assume it was from National Treasure. I think many people my age have an affinity for this film, loving the goofy guy who loving this kind of goofy man who also is full of determination. He demonstrates his love for his country and the lengths he’ll go to protect it.
Add in some stunts, a general non threatening demeanor, Sean Bean), and you had a near perfect film. I saw a lot in Nic Cage. A funny man, an action hero, a down to earth Everyman. It’s no wonder that you can walk up to any person in their 20’s and talk about how great National Treasure is.
First some misconceptions:
- Nic Cage is a bad actor
- Nic Cage is only doing stuff for money
I don’t consider Cage to be a bad actor, just someone who does bad movies. Nic Cage has shown a wide range over the years. From that funny Everyman to reluctant action hero, to superhero to crooked cop. Most people don’t remember that Nic Cage has an Oscar for his turn as an alcoholic, suicidal writer in Leaving Las Vegas. he is a man with depth and enjoys trying variety instead of playing it safe.
Nicholas Cage was born in to the Coppolla family (of The Godfather and so many other films). As an aspiring actor and creative, Cage changed his name so that he would be allowed to flourish as an artist himself, and not simply skate on through because of his family name. He values his craft, and whether a film is good or bad, he brings a unique perspective to his characters.
I believe that Nic Cage views acting as a fun experience, something that allows him to go balls to the wall bezerk. Acting is an experience for him, and being weird allows him artistic license to experiment in a variety of films. His ratio of good vs. bad films may be skewed, but he takes the opportunity to be in bad films with low personal and financial stakes so that he can try different methods and genres.
Nic Cage has been in some really terrible films. But throughout his career, the films are not necessarily terrible because of him. If a script is wooden, or the pacing is uneven, or the plot cliched and foreseeable, Nic Cage is there giving it all he has. I think Nic Cage transcends whatever film he is in. Nic Cage is a character actor who was stuck into the role of a leading man, who was often seen as some weird hybrid of every man, and handsome idol.
And to the second point, while it is very public that Cage has had financial troubles, I don’t think that accounts for all of his film choices. Sure, some were probably done for paycheck: but even blatant cash grabs showcase Cage as an actor who is still committed. While some might phone their performance in, Cage tries to make his world unique. I’d rather live in a world with Nicholas Cage films, rather than none at all.
As I stated before art is enormously subjective, and I understand if my speech today has not convinced you that Nicholas Cage is the greatest actor of all time. At the very least, I hope it gives you the opportunity to revisit his films, and to view him in a new light. With each film, we see evidence of one of the most unique, committed performers of the last 50 years.