How Nicolas Cage Nearly Capsized His Career

Oscar-winner's comeback marked by passion, talent and perseverance

Nicolas Cage’s “Longlegs” has already achieved a rare honor—a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes—even before its U.S. premiere.

Cage portrays a sadistic serial killer hunted by FBI agent Lee Harker (Maika Monroe). As Harker delves deeper into the case, she uncovers eerie connections that tie her to the killer.

LONGLEGS | Official Trailer | In Theaters July 12

Scheduled for July 12 U.S. release, critics are already hailing “Longlegs” as the standout horror film of the summer, a “Satanic spin on The Silence of the Lambs.” Slashfilm praises it as a “masterpiece,” dubbing it, “The most terrifying horror movie of 2024 that gets under your skin and may never leave.”

Similarly, Flickering Myth lauds it as “the scariest film of the decade” and a “pure horror experience.”

While these accolades should be taken with a generous helping of salt, Cage’s recent ascent back into the ranks of respectability has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s important to remember that, for years, Cage traded artistic integrity for a quick paycheck.

Let’s call it the Bruce Willis route.

Willis will be forever tied to John McClane, the hero of the “Die Hard” franchise. The first of the five films was (and still is) a pinnacle of action cinema, with Willis’ charisma and coolness igniting the screen.

Post-“Die Hard,” Willis embraced dramas like “In Country” and “Sunset,” alongside comedies such as “Look Who’s Talking.” Despite some missteps like “North” and “Hudson Hawk,” Willis showcased his versatility and maintained a degree of respectability.

However, a little over a decade ago, long before he was struck down with frontotemporal dementia, things started to go south. In 2013, Sylvester Stallone called Willis “greedy and lazy,” claiming this was a “sure formula for career failure.”

According to credible reports, Stallone had offered Willis $3 million for three days’ work on “The Expendables 3.” Willis, though, wanted an extra million.

Stallone, it seems, was prophetic. Willis went from being Hollywood’s highest-paid actor to being the subject of ridicule.

Oscar-nominee John Travolta followed a similar, regrettable path. He now stars almost exclusively in low-rent VOD titles where his fading brand helps snag funding and promotional possibilities.

He deserves better.

Cage’s career, unlike that of Willis and Travolta, has been a rollercoaster ride, marked by spectacular successes and notable nadirs.

The 60-year-old has been through it all.


From a young age, the Californian emerged as a versatile actor with a knack for delivering intense performances. Films like “Raising Arizona,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” for which he won an Academy Award, and “Adaptation” propelled him to stardom.

However, despite critical acclaim and a devout fan base, Cage’s financial troubles in the mid-2000s forced him into a string of less prestigious roles. During this period, Cage’s career trajectory went the same route as Icarus.

He accepted film projects more out of necessity than choice, to address mounting financial obligations and legal challenges. The result? A series of lamentable endeavors that failed to showcase his talent. These films ranged from action-packed thrillers to B-movie horror flicks.

While some found moderate success at the box office, they did little to bolster his reputation as a serious actor. Despite these setbacks, Cage’s commitment to his craft stayed constant.

He continued to explore very different roles, sometimes in obscure indie films or unconventional projects that allowed him to experiment with his acting skills. And if there’s one thing Cage likes, it’s experimentation.

He’s like the Frank Zappa of Hollywood.

Dream Scenario | Official Trailer HD | A24

It was in these lesser-known works that Cage began to rediscover his creative spark. The maniacal grin began to reappear. Fast forward to recent years, and Cage has staged an impressive comeback.

Films like “Mandy” and “Pig” stand as a testament to his renewed artistic vigor. In “Mandy,” Cage delivered a tour de force performance as a grief-stricken man seeking revenge, showcasing his ability to blend raw emotion with sheer intensity.

Critics and audiences alike praised his portrayal. The actor was commended for the depth and authenticity he brought to the character.

Similarly, in “Pig,” arguably his best work in the past 20 years, Cage’s portrayal of a reclusive truffle hunter searching for his beloved pig garnered widespread acclaim. The film allowed Cage to delve into themes of loss, identity, and redemption. Yet again, he demonstrated his versatility and knack for selling a powerful narrative.

Pig - Exclusive Official Clip (2021) Nicolas Cage

Beyond possessing real acting chops, Cage, has other admirable qualities that separate him from the hubristic Hollywood herd.

Cage is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola. Although Coppola played a crucial role in kickstarting his career, Cage has made deliberate efforts to establish his own Hollywood identity.

The actor has consistently attempted to earn roles based on merit rather than relying on his familial connection. In today’s world, where cronyism and nepotism reign supreme, his determination to stand on his own is admirable.

In addition to distancing himself from his uncle’s influence in the industry, Cage has maintained a private lifestyle. Unlike narcissistic celebrities who use social media for validation and virtue signaling, Cage shies away from such exposure.

That underscores his focus on acting as an art form rather than a means to get attention, likes and fake love.

For Cage, acting is a deeply personal and artistic pursuit. Has he made mistakes? Yes, undoubtedly; there are too many to mention.

However, his talent never waned—Cage has always been a formidable actor. Unlike Willis and Travolta, who fell into the artistic abyss, Cage pulled himself back from the brink.

And that is worth celebrating.

John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. Follow him on Twitter @ghlionn.

One Comment

  1. Dream Scenario had some really interesting and thought-provoking themes behind it, most poignantly when legions of people were ready to lay blame on someone who could not possibly be at fault. Without giving out any more spoilers, I invite others to watch, (and hold your nose through the occasional lefty propaganda, it’s still a movie worth watching).

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