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|Also Known As:||John Caglione, John Caglinoe Jr.||Died:|
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Though haunted by cries of nepotism early in his career thanks to being born the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and Talia Shire, actor Nicolas Cage managed to strike out on his own based on the strength of his fearless and often over-the-top performances while becoming one of Hollywood's highest paying stars. After landing his first leading role in "Valley Girl" (1983), Cage was featured in a pair of his uncle's films, "Rumble Fish" (1983) and "The Cotton Club" (1984), before establishing his penchant for the bizarre with the offbeat indie "Birdy" (1984). He starred in Coppola's underrated "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) and delivered an hilarious turn as an ex-con turned baby kidnapper in the Coen Brothers' slapstick "Raising Arizona" (1987). Cage next earned his first serious critical praise for "Moonstruck" (1987), before again going off the rails as yuppie who becomes a vampire in "Vampire's Kiss" (1989). But it was Oscar-worthy performances in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995) and "Adaptation" (2002) that elevated his status and propelled him beyond low-budget indies to become a $20 million-per-film star in blockbusters like The Rock" (1996), "Con Air" (1997), "National Treasure" (2004) and "Ghost...
Though haunted by cries of nepotism early in his career thanks to being born the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and Talia Shire, actor Nicolas Cage managed to strike out on his own based on the strength of his fearless and often over-the-top performances while becoming one of Hollywood's highest paying stars. After landing his first leading role in "Valley Girl" (1983), Cage was featured in a pair of his uncle's films, "Rumble Fish" (1983) and "The Cotton Club" (1984), before establishing his penchant for the bizarre with the offbeat indie "Birdy" (1984). He starred in Coppola's underrated "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) and delivered an hilarious turn as an ex-con turned baby kidnapper in the Coen Brothers' slapstick "Raising Arizona" (1987). Cage next earned his first serious critical praise for "Moonstruck" (1987), before again going off the rails as yuppie who becomes a vampire in "Vampire's Kiss" (1989). But it was Oscar-worthy performances in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995) and "Adaptation" (2002) that elevated his status and propelled him beyond low-budget indies to become a $20 million-per-film star in blockbusters like The Rock" (1996), "Con Air" (1997), "National Treasure" (2004) and "Ghost Rider" (2007). Of course, Cage was not immune to tabloids, who publicized his marriages to Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie Presley while documenting his tax troubles with the IRS. Regardless of how one felt about his often outlandish performances, there was no doubt that Cage was a risk-taking actor willing to do just about anything on screen.
Born Nicolas Coppola on Jan. 7, 1964 in Long Beach, CA, Cage was raised by his father, August, a literature professor, and his mother, Joy, a modern dancer and choreographer who was hospitalized for severe depression, which kept her away from the family for long intervals. Because of his family's deep show business roots - Uncle Francis was an Oscar-winning director and grandfather Carmine was an Oscar-winning composer - Cage became interested in becoming an actor at a young age. When he was 12, his parents divorced, leaving him to be raised by his father because his mother was considered unfit to retain custody. He later moved to San Francisco, where he performed in a production of "Golden Boy" at the American Conservatory Theatre. After moving back to Los Angeles, Cage made his onscreen debut on "The Best of Times" (ABC, 1981), a variety series that observed teenage life through songs, dance and skits. Cage then dropped out of Beverly Hills High School during his senior year to concentrate on acting fulltime. Making his feature debut, he made a brief appearance in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) before being cast by his uncle in S.E. Hinton's "Rumble Fish" (1983).
Because he was billed early in his career as Nicolas Coppola, he had difficulty landing parts. When he did land parts, Cage heard cries of nepotism from his fellow cast mates. Instead of enduring the criticism, he simply changed his name - which was inspired by the Marvel Comics character Luke Cage - and immediately began to get cast with greater ease. Credited as Nicolas Cage for the first time, he channeled his frustrations in his initial leading role in "Valley Girl" (1983), playing a Hollywood punk who tries to win the heart of a sweet-natured Valley girl (Deborah Foreman). He made his first serious dramatic waves with a supporting role in the period romantic drama "Racing With the Moon" (1984), then played the sensitive, strong and fiercely loyal friend of a mentally-scarred Vietnam veteran (Matthew Modine) in Alan Parker's "Birdy" (1984). Due to his performance in "Valley Girl," Uncle Francis was more than happy to cast him in a small role in "The Cotton Club" (1984), a film that greatly frustrated Cage to the point of trashing a trailer, thanks to Coppola keeping him on set for months after his initial three days of work; the director wanted him to hang around in case he had an idea that involved Cage's character.
Despite the damage he caused on set, Cage was cast again by Coppola in the nostalgic look back at the 1960s, "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). Criticized at the time for his over-the-top acting choices, Cage was nonetheless on the verge of making his big breakthrough. Because of his performance in "Peggy Sue," Cher - who likened his strange, but compelling performance to watching a two-hour car crash - proposed him for the role of Ronny in "Moonstruck" (1987), a young bakery operator who falls head-over-heels for a widowed bookkeeper (Cher). Though the film's star, Cher, received the lion's share of praise - and an Oscar to boot - Cage managed to more than hold his own in an off-beat performance that marked his true emergence into the public consciousness. He next earned legions of independent film fans with a wild, borderline over-the-top performance in Joel and Ethan Coen's screwball comedy, "Raising Arizona" (1987). Cage played H.I. McDonnough, an unsuccessful petty thief who marries his arresting officer (Holly Hunter), only to learn that the couple cannot conceive. When they hatch and execute a plan to steal a baby from a wealthy Arizonan business owner (Trey Wilson), all hell breaks loose, including the unleashing of a motorcycle-riding bounty hunter (Randall 'Tex' Cobb) who acts like the spawn of Satan himself.
Continuing with his penchant for independent film, Cage probably single-handedly guaranteed a perpetual cult status for "Vampire's Kiss" (1989) when he ate a live cockroach in another method-acting stunt; previously he had knocked out a tooth for the filming of "Birdy." In David Lynch's surrealist odyssey, "Wild at Heart" (1990), he was a violent ex-con with an Elvis Presley fixation - much like Cage in real life - who falls into a steamy relationship with the daughter (Laura Dern) of a rich, but mentally unstable Southern woman (Diane Ladd). Though critics united with the public in ignoring "Amos and Andrew" (1993), Cage's wacky charm was central to the success of Andrew Bergman's comedy "Honeymoon in Vegas" (1992). Unfortunately Bergman couldn't repeat the formula for "It Could Happen to You" (1994), despite the presence of Cage in that cast. Returning to Sin City for Mike Figgis' "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), Cage delivered an uncharacteristically subtle, multi-layered performance as an alcoholic writer who goes to Vegas to drink himself to death. Bringing warmth and humor to what could have been an unsympathetic role, Cage earned rave notices, while winning nearly every conceivable award, including his first Academy Award for Best Leading Actor.
Following his Oscar win, Cage unexpectedly reinvented himself as an action hero, starring in a trio of blockbuster muscle movies that elevated him to the ranks of aging icons Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Harrison Ford - certainly in terms of salary per picture. In his first big budget actioner, "The Rock" (1996), he played an at-first geeky FBI biochemist opposite Sean Connery - who was the only man ever to have escaped from Alcatraz - to free hostages on the famous island prison. Then in "Con Air" (1997), Cage matched his bad-luck good guy with offbeat Federal Marshall John Cusack to foil the machinations of some of the hardest criminals ever assembled, including a mastermind serial killer (John Malkovich). After playing a psychotic terrorist who swaps identities with FBI guy John Travolta in John Woo's "Face/Off" (1997), Cage enjoyed a respite from actioners in "City of Angels" (1998), a love story inspired by Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" (1988), before returning to action fare as corrupt homicide detective frantically searching for an assassin who killed the U.S. Secretary of Defense (Joel Fabiani) in Brian De Palma's crime thriller "Snake Eyes" (1998). In 1999, Cage starred in two edgy thrillers - the vile, depressing crime thriller about snuff films, "8mm," and the intriguing, but ultimately empty black comedy "Bringing out the Dead."
In 2000, Cage returned to action movies, starring in the car theft movie "Gone in 60 Seconds." While short on character development and plot, the film was big on fast car chases - Cage was a well-known car enthusiast in his private life - and was a mild hit at the box office. Cage's next three films, however, did not fare as well - "Family Man" (2000), "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001) and "Windtalkers" (2002) all received lukewarm receptions. After becoming better known for his unorthodox personal life - such as his three-month marriage to Elvis' daughter Lisa Marie Presley in 2002 - Cage was ripe for a comeback when he starred as real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin brother Donald in the reality-bending "Adaptation" (2002), in which Kaufman and director Spike Jonze attempted to mix the fact and fiction behind Kaufman's attempts to adapt the bestselling novel The Orchid Thief into a motion picture. Finding an ideal vehicle for his offbeat talents, Cage finally returned to the kind of edgy, quirky and unpredictable characterizations that distinguished him early in his career. Cage's whimsical portrayal of the Kaufman brothers earned him his second nomination for a Best Leading Actor at the Academy Awards.
In addition to his high-profile acting career, Cage frequently made headlines for his high-profile romances. He had an unorthodox marriage to actress Patricia Arquette, which started with a proposal the day they met, followed by him trying to accomplish a series of bizarre tasks to win her love, including finding a non-existent black orchid and obtaining a signature from the reclusive J.D. Salinger. After their divorced was finalized in 2001, Cage had an on-again, off-again relationship with his idol Elvis Presley's sole heir, daughter Lisa Marie Presley. When their brief marriage ended in 2004, the actor surprised many with his marriage to Alice Kim, a former sushi waitress 20 years younger than Cage, a mere two months after his divorce from Presley was finalized. And more than one eyebrow was raised when the self-professed Superman fanatic named his son with Kim, Kal-El - the Man of Steel's birth name on planet Krypton.
In 2002, Cage saw the release of his first directorial effort, "Sonny," about a man (James Franco) who wants out of the family business as a professional gigolo, which opened quietly amid mixed to unfavorable reviews. Cage followed up his "Adaptation" triumph with a much-admired turn in director Ridley Scott's "Matchstick Men" (2003), playing a small time con man with an abundance of pathological quirks who nevertheless comes alive when he discovers the 14-year-old daughter (Alison Lohman) he never knew he had. He made another return to action fare - this time in a more lighthearted and appealing mode - with the panned, but popular Jerry Bruckheimer-produced "National Treasure" (2004). In this box office hit, he played Benjamin Franklin Gates, the descendent of a treasure-hunting clan who seeks a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers after the Revolutionary War. Next was a turn in "Lord of War" (2005) as Yuri Orlov, a globetrotting arms dealer struggling to stay one step ahead of his enemies - a relentless Interpol agent (Ethan Hawke), his chief business rival (Ian Holm), and a notorious African dictator (Eamonn Walker) - while also grappling his own conscience. "Lord of War" polarized critics - some hated it, while others praised it - but all agreed Cage turned in a finely etched performance.
Even better was his portrayal of the successful Chicago weather forecaster Dave Spritz, who nevertheless inspires total strangers to throw fast foot at him in director Gore Verbinksi's seriocomic, existential "The Weather Man" (2005). Playing a newly introspective man wresting with his own mediocrity and plagued with an inability to meaningfully connect with his family members - his accomplished writer father (Michael Caine), his estranged wife (Hope Davis) and his children - in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking. Cage delivered one of his most measured, effective and surprisingly low-key performances, sparking much awards season buzz that ultimately proved fruitless. After voicing Zoc, the ant wizard in "The Ant Bully" (2006), Cage starred as Port Authority officer John McLoughlin in Oliver Stone's sober and heart-wrenching look at the September 11th terrorist attacks, "World Trade Center" (2006). Along with Officer Will Jimeno (Michael Pena), McLoughlin survived for 24 hours underneath the rubble after both towers had collapsed. "World Trade Center" opened up to generally positive reviews, though a few expressed concern that it was too soon for a film about the horrific events.
Cage was next seen in "The Wicker Man" (2006), Neil LaBute's remake of the 1973 British movie about a Scottish police officer who goes to a remote island to find a missing girl and in the process discovers the inhabitants engaged in strange and secretive rituals. He then returned to the big budget fame and glory that defined his career. A lifelong comic book fan who flirted with virtually every comic book adaptation from Superman to Constantine, Cage finally settled on starring in "Ghost Rider" (2007), playing the flaming-skulled motorcycle-riding demon bounty hunter forced by contract to do the Devil's bidding. Instead of the hard-drinking, heavy metal-loving character from the comics, Cage transformed him into a jelly bean-eating teetotaler who loves to listen to the Carpenters - a testament to the actor's famed weirdness. Despite an online uproar from comic geeks over early leaked footage of the character's distinctive flaming skull, "Ghost Rider" rolled to an easy box office take of $52 million over the course of a four-day holiday weekend - surprising given the typical antipathy of audiences for past mid-February releases. Meanwhile, Cage starred in "Bangkok Dangerous" (2008), playing a remorseless hit man whose life takes a turn toward the unexpected when he travels to Thailand to complete a series of contract killings.
Taking just about anything that came his way, Cage next starred in the sci-fi thriller "Knowing" (2009), playing an MIT professor who deciphers a coded message detailing both past and future disasters. Critics were sharply divided, with most expressing their negative opinions, though globally the film was a box office hit. Following a pair of voice roles in the family-oriented features "G-Force" (2009) and "Astro Boy" (2009), Cage delivered one of his most over-the-top performances in "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009), where he played a drug-addled rogue cop who goes on a rampage while trying to solve a string of murders. In classic fashion, Cage delivered an out-of-his-mind performance that actually earned high-praise from critics, though Werner Herzog's film failed at the box office. Meanwhile, Cage landed into trouble with the IRS for failure to pay $6.2 million in federal income taxes for 2007, which came in addition to other unpaid taxes for previous years. While the IRS put a lien on his New Orleans property - the famed haunted LaLaurie Mansion in the French Quarter - Cage sued his business manager, Samuel J. Levin, for alleged negligence and fraud. Levin filed a counter argument stating that Cage had gone on wild spending sprees, amassing properties across the world while purchasing numerous cars, pieces of jewelry and art, and even a dinosaur skull.
All the while Cage began taking on more films than he could seemingly handle, all to varying degrees of quality and commercial success. In the popular comic book adaptation, "Kick-Ass" (2010), he was a former cop who helps an ordinary teen-turned-superhero (Aaron Johnson) after having trained his daughter to be a ruthless vigilante named Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). He went on to play a modern-day sorcerer battling the forces of evil with his reluctant protégé (Jay Baruchel) in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (2010), before traveling back to the 13th century to transport a woman (Claire Foy) accused of witchcraft to her death in "Season of the Witch" (2011). From there Cage was an undead felon who breaks out of hell to avenge his murdered daughter and rescue her kidnapped baby from a band of cult-worshipping savages in the rather silly supernatural thriller, "Drive Angry" (2011). After he starred with Nicole Kidman as a couple facing a home invasion in Joel Schumacher's disastrous "Trespass" (2011), he was an everyman indebted to a hit man (Guy Pierce) in the unexceptional thriller "Seeking Justice" (2011). As he dealt with the continuing saga of his financial woes, particularly when he foreclosed on his $35 million Bel Air property, Cage was arrested in April 2011 in New Orleans for suspicion of domestic battery, disturbing the peace and public intoxication. Less than a month later, charges were dropped. Meanwhile, he reprised Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze for the universally panned "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" (2012).
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