Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)
Having made his TV debut in Best Of Times a year previously, Cage entered the movie scene. Except he was going under his original name – Nicolas Coppola.
That famous surname proved a bit of a burden. “It was a difficult time,” the actor remembers. “I was Nicolas Coppola, and there was a lot of ‘Oh, he thinks he can be an actor because he’s Francis Coppola’s nephew.’
“It occurred to me that I’d have to work twice as hard as the other actors in order to be taken seriously, and I'd have to change my name.”
Hairiffic? Mostly hidden under the fast food restaurant peak hat.
Valley Girl (1983)
“That was the first time I felt like I could breathe on a movie,” says Cage. “I walked in on that with a new name. Nobody knew who my uncle was. Suddenly felt like I could really relax and do what I think I can do.”
He plays Hollywood punk Randy, who gatecrashes a party in the Valley and meets Julie. Her friends hate him, but they make a go of it anyway.
In an odd turn of events, an exchange between Cage and Foreman - "Let's go." "Where?" "I don't care." "What will we do?" "Anything" - is almost identical to one in City Of Angels .
Hairiffic? Yep, a crop any cockatiel would be proud of.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Cage famously sued co-star Kathleen Turner years after they starred together, when her tell-all book revealed some less than flattering details about the star – namely implying that he drank heavily and stole a Chihuahua.
“I have never been arrested for anything in my life,” argued Cage. “Nor have I stolen a dog. I am reaching out to my fans — many of whom are children — so they know that I do not condone drunk driving or theft." Cage filed a lawsuit.
Hairiffic? A ‘do to make even Elvis green with envy.
Raising Arizona (1987)
Cage plays a no-good thief who ends up pairing with Holly Hunter’s cop and stealing a child in an early flick by the Coen brothers.
“ Raising Arizona ain’t so hot,” admits Ethan Coen after having rewatched the film recently. Roger Ebert agreed, arguing that the flick’s characters talk far too eloquently – especially Cage’s H.I. – “There are so many ‘far be it from me's’ and ‘inasmuches’ in his language that he could play Ebenezer Scrooge with the same vocabulary - and that's not what you expect from a two-bit thief.”
Hairiffic? It’s all over the place. Cool ‘tache, though.
If in doubt, falling back on a diva strop should get you a part in Hollywood. No, it wasn’t Cage pulling a Whitney Houston to appear in Moonstruck – it was his pre-surgery co-star Cher.
When Cage’s screen test failed to grab the studio’s attention, she refused to be a part of the film unless he was hired. After a couple of days considering that proposition, the studio acquiesced.
Hairiffic? Surprisingly good. Though that may just be in comparison to Cher’s poodle ‘do.
Vampires Kiss (1988)
What’s this one most memorable for? Cage in fangs? Nah, more like the actor eating a life cockroach for the role. Apparently it took three takes to get the shot right. I’m A Celebrity eat your heart out.
“Every muscle in my body didn't want to do it,” recalls Cage. “But I did it anyway." Good man. Sadly, the film’s a bust. Still, that’s a great party trick.
Hairiffic? Lovely blonde frosting. Except it’s not that lovely.
Wild At Heart (1990)
Cage pairs up with Master of Weird David Lynch and sings. He also got to wear his very own snakeskin jacket for the role – a jacket that he gave away to Laura Dern once filming was completed. That’s her story, anyway.
The pair play lovers on the run from a collection of oddballs (c’mon, this is Lynch) that Dern’s mother has hired to kill her boyfriend. Harsh.
Hairiffic? A decent effort. Shame about Dern’s.
Honeymoon In Vegas (1992)
Cage goes the romcom route as Jack Singer, who promises his mother on her deathbed that he’ll never get married. After she croaks, he marries girlfriend Sarah Jessica Parker in Vegas (oh the romance).
Then wealthy James Caan sweeps in and arranges for Singer to lose all his money in a poker game. Caan pledges he will pay off the debt for a whole weekend with Parker (not exactly our idea of a good time). It’s forgettable fluff from the director who would later bring us the, ahem, classic Striptease .
Hairiffic? Nothing to write home about.
Red Rock West (1993)
Cage reportedly decided to take this role because Uncle Francis (Ford Coppola) recommended it – the Copp is a massive fan of John Dahl’s film Kill Me Again .
Cage plays Mike, who is mistaken as a hitman and runs off with the loot that he’s paid for offing a man’s wife. Things take a turn for the worse when he runs into the real hitman, the sinisterly named… Lyle.
Hairiffic? Who cares about hair? Just look at those guns.
It Could Happen To You (1994)
Cage obviously learned nothing from Honeymoon In Vegas , re-teaming with the flick’s director Andrew Bergman. The film’s original title was Cop Gives Waitress Two Million Dollar Tip , and was set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Its title got changed (perhaps confusing Arnie), and the Austrian Oak went over to Last Action Hero instead. Interestingly, in a canny marketing move, the flick was released over here during the same week that the National Lottery launched. Fffnaar.
Hairiffic? Tidy and neat – he’s a cop, dontcha know?
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
“It was a story about two people that we cared about,” says director Mike Figgis, “despite their problems and circumstances they remained very human throughout.
“And as far as the Nicolas Cage character was concerned, it seemed to touch many people who had experience of substance abuse within their families.”
Cage played an alcoholic and won an Oscar for his troubles with this hard-hitting dramatical romance.
Hairiffic? We’re more concerned with Cage’s alcohol intake on this one than the thinning mop.
The Rock (1996)
Cage proves that he likes to keep it in the family, even if he changed his name - cinematographer John Schwartzman is one of Cage's cousins.
Interestingly, this Michael Bay directed thriller (in which Cage plays second fiddle only to Sean Connery) is the first of three Cage action flicks that will climax in the actor hurtling skyward after an explosion.
Hairiffic? More blonde frosting. Will he never learn?
Con Air (1997)
Before Simon West directed Angelina Jolie in the guilty pleasure Lara Croft , he also lined up Johns Malkovich and Cusack alongside Mr Cage for a hugely underrated crime thriller.
Cage is Poe, a US ranger who is convicted of manslaughter when he attempts to protect his wife during a drunken assault. Hitching a ride home after eight years in the jailhouse in a plane transporting a gaggle of vicious murderers, Poe finds himself at the centre of a hijacking…
Hairiffic? Cage tries the shaggy bear look years before Justin Collins made it cool.
“I think John Woo's a terrific filmmaker and I would love to work with him again,” effuses Cage. “I think we have a good rapport together.”
You certainly do, Nic. Cage and John Travolta head up this gloriously daft action flick from the master of action, as a criminal and an undercover agent who swap faces thanks to a pioneering medical procedure. Explosive stuff.
Hairiffic? Cage’s or Travolta’s? Both are a travesty.
City Of Angels (1998)
“On occasion, I've been trying to make movies that make a difference,” Cage opines. “And I think City of Angels is one of them.”
Only if you’re a middle-aged housewife. Alright, harsh, sexist stereotyping aside, this US remake of the brilliant German flick Wings Of Desire is stodgy and overcooked even before Cage and Meg Ryan meet. Cage practiced not blinking for the role – apparently angels don’t do it. Now that's dedication.
Hairiffic? We’re assuming the devilish widow’s peak is meant to be ironic…
Cage's Oscar statuette makes a cameo in this censor-bothering flick - wrapped up in laces on Eddie Poole's desk when Cage breaks in.
Sadly, it’s the nearest this flick would ever get to a golden baldie – the critics savaged it. Said we: "Cage at least tries to overcome the general droop and carry the thing with a bit of dignity, and there are a couple of passable set-pieces..." Oof.
It still got a Cage-less sequel six years later starring TV’s Julie Benz.
Hairiffic? Not much in this one.
Bringing Out The Dead (1999)
“I don’t care if people have criticism for it or not — I think it’s a good thing,” Cage insists. “I still have interest in the midnight audience. I want to make movies for my roots — the people who like to go see Bad Lieutenant at midnight, or Vampire’s Kiss , or Bringing Out The Dead , or Wild At Heart , so I’m gonna keep doing a little bit of everything.”
Cage teams up with Scorsese for a disappointingly duff note. If only he’d done Casino instead…
Hairiffic? Arquette does a Con Air tribute with hers…
Gone In Sixty Seconds (2000)
Cage handled most of his own stunts for this breakneck action flick, attending numerous driving schools including the Bondurant Driving School in Arizona. Even after the shoot completed, he continued racing as a hobby.
Sadly, he missed out at the stunt awards – drivers Chuck Picerni Jr and Eddie Yansick winning at the World Stunt Awards instead. Bet he’s fuming. Geddit?
Hairiffic? It attempts to compete with Jolie’s, but really there’s no contest.
Captain Corellis Mandolin (2001)
“I thought it had a classic quality to it,” Cage explains about why he signed up for the adap of Louis de Bernières’ much-loved tome.
“It's a love story set on this breathtakingly beautiful Greek island in the middle of a war. There's always an eerie beauty to people who are frozen in those kinds of moments where the future is very uncertain. It was very interesting and moving for me personally to put myself in the head of my character.” Nobody really liked it.
Hairiffic? Hiding under another hat. Rats.
Cage swaggers into the director’s hall of fame, helming his first movie – and cameoing as a near-unrecognisable bloke called Acid Yellow, wearing a Liberace jacket.
“That's the one area that I am slow to pull the trigger on,” Cage admits, “because I feel that I am still cutting my teeth in that area [ directing ] and I'm still sort of finding myself as I go along.
“I'm very happy with Sonny and it was a challenging movie. It was, I think, a movie that was difficult for people to grasp because the subject matter is somewhat taboo.” It’s about a gigolo.
Hairiffic? Yes, and freaky as hell.
Cage takes a risk on some weird bloke called Charlie Kaufman – and it pays off! He plays Charlie Kaufman and his fictional twin Donald in a mind-boggling drama that earned him another Oscar nom.
“It did get really frustrating sometimes,” Cage says of the script. “I remember one time I literally screamed because I couldn't remember which brother I was supposed to be playing.”
Hairiffic? “It's a hell of a hairdo, isn't it?” Cage raves. “It's my favorite hairdo I've ever had in a movie! It involved painting my scalp and using all sorts of things to make it look frizzy. It's kind of like a balding poodle!”
Matchstick Men (2003)
“Actors work with their look,” Cage admits, acknowledging his ever-changing looks. “I come from the Lon Chaney Sr. school of acting. I’ll wear wigs, I’ll wear nose pieces, I’ll wear green contact lenses in my eyes. I’ll do whatever I need to do to create a character. That’s what it’s about. That’s the fun of it, you know?”
Here he plays Roy, a con artist who discovers that he has a 14-year-old daughter that he never knew. It’s a great role for Cage, with stellar support from Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman.
Hairiffic? Simple and slicked back.
National Treasure (2004)
“I think that the thing that made me trepidacious was the same thing that intrigued me,” Cage says of his turn in this historical action flick, “which is the idea of a man going in and stealing the Declaration of Independence. I thought, 'How can this actually be pulled off?'”
Director John Turteltaub loved working with Cage: “He's a gentleman. He is one of the most professional actors but especially compared to what we think the wild Nic Cage is like. This is a guy who works really hard.” They made a sequel together.
Hairiffic? Nothing too fancy – a hero doesn’t have time for any of that.
Lord Of War (2005)
Cage gets political with director Andrew Niccol as an arms dealer who starts to question the moral implications of his work.
“It's one of those characters that I guess if you were to take Scarface and replace the drugs with guns,” the actor says, “he's a gun runner and he's always figuring out where the political climate is in the world to get rich and sell the right amount of guns, and really has no ethics as to picking sides. He just has got his calculator. And needless to say, it's a politically charged movie.”
Hairiffic? A continuation of the National Treasure look.
The Weather Man (2005)
Give Cage anything, and he’ll take to it like a duck to water. Except if it’s reading the weather. “That was daunting, yes,” he acquiesces. “That was interesting because it's all backwards and I don't know what these symbols are and you have to look in the camera and point to the symbol, even though you can't really see it and it's flipped.”
He plays weather reporter David Spritz in an indie comedy that ponders the inner workings of the human heart as much as it ponders the skies.
Hairiffic? Stylised TV hair. Dreadful.
World Trade Center (2006)
More politics, but this time on a more intimate level than before, as Oliver Stone recreates the events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks just a handful of years after they happened.
“I took this role,” says Cage, “Because I got goose bumps reading the screenplay. These policemen went to work, every day, knowing that they could end up in a body bag, and that their families could end up husband or fatherless. And during 9/11, hundreds of police and firemen died.”
Hairiffic? More hats, hard to tell here.
The Wicker Man (2006)
Oh dear, a horrendous misfire as Cage takes part in another dud remake.
Having watched the masterful original, Cage says “It made me think a lot about it. I was disturbed for about two weeks.
“Most people here in the States don't even know anything about The Wicker Man . So I thought it was an interesting way to bring something that was excellent back to people's attention. And the new version is a different track altogether.” The track that leads to hell, Nic.
Hairiffic? It’s definitely hair-raising, but for all the wrong reasons.
Ghost Rider (2007)
“Comic books for me as a young man were one of the ways I learned how to read,” Cage reveals. “There were other ways too, but I was always fascinated by the mythology of them.”
Sadly, this comic book adap was a bit of a flaming turd. Cage plays stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze, who surrenders his soul in order to become a crime-fighting vigilante. It’s cheesy and over-the-top.
Hairiffic? File this one under flame-grilled.
Cage made a brief appearance in one of the trailers attached to Rodriguez and Tarantino’s grindhouse revival. He appears in Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women Of The SS as Dr Fu Munchu.
“My friend Rob Zombie, I know him only socially. I like him. He’s a nice man,” says Cage. “He said would I do this part of Fu Manchu and I said sure. One day, two lines, I mean it was just completely ridiculous. I haven’t seen it. I’m not in any of the movies. Two seconds - that’s it.” Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.
Hairiffic? That is one seriously excellent beard.
Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
“I've always maintained that I see myself as a student,” Cage says of his work as an actor. “There's always something to learn and be challenged by and hopefully grow from…”
Sadly he’s still not learnt how to not made duff films, and Bangkok Dangerous is no exception. Perhaps lured in by the promise of more action, Cage plays a hitman (imaginatively named Joe) who becomes a target himself. Snore.
Hairiffic? Very Eastern. Still rubbish.
Trust Cage to find a gooey centre to a sci-fi flick. “I dedicate the movie to my first son, because that's what the relationship was really,” he says. “It was me and him.”
He plays a teacher who discovers a time capsule at his son’s school which appears to contain predictions of what the future holds for our world. Cage just loved the father-son stuff. “I had been looking for a way to express those feelings for a long time,” he sobs.
Hairiffic? Bob standard Cage.
Cage drops by to surrender his vocals to an adorable little rodent, then goes and cashes a cheque.
“I feel that there’s nothing more sacred than the magical world of children,” he justified. “I wanted to work on a movie like this because there’s a need to keep children smiling in the world.”
Must try harder – G-Force probably had nippers yawning more than smiling.
Hairiffic? He’s got hair all over his body! Oh, wait…
Astro Boy (2009)
More animated fun, this US rendering of a Manga classic only a slight improvement on G-Force’s charmless trappings.
“I have eclectic taste,” Cage says. “I wouldn't want to be on one steady diet of any type of movie and so I think that informs my choices as well. I have eclectic tastes in the movies I want to do. I think it's dangerous when you get trapped in an identity that is one way.”
He has fun lending his droll vocals to a spirited animation that's still no patch on Pixar's efforts.
Hairiffic? That’s one crazy mop. We love it.
Another risky move for Cage, as the actor goes along with Matthew Vaughn’s vision for the comic book movie to end them all - even though the director had no studio backing.
It’s a roaring success - Cage is hilarious and cool all over again. “There was a kind of playful creativity to the experience of making Kick-Ass that I enjoyed thoroughly,” the actor nods, “particularly because of Matthew Vaughn’s direction and his willingness to go in these pretty unusual waters.”
Hairiffic? Forget the hair, have you seen Big Daddy’s super suit?!
Bad Lieutenant (2009)
“I'm a fan of abstract style or abstract art,” Cage admits, before defending his choice to go a little wacky every now and then. “But being that I'm my own instrument, if a film actor wants to get abstract, it's considered crazy or weird, but if a painter gets abstract, he's not crazy, it's just the artist is crazy.”
Uh, cool. Cage hits a career high as a drug-addled lieutenant who gets dragged into the dark underworld of a post-Katrina New Orleans. Awesome stuff.
Hairiffic? We were too busy looking at Eva Mendes to notice…