Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage was a versatile Academy Award-winning actor whose wide-ranging body of work spanned everything from oddball comedies (1987's "Raising Arizona", 2002's "Adaptation"), to dark character dramas (1995's "Leaving Las Vegas", 1999's "Bringing out the Dead"), to effects-driven action films (1997's "Con Air", 2004's "National Treasure", 2007's "Ghost Rider"). Ever since he could remember, Nicolas Cage wanted to be an actor. He was born Nicolas Kim Coppola in Long Beach, California, and from a young age harbored dreams of being up on the 60-foot silver screen, just like his childhood idol James Dean. Of course, it helped that his famous uncle was none other than Francis Ford Coppola, the Academy Award-winning director of such modern classics as "The Godfather" (1972) and "Apocalypse Now" (1979). However, Cage viewed his famous surname as more of a nuisance than anything, which is why he changed it early in his career. Cage attended Beverly Hills High School, and it was there that he first began acting. He studied theater at the school, but long desired to be acting in movies. Feeling like high school was holding him back, Cage dropped out in his senior year to pursue acting full-time. He nabbed his first role when was 18 in the high school drama "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982). Although Cage's role in the film was minor, it gave him the confidence to charge full-steam ahead in building an acting career for himself. By the early 1980s he had changed his surname to Cage, after the Marvel superhero Luke Cage, and with the name change, saw his acting prospects rise. He was cast in his first substantial role as the lead in the 1983 comedy "Valley Girl," and over the next few years started steadily building a name for himself with parts in films like "Rumble Fish" (1983), "The Cotton Club" (1984), "Birdy" (1984), and "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). Both "Rumble Fish" and "The Cotton Club" were directed by his Uncle Francis. With his acting career on the upswing, Cage nabbed a breakout role as a manic ex-con in the Coen Brothers' crime comedy "Raising Arizona." Although the film drew mixed reviews upon its release, it has since grown in appreciation by critics, with Cage's hilarious performance as H.I. "Hi" McDunnough being singled out as one of the film's highlights. After "Raising Arizona," Cage began displaying his versatility as an actor by appearing in a wide array of different film genres. He appeared in romantic comedies like "Moonstruck" (1987) and "Honeymoon in Vegas" (1992), horror films like "Vampire's Kiss" (1988), and crime thrillers like "Red Rock West" (1993) and "Kiss of Death" (1995). Then in 1995 Cage floored both audiences and critics with his magnetic performance as a suicidal alcoholic in the bleak drama "Leaving Las Vegas." For his performance in the film, Cage took home an Oscar for Best Actor-his first. Although he could never quite be pinned down to one specific genre of film, by the late-1990s Cage began starring in a number of big-budget genre pictures made for the masses. These films included "The Rock" (1996), "Con Air" (1997), "Face/Off" (1998), and "8 MM" (1999). He did make time to star in Martin Scorsese's dark drama "Bringing out the Dead" in 1999, and earned his second Oscar nod for his role as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in 2002's "Adaptation," but by the mid-2000s Cage's acting output was relegated almost exclusively to effect-heavy films with huge budgets. These included "National Treasure," "Knowing" (2009), "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (2010), "Kick-Ass" (2010) and "Drive Angry" (2011). Cage would still, on occasion, make time to appear in more character driven works, among them "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009), "Joe" (2013), and "Snowden" (2016). But for the most part, by the 2010s he was mostly appearing in genre films. The 2010s also saw Cage's output increase at a furious rate, with the actor appearing in multiple films a year. In 2019 alone he appeared in six films, among them "Primal," about a rare captive jaguar that escapes, and "Running with the Devil," a crime thriller which co-starred Laurence Fishburne. By 2020, Nicolas Cage had been acting professionally for nearly 40 years and had appeared in over 100 films (according to IMDB), thus making him one of the most prolific film actors of his generation.