Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Happens When the Money Runs Out!

Anytime I see a fairly respectable, Academy Award winning actor with a history of generally prudent film choices star in some questionable high concept fare or carry a one week and done cheapie or some mindless live action Disney drivel or have a pointless role in some creatively bankrupt sequel, I always suspect that they secretly have some severe financial problem. I'd like to think that these are generally intelligent people with enough aesthetic discretion to know what is a decent script and what is a total embarrassment. Maybe it's serious tax issues or ruinous divorce judgments or severely misplaced investments or a cripplingly costly cocaine addition; whatever the unknown reason it may be I give them the benefit of the doubt that at the end of the day their hand is being forced by the overwhelming need of the paycheck.

How else could you explain Sir Ben Kingley in "BloodRayne" or "Lucky Number Slevin"? Something had to give when Jack and Diane signed up for "Something's Gotta Give". Was Dame Judy Dench really that blown away by the script for "The Chronicles of Riddick" that she had to get on board? How desperately in debt was Jon Voight in 2004 that he was forced to play the villain in both "Superbabies: Baby Genisues 2" and something called "Karate Dog"? Have you seen what Kathy Bates has been up to for the last five years? What sort of extended financial quagmire could be the reason for the last ten or so years of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career?

So with the recent news of the staggering financial problems of one of the biggest Oscar winning offenders, Nicholas Cage, my pet theory may actually have gained some credibility. Looking at his career after winning the Best Actor Oscar for "Leaving Las Vegas" in 1995, it's pretty obvious that he had drifted away from his more humble cinematic roots (pretty sure he won't be doing any Coen Brothers movies anytime soon) and fully embraced his new career as a blockbuster actor. Sure every once in a while he'd flash some of his acting chops like in "Adaptation" but for the most part it was popcorn action flicks ("The Rock", "Gone in 60 Seconds", "Con Air", the "National Treasure" movies) or slick studio comedy-dramas where he essentially plays himself on auto-pilot ("The Family Man", "Matchstick Men", "Lord of War", "The Weather Man").

On the whole it was a pretty fine career, the sort of generally accepted work that you'd expect from a popular a-list actor. You knew he was in it for the money but he obviously had enough clout to choose his scripts. However as his spending started to spiral out of control and his financial troubles started to mount, you can clearly see that his discretion was starting to take a severe slide as more and more questionable roles kept trickling in. It think you can trace it back to his all time ludicrous performance in the completely unnecessary "The Wicker Man" in 2006. Next came "Next" in 2007. His lone feature for 2008 was the offensively terrible "Bangkok Dangerous" (was he supposed to be an Asian guy here?). 2009 has thus far shaped up to be another banner year with "Knowing" (Cage sees into the future yet again) and voice over work in "G-Force" (that guinea pig movie) and "Astro-Boy".

As his serious financial problems grow, the fear is that he will really start to lose more and more discretion with his movies choices and eventually be driven completely by the needs of his mountainous debt. According to IMDB 2010 and beyond already don't appear all that promising (looks like "Ghost Rider 2" is in development). If Mr. Cage doesn't start taking better care of his personal finances and cuts back on the dinosaur skull bidding wars, he might perhaps one day find himself actually making a snuff film for 8mm 3 (yes they actually made a 2!).


  1. Don't forget that he is also set to appear in the Mystery Men-esque "Kick Ass". Interestingly enough, he is nowhere to be found in the trailer! While I feel bad for the man, I consider it Karmic retribution for the truly terrible haircut unleashed on the American public during the release of Ghost Rider. Maybe they'll make it up in the sequel?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I have no sympathy for Nic Cage's problems, and I like your theory about money problems leading to poor movie choice roles. But sometimes people just can't get any other role than what they do. Something's Gotta Give, for example: Jack and Diane as romantic leads? At their ages, I am sure they were so excited to hear they got those roles that they swallowed their dentures. Or, concerning Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Snow Dogs, I feel like if he had any other option, he'd have taken it.