Nicolas Cage had already been working in movies for two decades before the internet exploded in the 2000s, but when it did, he became an almost-instant meme. There’s a Nic Cage meme for almost any occasion, but especially for when you need to express outrage or disbelief. But despite his popularity and the largely good-natured warmth behind the phenomenon, Cage isn’t a huge fan of being a meme.
Nicolas Cage has been grappling with fame in some of his recent roles. There’s 2022’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, in which he played more than one version of himself opposite (another meme king) Pedro Pascal, as an obsessed Nicolas Cage fan. And now there’s Dream Scenario, in which he plays a man who starts to become super famous because everyone is inexplicably dreaming about him.
In a new interview about Dream Scenario, Cage brought up his frustration with being viewed as a meme, rather than his wider performance being given full consideration, noting; “I might have been the first actor who went through a kind of meme-ification” and later adding; “I didn’t get into movies to become a meme.”
“One person had cherrypicked from all these different movies where I was having meltdowns, but without any regard for how the character got to that place. I was frustrated because I didn’t know what people were taking from the movies other than that,” Cage told The Guardian.
To be fair to the fans who make the viral videos and memes, Cage really has delivered so many outrageous movie moments that make for perfect reactions. There’s; “I don’t care! I’m no freakin’ monument to justice! I lost my hand! I lost my bride!” in one of the best rom-coms of all time, Moonstruck, and “you don’t say!” from 1988’s Vampire Kiss. There’s him stepping out into fresh air and feeling the breeze in his mullet in 1997’s Con Air, or simply saying “I’d like to take his face… off” in 1997’s Face/Off.
There’s also; “OK, let’s ride” in 2000’s Gone in 60 Seconds and one of the best comes from one of his worst movies – the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man – “Oh God no, not the bees!” A more recent example is Cage looking completely unhinged in 2018’s Mandy while drenched in blood and bisexual lighting.
Cage seems to have made peace with his meme-ification, to a degree. “I didn’t understand how to process what was happening. I got into acting because I was moved by film performance more than any other art form…. I made friends with it, but it was an adjustment. I thought maybe they would compel someone to go back and look at the movies. But I had no control over it.”
Cage is currently in one of the best-ever phases of his career, kickstarted by the brilliant horror movies Mandy and Color Out of Space, and solidified by one of the best drama movies of recent years – 2021’s Pig. After years in the direct-to-video doldrums, it’s great to see Cage back at the top of his game.