AUSTIN, Texas – Nicolas Cage was everywhere at the South by Southwest festival.
It was on temporary tattoos, released as part of the promo for her new movie, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” and on t-shirts, worn by many fans who showed up at the premiere over the weekend.
His face was on the posters made by a super fan, plastered on Austin, which said, “Nicolas Cage, I’m your biggest fan, please call me.” Which, later, Cage did. There were also three Nic Cage mascots, which looked like the actor’s life-size wooden heads, strolling around town.
This fanfare around Cage isn’t just normal, it’s expected.
“There is an authenticity in Nic, because him And this guy. He’s a deeply weird, cinephile and very sensitive individual, “Tom Gormican, director and co-writer of Cage’s new film, told NBC News at the SXSW festival.” He brings him into the world with such swagger and confidence that I think that people understand, they understand that it is authentic “.
Cage plays a fictional, more selfish and financially unstable version of himself in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”. In the meta film, he offered $ 1 million to appear at the birthday party of wealthy superfan Javi Gutierrez, played by Pedro Pascal, in Spain.
The Lionsgate comedy has already generated a 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes – The Verge aptly described it as “a Nic Cage meme as a movie” – and plenty of excitement ahead of its April 22 th release.
“I think part of the interest in the film is ‘Who is he really?’” Gormican said.
The goal wasn’t to make fun of Cage, but to celebrate his prolific career, co-writer Kevin Etten said. Throughout the film there are references to notable Cage films, including “The Rock”, “Leaving Las Vegas”, “Face / Off”, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, “Guarding Tess” and “The Wicker Man” . There is also a room full of many, many Cage canon props that were collected from Pascal’s character.
Neither Etten nor Gormican had met Cage prior to writing the film. “We just started writing it – it’s a colossally stupid decision that worked well,” said Gormican. The two wrote the script in 2018 over the course of eight or nine months, then bought it in the studio.
Eventually, Lionsgate came aboard, but “with the caveat that if Nicolas Cage didn’t come aboard, they would no longer be aboard,” Gormican said.
Etten and Gormican said they wouldn’t rewrite the script to feature a different actor playing themselves if Cage turned it down. “Storytelling really only works with him,” Gormican said.
“There is such deep love for him in a way that there isn’t for some of those other people who have had similar trajectories,” added Etten.
To persuade Cage, the two wrote a letter. They pointed out how they were doing something to celebrate Cage’s career.
“He did everything right and there are very few actors who can cross genres like that,” said Gormican. “We said to ourselves, ‘How about the opportunity to do everything in one project?'”
“We also talked about how in a world where your identity is constantly contested in a public sphere … we thought, ‘It wouldn’t be an interesting performance art to take the reins of this in a narrative film and put things that are real. and imaginary ones out there in a mixture of the two that people don’t know? ‘”
For example, Cage doesn’t have a daughter in real life. But in the film, he has a broken relationship he is trying to mend with his on-screen daughter Addy, played by Lily Sheen, who is frustrated by her acting father’s need to be at the center of it all.
“There are things that people don’t know, there are things that are real and things that aren’t,” Gormican said. “The more Nic put pieces of himself into that equation while we were shooting, the more interesting this piece of performance art became for us.”
It helped that the two of them did their research.
Cage was initially reluctant, turning down the opportunity several times before saying yes. The often parodied actor said he worried the film would be more like “an Andy Samberg ‘SNL’ sketch making fun of whatever ‘Nic Cage’ is.”
“No muscle in my body told me to play any version of myself in a movie. And because it scared the hell out of me, I knew I had to.”
-Nic Cage plays a fictional version of himself in “The Unbearable Weight of a Huge Talent”
“It was a red thread, it was terrifying,” Cage told audience members at the festival. “No muscle in my body told me to play any version of myself in a movie. And because it scared the shit out of me, I knew I had to. ”
He also told the audience that “he was trying to go back to my dramatic roots and back to independent films, which is my base”.
“I’ll always come back to that. And I was thinking a lot about Tony Curtis,” Cage said. “How Tony Curtis could play the Boston strangler and then he could be in movies like ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ and ‘Some Like It Hot.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that guy has a range, let’s go back to some comedy, flex a little and do the comedy and drama.’ So luckily Kevin and Tom let me do it with this. “
There is also a moment when Cage kisses his younger alter ego, who appears multiple times in the film. This was Cage’s idea, according to Gormican. “It’s the thing you only get with Nic; he comes up to you and says, ‘Tom, I’d like to French kiss me.’ “
“It was so symbolic of what was happening,” Cage said of his creative suggestion. “I’m actually making a movie about two versions of myself… It’s like making out with yourself in the weirdest way. So we could also do it symbolically and have them kiss each other. “
Everyone involved in the film loved Cage and his films. Pascal, according to the cast members, was probably the biggest fan of the group.
When Pascal was asked on the red carpet if his character “Mandalorian” loves Grogu (Baby Yoda) more or if Javi loves Nic Cage more, he replied: “That’s an impossible question to answer.”
How much to Pascal himself? “I grew up watching Nic Cage movies,” he said. “I think I knew it or not, I think I’m an actor thanks to Nic Cage’s films. I really know. And so it’s a next level of surreal being a stage partner with him.”
On set, the bond between the two went beyond the premise of the meta film. They also shared the recordings of the films.
“I knew more about Nicolas Cage’s films than them,” Pascal said of Gormican and Etten.
As Cage, sporting a plaid suit, walked the carpet to a packed Paramount Theater, fans burst into cheers and chants of “Nic! Nick! Nick!”
He stopped to pose with photos for some and answered questions from the audience, who gave him a standing ovation after the film ended.
Cage accepted a rose from a fan and thanked the festival after being presented with an oversized belt buckle in recognition of “40 years of tremendous talent.”
“I’ll wear this … and it will encourage me to keep trying to surprise and enjoy you.”
So what’s the next step for the actor? Cage said at the film’s premiere that he’d love to do a musical at some point in his career. It looks like it’s time for Etten and Gormican to take a look at their next Cage script.