The Madman: Nicolas Cage’s Most Insane Role Sheds Light On What Drives Him

08.30.17 7 months ago


All this week, Uproxx will be paying tribute to the many facets of Nicolas Cage, from his big-screen triumphs to the legends that have come to surround him and the cult following both have helped create. Next: a look at the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss and the light it sheds on Cage’s entire career.

One of the first YouTube stars was Nicolas Cage. That might sound like a strange thing to say; he was, when the streaming service launched in 2005, still one of the most bankable actors in the world. He doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with the “Chocolate Rain” guy or the “Numa Numa” guy or the sneezing panda. He has an Oscar, ferchrissakes. But he was one of the first actors — after Tom Cruise and his unfairly received couch-jumping business — who lost a bit of his credibility thanks to what we then ominously called “new media.”

It was the early days of YouTube. Users were still figuring out what to do with it: what kinds of videos could be uploaded, what purpose it could serve, what ways it may change how we imbibe media. In January of 2007, soon before the site turned two, there appeared a video called “Best Scenes from The Wicker Man.” The title was not sincere.

It was what would come to be known as a supercut, compiling the craziest, weirdest, dumbest, most embarrassing parts of the latest Nicolas Cage movie: a misguided remake of the 1973 cult classic, minus the weirdo folk songs but packed with inexplicable misogyny and plenty of wackadoodle Cage freak-outs. The Wicker Man died a quick death in September of 2006, but four months later here it was again, hacked down to a brisk two minutes, reborn as an early viral mini-sensation in which a once-respected actor could be seen cold-cocking someone dressed as a bear and screaming about bees.

With its mere 4.5 million views over the last decade (it’s still live, amazingly), “Best Scenes from The Wicker Man” was never a sensation. But it got around. And it inspired others to dig into Cage’s back catalog. Assorted videos with titles like “Nicolas Cage’s Best Moments” focused, of course, on his nuttier movie bits: him going over the top and beyond — screaming, flailing his arms, trying out unplaceable accents that no one has spoken before or since.

This was how some of us discovered the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss.

Buried in the early days of his CV, Vampire’s Kiss might have been forgotten like The Wicker Man deserved to be, had dedicated Cage-ologists not dug it up and chopped it into YouTube videos. One, from 2009, runs nearly 10 full minutes. It could go longer. In fact, some of us have long argued Vampire’s Kiss could be a 103-minute super-cut in and of itself. It never stops giving, and Cage never stops being insane. It’s the Holy Grail of Nicolas Cage gone mad.

Cage plays Peter Loew, a literary agent in ’80s New York, living the kind of bacchanal existence Jay McInerney immortalized in Bright Lights, Big City. But instead of snorting up reams of Bolivian Marching Powder, Cage’s Loew is bitten by a sexy vampire (Jennifer Beals). Or so he thinks. He may have just lost his damn mind. Either way, he goes crazy — or crazier. Cage begins the film in the upper stratosphere, then somehow rises further up. Before Loew “turns,” Cage is already speaking in a bizarro accent, which sounds like he invented a new vowel or two; he pronounces “shoo” with about 10 O’s and probably a couple of U’s.

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