Written by Adam Kline
Some might say Nicolas Cage is an actor who is hit or miss. Others have suggested that even though he has appeared in some bad movies, he never gives a bad performance, or at the very least, a boring one (see Community, Season 5, Episode 2). In other words, Cage is an enigma, an often misunderstood, memed and flawed human being, who is undoubtedly committed to his craft.
After watching his latest endeavour, the mega-meta movie, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (digital release June 7), I found myself uplifted, inspired and asking the question: Can Nicolas Cage teach us something about one’s commitment to the creative process?
From a young age, Cage (born Nicolas Kim Coppola) felt compelled, not only to create, but to explore and experience the creative process. In a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Cage told the story of how he originally resisted being cast in the (eventual) Oscar winning film, Moonstruck (1987), because his preference was to perform in a peculiar little picture called, Vampire’s Kiss (1988). Eventually his agent convinced him that he could accept both roles, and Cage now admits he is forever grateful for the guidance.
Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, with over a hundred performances under his belt, it’s clear that Cage’s eclectic and creative compulsion has remained a constant. With one scroll through his IMDb acting credits, you quickly find a catalogue of characters that cover the entire emotional and empathetic spectrum. From human beings afflicted with madness and manic energy, to men enduring a mid-life crisis, to quiet recluses wrestling with internal strife, Cage has attempted to engage with and embody it all. In his book, Age of Cage, film critic Keith Phipps writes:
“His eccentricity made him stand out early in his career, but it also made him an odd fit for the sort of movies made by the top-level star he became…[Cage] has been the object of criticism for the same qualities that earned him acclaim…he’s instantly recognizable but also symbolic of unpredictability of a kind no other actor can claim…And though that has sometimes made him a misfit, he continually finds ways to keep working, and to surprise.”
Such commitment to curiosity and his craft is what makes me an admirer. His desire to diversify his roles, and remain unsatisfied with just one note, to always be willing to listen, learn and explore other aspects of narrative and human nature; that’s what I’m interested in as a communicator and as a Christian. I want to know, explore and experience things far beyond the familiar. If I truly desire to reach more people for Christ, I must be willing to humbly hear the stories and experiences of others. As the Apostle Paul puts it in The Message version of 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:
“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”
And so, even though we may not be thespians of the same caliber as Nicolas Cage, there is something undeniably insightful about an artist who imitates life, and a life that inspires art. Whatever our medium or message, when we’re fully immersed in a creative and curious process, our underlining motivation should be to expand our empathy and grow in humility so that, even through the commitment to our craft, the character of Christ can shine through.
Adam Kline is pastor of the Marmora Free Methodist Church and leader of the Intercultural Engagement Team for the Free Methodist Church in Canada. He is deeply passionate about discerning the divine nature through narrative and the complexities of communication across cultures. He loves to sip a freshly roasted dark roast and to spend time in the kitchen both cooking (and eating) his grandmother’s sweet and sour meatloaf.