“I care about the connection with the audience. Film is such a powerful medium. Movies can change the way people think.” – Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Kim Coppola, the acclaimed actor and director, known professionally of course as Nicolas Cage, has cinema and the art of filmmaking running through his veins. The Academy Award-winning actor sits atop the pantheon of Hollywood as one its most-recognised talents, one that has traversed genres and ridden the rollercoaster of success along the way.
With a birth name like ‘Coppola’, it should come as little surprise that Cage had dreams of becoming an actor from a very young age. Cage once said that moved into the profession and “wanted to be James Dean,” which will become evidently clear when learning a selection of his favourite pictures. “I saw him in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden,” he added. “Nothing affected me—no rock song, no classical music—the way Dean affected me in Eden. It blew my mind. I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do’.”
It goes without saying that cinema runs through Nicolas Cage’s blood. Raised as the nephew of the great director Francis Ford Coppola and actress Talia Shire, Cage was destined to move into the business the moment he began to show an interest. The family line of creative filmmakers is the backbone of Cage’s life, of course, being cousins of directors Sofia Coppola and Roman Coppola, Cage is also directly related to and actors Robert Carmine and Jason Schwartzman. However, despite his family connections, Cage never relied on an easy fast-tracking through the mire of hopeful actors. Instead, he became a major student of cinema and worked his way through the industry, fervently indulging all forms of motion picture.
Desperate to forge his own path, Cage took the incredibly bold decision to separate his personal life from his professional ambitions. After becoming engrossed by the Marvel Comics superhero Luke Cage, he changed his name at the very start of his career to avoid lazy casting and easy handouts. “I think it’s no secret that I’ve tried to take chances in my career and also in my life, and I believe to not live in fear,” he once said in what is the most unambiguous indication on his Hollywood views.
Cage also explained: “I’ve always maintained that I see myself as a student. There’s always something to learn and be challenged by and hopefully grow from.”
Despite his fiercely creative surroundings, it is the passion for cinema and the movies that has allowed Cage to reach a level of professionalism that separates him from the rest. “When I work, I really try to get absorbed in the character,” the actor once explained. “Unless I want to do something playful with the camera, I’m not too worried about where the camera is or positions.”
He continued: “Passion is very important to me. If you stop enjoying things, you’ve got to look at it, because it can lead to all kinds of depressing scenarios.”
Having starred in numerous critically acclaimed roles, from Leaving Las Vegas to Face/Off, Cage has never been shy to pay homage to the works that allowed him to learn the art of filmmaking. When he was asked by the good people of Rotten Tomatoes to pick out his favourite five films, his answer of: “I can’t put it all in five. It’s just, there are different movies for different reasons in different lifetimes,” makes a little more sense.
While Cage has offered his thoughts on some of his favourite cinematic films of all time, it means that we all have a chance to climb inside the mind of one of the most dynamic actors of his generation and see what makes Nic tick. “East of Eden was the movie that really put the hook in me to become a film actor, because of James Dean’s performance when he has the nervous breakdown trying to get the money to Raymond Massey, playing his father, from selling beans, and he’s rejected. That nervous breakdown affected me more than anything else, and that’s what made me want to become a film actor,” he explained in his list.
With the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Elia Kazan and more, see the full list below.
Nicolas Cage’s 13 favourite films of all time:
- Once Upon a Time in the West – Sergio Leone, 1969
- East of Eden – Elia Kazan, 1955
- Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
- Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941
- Enter the Dragon – Robert Clouse, 1973
- The Nutty Professor – Jerry Lewis, 1963
- The 400 Blows – François Truffaut, 1959
- The War of the Gargantuas – Ishirō Honda, 1970
- Juliet of the Spirits – Federico Fellini, 1965
- The Wizard of Oz – Victor Fleming, 1939
- Pinocchio – Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen, Wilfred Jackson, Norm Ferguson, Jack Kinney, T. Hee, Bill Roberts, 1940
- Beauty and the Beast – Jean Cocteau, 1946
- A Clockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick, 1971
When discussing the iconic work of his uncle, Cage explained: “I saw Apocalypse Now really with everybody else, so Marlon Brando was there, and my uncle was showing the movie, and Dennis Hopper was there and [Marc Marrie], and…I don’t think Marrie was there, but everybody…Let’s see. Larry was there. They were watching the movie for the first time, and I must’ve been about, gosh, what was I? 12, 13? I don’t know, but it really put a big effect in me, and I was blown away by the scope of the film.
“I don’t think there really was a movie like that before with the helicopter sequences, and with Brando’s performance with Dennis Hopper was… I mean, he was really going off the rails in that, and that had a big impact on me as well, in terms of my own later choices with film performance. I wanted to get a little more Dennis Hopper or less Dennis Hopper with some of the stuff that I was doing, so that had a big impact.”