nicolas cage unbearable weight of massive talent
Nicolas Cage behind the scenes of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Photo by Katalin Vermes. Courtesy of Lionsgate

Nicolas Cage says the concept of playing himself in Tom Gormican and Lionsgate’s new action-comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was “terrifying.” But he also wants to set the record straight that he’s not the same Nicolas Cage in real life as you see in the movie.

For the iconic actor behind films like Face/Off, National Treasure, Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Con Air, The Rock, and countless others, one of the most important parts of choosing roles is whether or not he can learn something from the experience.

“I see myself as a student. I’m always going to be looking to learn. I’m always going to be looking to try something, even if it scares me,” Cage tells MovieMaker in our latest cover story. “I think that if you go towards that which frightens you — within reason, as long as you’re not hurting yourself or someone else — you’re probably going to learn something and grow in some way from that experience. And this certainly was that. I mean, it was terrifying.”

Cage’s sense of humor helped him get past the daunting nature of the role.

“It’s so hard to talk about this movie,” Cage laughs.

After getting hilariously jumbled up between referring to Nicolas Cage the person and Nicolas Cage the movie character, he laughs again: “It’s so triangular. I don’t know what to say.”

Somehow, he always finds the words.

Also Read: Nicolas Cage: The Man, The Myth, The Meme (Cover Story)

“This is certainly a stylized interpretation of so-called Nick Cage. I had to explain to Tom [Gormica] that this isn’t really me. This is your interpretation of me as this highly neurotic, anxiety-ridden guy,” Cage says.

“My day is pretty mellow. I have a lot of quiet moments of meditation and thought and just sort of not really doing much, whereas his motto was, ‘The best Nick Cage is neurotic Nick Cage,’” he quotes, dissolving into giggles again. “He kept saying that on set. I was like, ‘Okay, all right, I get it, Tom! This is your movie. We’re doing your vision.’”

Cage is an exceptionally good sport when it comes to making fun of himself — but he wouldn’t have said yes to the movie if he didn’t think that at the heart of Gormican’s script was a story about a family man (no pun intended).

“I must have turned it down two or three times,” Cage says of the role. “I didn’t want to play myself in a movie, I wanted them to look for someone else to portray me. But Tom was very hell-bent on making sure I played the part, and he wrote me a very thoughtful letter… it became clear to me when I read the letter that he wasn’t really trying to mock the Nicolas Cage character, but kind of trying to look at this evolution of the character in terms of family.”

When he finally did agree to do the part, he had to find a way to approach the character in an honest way without feeling too over-exposed.

“The most challenging part was trying to protect myself,” he says. “I knew that this was a kind of a stylized interpretation of so-called Nick Cage, and a lot of it was coming out of the memefication of so-called Nick Cage and the cyber aura that people have created. I didn’t create it. They created it, and that’s fine.”

“I had to play with it and become self-aware about it and try to work with what had happened to me in terms of the internet,” Cage adds. “There are other actors who are far more famous than I am who I don’t think have had to look so closely at memefication as I have. And so, I had to do something with it. And I think this movie gave me an opportunity to play with that.”

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent hits theaters Friday, April 15.

A version of this story originally appeared in our spring print issue.

Main Image: Nicolas Cage behind the scenes of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Photo by Katalin Vermes. Courtesy of Lionsgate