In Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, Nicolas Cage plays a meta-version of himself who agrees to attend a billionaire’s birthday party to in order to catch up on his finances. Something Cage has in common with the exaggerated version of himself is taking on jobs he would not normally consider in order to pull himself out of debt.
Starting around 2014, Cage’s debt was heavily publicized as the actor teetered on bankruptcy. He had blown his $150 million on real estate, and owed the IRS $6.3 million in property taxes.
“I’ve got all these creditors and the IRS and I’m spending $20,000 a month trying to keep my mother out of a mental institution, and I can’t,” Cage says in a profile with GQ. “It was just all happening at once.”
In the interview, Cage opens up about overcoming his debt, and his time picking up roles in direct-to-video movies. He’s always been a fairly busy actor, racking up multiple roles a year on average since his career started in 1981. What changed was when they turned from major blockbusters to a mountain of VOD productions. Cage starred in 46 films in a time frame where most successful actors complete around 10. However, the actor defends his decision to pick up all of these films.
“When I was doing four movies a year, back to back to back, I still had to find something in them to be able to give it my all,” Cage says. “They didn’t work, all of them. Some of them were terrific, like Mandy, but some of them didn’t work. But I never phoned it in. So if there was a misconception, it was that. That I was just doing it and not caring. I was caring.”
However, Cage also recognizes that taking those less glamorous, straight-to-video roles—though they got him of debt—definitely affected the kind of offers that came to the table. “The phone stopped ringing,” he says.
“It was like, ‘What do you mean we’re not doing National Treasure 3? It’s been 14 years. Why not?’” he recalls asking, before adding the unsaid response himself, “Well, Sorcerer’s Apprentice didn’t work, and Ghost Rider didn’t really sell tickets. And Drive Angry, that just came and went.”
The actor reveals he officially finished paying off his debts a year and a half ago, which is about the time he started taking on more revered showings, such as the indie thriller Pig.
Out of debt and back on track in his career, Cage is entering a new era where he can be choosy about the roles he takes on, like his decision to play Dracula. “I’m just going to focus on being extremely selective, as selective as I can be,” he says. “I would like to make every movie as if it were my last.”