Is Nicolas Cage a Good Actor? Depends How You Define Success.

I BOUGHT MY first movie in 1998: a DVD of Face/Off.

Along with Con Air and The Rock, Face/Off completed a trifecta of movies that made Nicolas Cage one of the biggest actors of the decade. I memorized each movie, repeating “Put the bunny back in the box” and “I can eat a peach for hours.”

But just a few short years after hits both critical (Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won an Oscar) and cult (Raising Arizona), his films began to alternate between forgettable (Ghost Rider) and iconically bad (Bangkok Dangerous).

The 2010s only brought worse projects. Cage presumably took these roles to pay debts accrued from lavish shopping sprees, which included an island, mansions, a haunted house, and a dinosaur skull. His career trajectory—his ’90s box-office hauls competed with those of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, and Leonardo DiCaprio—was looking as explosive and fiery as the crash landing in Con Air.

Except Cage never stopped working.

As he said in an 2006 interview for the British newspaper Metro: “I don’t want to sit around by the pool luxuriating with a margarita.” Where his peers excelled with star power, gloss, and charm, he hustled. To date, the guy has more than 100 actor credits to his name. And he’s only 58.

You could argue that Cage is like other ’90s action stars, but his charisma and eccentricity have helped him age better. Stallone is still resting on his Rocky laurels, JCVD is doing Minions 2, and Steven Seagal is, well, Steven Seagal.

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Yes, according to Rotten Tomatoes, more than half of Cage’s work is “rotten,” but that’s what makes you want to root for him.

In a way, Cage works just like us. Not every day is a great day at work. In fact, most days at work(especially these days) are shitty days at work—and isn’t that reality? Cage churns through the grind until he experiences a moment of greatness. He’s no Cruise, Roberts, or DiCaprio, but when was the last time you rooted for them?

Cage isn’t alone in his ability to work through failure. Rotten Tomatoes has also splatted more than 50 percent of Owen Wilson and Adam Sandler movies in the past decade.

We root for those guys, too, because they have hustle. But there is some-thing special about Cage. Those of us who cheer for him don’t just love him despite his failures. We love him because he fails—and because he seemed to stop caring what anyone thinks of that a long time ago.

So the man is free to do what he wants and have a ton of fun doing it. Whenever I’m frustrated at work, I can hear Castor Troy in Face/Off say, “You’re not having any fun, are you?”

When Cage found his resurgence with last year’s acclaimed Pig and now his twist-filled, self-referential The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (out now), he made me remember why my DVD copy of Face/Off barely had time to cool 24 years ago: Work can be fun if only we take ourselves a little less seriously.

Just like Nic.

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