Over the past decade, Nicolas Cage has become one of the easiest actors in Hollywood to make fun of. It’s a combination of the hair, the transforming face and the god-awful movies. That makes it easy to forget that Cage was once one of the game’s most sought after actors. So sought after, in fact, that the 47-year-old actor (as of today–happy birthday, man!) has had to turn down his fair share of roles. So let’s do what we do best–toast Mr. Cage by looking at the roles he came oh-so-close to playing. Randy Robinson, “The Wrestler” (2008)
It’s tempting to call Cage a big fat idiot for passing on the role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, but it actually has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with him being a great guy. Even after putting in time researching the role by attending wrestling bout after wrestling bout, Cage stepped away from the film at the request of director Darren Aronofsky. “Nic was a complete gentleman, and he understood that my heart was with Mickey,” Aronofsky told Slashfilm. “I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but…you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity.” It was probably best he did anyway, because who really wants to gains 40-plus pounds and train hours on end with former wrestling star named Afa the Wild Samoan? Joel Barish, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) Cage obviously nailed it as both Charlie and Donald Kaufman in “Adaptation,” but “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’”s love-sick Joel Barish? Eh, we’re not so sure, even if Charlie Kaufman wrote the part with Cage in mind. As good as he is at playing neurotic characters, this one wouldn’t have translated well to the screen. The main reason: Most of the dialogue between Jim Carrey (Joel) and Kate Winslet (Clementine) was based on real tales of heartbreak the two experienced. And Cage isn’t the type of guy who gets his heart broken, let alone has hipster girls fall in love with him. Carrey on the other hand… Aragorn, “The Lord of the Rings” (2001)
“The Lord of the Rings” would’ve just been too much for Cage. Filming in New Zealand, thousands of miles away from his family was one thing. But when he heard the production would take years, Cage handed over the role of Aragorn to Viggo Mortensen. “I thought what Viggo did was terrific,” Cage told MTV in an interview after the film was released. And that’s about all he thought. “I just want to think about his character. I don’t think about what I would’ve done,” he added. But he probably did think of what it would’ve been like to marry Arwen and rule the Kingdom of Gondor and Arno. How could he not? Neo, “The Matrix” (1999) “The Lord of the Rings” wasn’t the first time Cage turned down a part because of filming locaton. Two years earlier, he passed up the lead in “The Matrix” because it was being shot in Australia. Instead, Keanu Reeves was called in to play Neo, a computer programmer who rebels against the machines. Honestly, Keanu or Cage, it would’ve been the same flick either way. In the end though, it was better that Keanu got that part so he could be happy, even if only temporarily. Superman, “Superman Lives” (1998)
We’re not certain, but chances are the day the production of “Superman Lives” went down in flames was one of the saddest days of Cage’s life. The guy named his kid Kal-El! Cage had to be bummed when he heard director Tim Burton turned his back on the film when financial issues arose after blowing through $30 million before filming even started. By 2001, Cage realized he was no Superman and there was no saving the film. John Bender, “Breakfast Club” (1985) If there ever was a role Cage should’ve played, it’s John Bender, the wiseass who gets detention for pulling a false fire alarm in “The Breakfast Club.” Sure, Judd Nelson did a solid job bringing the iconic character to life, but Cage would’ve delivered the sharp insults and nearly broken down about his abusive father even better. When this role was being cast, everyone from Emilio Estevez, who ending up play the jock, to John Cusak, who didn’t look threatening enough according to John Hughes, wanted the part. Even though Cage didn’t get Claire’s (Molly Ringwald) earring or his big break, he obviously managed to find his way. Dallas Winston, “The Outsiders” (1983)
Way back in ’83, Cage auditioned for the part of Dallas “Dally” Winston in his uncle Francis Ford Coppola’s film “The Outsiders.” All he got was a cameo. But that gave him time to take the lead role that year as a punk in “Valley Girl.” Too bad everyone was busy swooning over Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez in this movie instead of marveling at Cage’s perfect hair.