Nicolas Cage, the star of the rapture movie Left Behind, Ghost Rider extraordinaire, and centerpiece of what may be the worst movie about the middle ages ever produced, has artistic integrity and we have proof. Last February, Cage filmed writer/director Paul Schrader's “Dying of the Light,” in which he plays a rogue CIA operative. When Schrader, who wrote Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, submitted a cut of the film that the distributor, Grindstone Pictures, a subsidiary of Lionsgate, found too unconventional, the suits insisted on recutting the movie. Cage, who probably keeps that Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas next to a dinosaur skull, was not happy.
Now, the Nic is helping Schrader stage a silent protest. They’re joined by Chekov from Star Trek and executive producer Nicolas Winding-Refn, the director of everyone’s favorite nihilistic murder-thriller, Drive. The four uploaded a picture with each wearing a t-shirt printed with a clause from the contract they signed. It reads: "No publicity issued by artist or lender, whether personal publicity or otherwise, shall contain derogatory mention of company, the picture, or the services of artist or others connected with the picture." The implication: They’d love to rag on the distributor’s cut, but are legally bound not to say a word.
While it’s sad to hear that another artist’s vision has been sanitized, let’s at least celebrate the shy emergence of Nicolas Cage’s credibility. Like several other genuinely great actors – De Niro, Freeman, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson – Cage is unapologetic about appearing in unapologetically bad movies. What he’s not comfortable with - apparently - is allowing his good movies to go bad. He’s separating the food on his plate, making sure the filet doesn’t end up soured by some Bangkok Dangerous–style fish sauce.
This purveyor of weakquels and laughable one-liners is also, lest we forget, a Coppola. And that means something. We’ve seen this guy go renegade on behalf of the U.S. Government (The Rock), his brother (Gone in 60 Seconds), and drugs (Bad Lieutenant). It’s nice to see him rampaging on the side of quality.