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SYFY WIRE The Wicker Man

How Nic Cage embraced 'The Wicker Man' meme for 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent'

A meta look back at Cage's prolific career, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent hits the big screen April 22.

By Josh Weiss

Nicolas Cage is an actor known for many films and performances, but his greatest contribution to pop culture might just be the "NOT THE BEES!!!" sequence from director Neil LaBute's 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. It's something that almost always comes up in a conversation about Cage's most insane acting moments and continues to prove the man's reputation as a meme-making factory.

Another celebrity would probably disavow such a lampooned performance for the rest of their lives, but not Mr. Cage. He decided to embrace all the viral jokes made at his expense for a little nod to viewers in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a meta comedy in which the actor plays a heightened version of himself.

Speaking with Empire for the magazine's latest issue (now on sale), Cage maintained that The Wicker Man "is still a fun movie." He continued: "People seem to enjoy it more thinking it was unintentionally funny, but whatever, the audience is never wrong. I thought, 'Okay, let's play with their Frankenstein Monster. Let's play with the 'Not the bees' meme.'"

Directed and co-written by Tom Gormican, Massive Talent finds the exaggerated Cage at the brink of creative and financial ruin. With no viable options left to him, the actor agrees to hang out with a super-fan (The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal) for a sum of $1 million. Things invariably go sideways when Cage is recruited by the CIA to spy on his wealthy host, who is actually a dangerous crime lord.

Beyond the basic set-up, however, the movie is really meant to serve as a loving retrospective of Cage's most iconic — and craziest — silver screen appearances over the decades. "I'm trying to deconstruct it, or play with it, or find a way to acknowledge it, in which is hopefully an entertaining format," the actor said of revisiting his hammiest moments.

"I thought it would appeal to Nic to talk about the idea of someone's identity being litigated in public," added Gormican, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Etten. "I said, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to take the reins of that in narrative form by making a movie where there are things that are real or things that are not real? We could present a version of Nic Cage that can complicate that — that can add to the mystique.'"

Pascal's job of playing a Nic Cage fanatic didn't pose much of a significant obstacle. "I didn't have to do any research," Pascal admitted to Empire. "[Cage] has been like my creative upbringing ... It is that kind of '90s romp as well has having this meta subject matter. I just love it when genres take those risks and mix together."

Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Lily Sheen, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tiffany Haddish round out the cast. Cage produced the film with Mike Nilon, Kristin Burr, and Kevin Turen.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent hits the big screen next Friday — April 22. The film, which held its world premiere at SXSW last month, currently holds a 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. For more Cage craziness, head on over to Peacock, which has an entire film section dedicated to the man himself and his extensive catalog.