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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent: Why Nic Cage Originally Turned Down the Meta Nic Cage Film

The Face/Off and National Treasure star initially "wanted no part of it."

By Josh Weiss
Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage) and Javi (Pedro Pascal) run through a villa in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022).

Believe it or not, Nicolas Cage actually turned down The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (now streaming on Peacock) "three of four times" before he finally agreed to star in the critically-acclaimed meta comedy hailing from writer-director Tom Gormican.

"I wanted no part of it," the Face/Off and National Treasure star admitted to The Hollywood Reporter back in 2022. It wasn't so much the self-aware aspect of the project — after all, he'd shattered the fourth wall over two decades prior in Spike Jonze's Adaptation — but the inaccurate assumption that Gormican was looking to parody Cage's penchant for wild, over-the-top performances. The filmmaker eventually made his intentions crystal-clear in a heartfelt letter that turned the tide.

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Why Nicolas Cage Finally Agreed to Star in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

"When I got Tom’s letter, then I thought, 'OK, he’s not just trying to mock so-called Nic Cage; there is a real interest in some of the earlier work,'" Cage remembered. "His tone was more of a celebration of some of [the actor’s iconic onscreen] moments — like being at the bottom of the pool in Leaving Las Vegas or [using] the gold guns in Face/Off."

One of the elements that really sold him on the script was the idea of modern-day Cage being regularly visited, almost Ebenezer Scrooge-style, by a Ghost (Rider) of Nicolas Cage Past: a younger, more unhinged version of the actor who goes by "Nicky." Basically a representation of Cage's unbridled ego, Nicky constantly reminds his older self that he is "NIC F—ING CAGE!!!"

"They were [initially] talking more about like having the character be like Cameron Poe from Con Air — but that’s not me," the real Cage explained. "Look at my appearance on the Wogan show in England when I was promoting Wild at Heart. That guy was an obnoxious, irreverent, arrogant madman. That’s the young version of me that I think that I would be confronting as the contemporary Nic Cage."

In the movie, Cage plays a fictional version of himself, who has hit a dead end — both professionally and personally. He considers retiring from Hollywood when he's invited to the lavish Majorcan estate of Nic Cage super-fan and alleged underworld figure, Javi Gutiérrez (played by The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal). Unable to turn down the opportunity of an easy pay-day, he heads to Spain and finds himself at the center of a dangerous CIA investigation that reignites his passion for acting and gets him back in the good graces of his teenage daughter, Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), and ex-wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan).

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is now streaming on Peacock.

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