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AUSTIN, Texas – Nicolas Cage’s decision to take on the role of himself wasn’t an easy one.
Cage explained during Saturday’s premiere of the film at the SXSW Film Festival that he originally wasn’t interested in playing himself when the creators of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” approached him.
In the film, Cage agrees to appear at a billionaire’s birthday but ends up becoming a CIA informant and has to rescue his daughter from a drug lord. Cage stars alongside Pedro Pascal, Lily Sheen, Jacob Scipio and Alessandra Mastronardi.
“It was a high wire, it was terrifying,” Cage explained of taking on the role. “No muscle in my body told me to play any version of myself in a movie. And because it scared the crap out of me, I knew I had to do it.”
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“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” pays homage to Cage’s earlier work, and not in an “Saturday Night Live” type of way, which the actor was initially worried about.
Director Tom Gormican ended up writing a letter to Cage in an attempt to get the actor to take on the role.
“In that letter it became clear to me that he was looking more towards a genuine interest in some of the earlier work and a celebration of that, with the elements of whatever pathos I’ve been through that people have or have not read about, “Cage said.
“And so I said, ‘OK, I think maybe there’s something here.’ On top of which I have a mantra of sorts, which is that the very thing you’re afraid of is probably – most likely as long as (it’s) within reason (and) doesn’t hurt yourself or someone else – that’s the very thing you should go towards, because you’re probably going to learn something,” he added.
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Gormican and writer Kevin Etten wrote the movie script before they even met Cage.
“When Kevin and I were writing the script, the entire time we were just thinking, ‘I think at the very least, this will make our friends laugh, and this is a movie that we’d want to see,'” Gormican said on the carpet in front of Paramount Theater.
“We didn’t know him. We had never met him. He didn’t know about the project. He was not signed on to it. So it was like a massive, creative gamble, and I think for us that made it all the most exciting.”
Cage’s biggest problem with his on-screen self was the character’s lack of desire to spend time with family.
“There’s no version of a Nicolas Cage that doesn’t want to spend time with his family,” he said. “That was the biggest schism with Tom and I when we were making a movie, which is that I’m not like that.”
“But he said, ‘Well this is a movie, and this character is evolving from A to B and we have to see him grow.’ That’s a good argument. That was a good point.”
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The actor’s favorite part was playing Nicky, a younger version of the character who appears throughout the movie. At one point, the two Cages even share a French kiss.
“One of the main reasons why I wanted to make this movie, and there was a little more of this character in some of the earlier cuts, was I loved the Nicky character. I named him Nicky. Originally it was just ‘young Nic Cage ‘ and I saw an old interview I did in England on the ‘Wogan’ show, where I was literally front hand-springing, I was promoting ‘Wild at Heart,’ front hand-springing, doing karate kicks, throwing money out into the audience and I thought, ‘Well, that guy is a really obnoxious arrogant madman, I think he needs to be in this movie.'”
“That was Nic, that’s Nic in 1990. I’m so glad I’m nothing like that person anymore,” he added.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is slated to release on April 22.