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Enjoying renewed interest from all corners in Hollywood due to his praised performance in the 2021 indie thriller Pig, Nicolas Cage has entered what can only be called a renaissance.
After years of making indies, the actor is in demand for live-action studio films for the first time since 2011’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. While he had done occasional studio voice work, with such as films as The Croods and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, he returned in earnest with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a meta action movie released in April by Lionsgate in which Cage plays an actor named Nick Cage. Then he booked a chewy role as Dracula in Universal’s upcoming vampire thriller Renfield. Sources tell THR that the actor was paid $7 million to lead Massive Talent and received close to $3 million for Renfield for a supporting role.
That is a marked jump from the fees he had been receiving for pumping out indie after indie, some schlocky, some arty. He had six live-action credits in 2019, four in 2018 and five in 2017. His fee for leading those VOD-type movies fell into the $1 million to $1.5 million range, with some profit participation thrown in. That salary would have taken up at least a third of the budget for Pig, the movie that changed his current trajectory, as sources say it cost only $3 million.
On top of reopening studio doors — in addition to Massive Talent and Renfield, he is in various stages of discussions for sequels to such big productions as National Treasure and Face/Off — Pig’s success has allowed the actor to raise his price. One indie movie source says Cage’s quote is now $4 million.
Of course, this late-career resurgence is nowhere near his heights as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, the actor reportedly commanded $20 million a film for movies such as 2000’s Gone in Sixty Seconds, 2002’s Windtalkers and 2004’s National Treasure. He received $16 million for the 1998 Brian De Palma thriller Snake Eyes.
That heyday followed his Oscar-winning turn in 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, for which Cage received … no pay at all. According to director Mike Figgis, neither he nor Cage was paid his $100,000 fee by the financier. Cage had been working steadily for more than a decade at this point, with noteworthy credits including Raising Arizona and Moonstruck. “Whatever,” Figgis said dismissively in an Oct. 4 episode of the THR podcast It Happened in Hollywood. “My career then took off again, and the next film I did, I got really well paid. And within a year, [Cage] was earning $20 million a film.”
After making Vegas but before his Oscar win, Cage left his longtime agent Ed Limato, signed with CAA and made The Rock, Con Air and Face/Off, a one-two-three punch that cemented Cage as a worldwide action star.
Now, even amid the renaissance that sees him currently shooting the Ari Aster-produced A24 movie Dream Scenario, he’s still willing to follow his Vegas instincts and bet on projects. Says the indie source, “He will do discounts on things if he is really into the project.”
Aaron Couch contributed to this report.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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