Why Fake Nicolas Cage Movies Got Shopped at Cannes

Nicolas Cage Cannes Illo - H 2014

Nicolas Cage Cannes Illo - H 2014

The actor's manager laments a flood of starring vehicles, some dubious: "If I offered you eight steak dinners, you'd probably say no."

This story first appeared in the June 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

How many movies can Nicolas Cage make, anyway? At May's Cannes film market, the actor, who has been teased by Saturday Night Live for taking dubious roles, was ubiquitous as sales agents touted as many as a half-dozen new Cage films. But alarm bells went off in his camp because several were projects on which he already had passed.

Cage, 50, has not had a live-action smash since 2007's National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($457.4 million worldwide), but he remains a star foreign distributors will bet on, so sales agents use his name to presell Cannes movies such as The Trust, a crime drama to be directed by music-video veterans Alex and Ben Brewer; the supernatural thriller Pay the Ghost; and The Runner, a political drama directed by indie producer Austin Stark. But at Cannes, other projects boasted of the actor's participation, even though he's not involved: Hannibal Classics was offering 5 Minutes to Live, about a banker whose wife will be killed unless he wires $10 million to kidnappers, and Red Squad, director John McTiernan's first film since his release from prison Feb. 25. Dark Highway, another thriller, turned out to be bogus.

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"It floods the market with product that's not necessarily 100 percent real," says Mike Nilon, Cage's longtime manager. "If there are six or seven projects being talked about by any actor, then it dilutes the purchase price. If I came to you and said, 'Would you like a steak dinner?', you'd probably say yes. If I offered you eight, you'd probably say no." But Hannibal CEO Richard Rionda Del Castro contends Cage was keen on Red Squad. "Then, for whatever reason, Nic walked away just before Cannes. Nonetheless, Nic and [McTiernan] spoke last week, and we're proposing a new project for them." According to Del Castro, Cage's decision came too late to change the Cannes promo materials for Red Squad, as well as 5 Minutes to Live: "The producer had a window in which to make the movie, and Nic couldn't do it."

Such stories are common in the foreign sales business. "Everybody wants the same 12 to 15 guys. It's a nightmare," says Del Castro. Adds Nilon: "An offer is made to an actor, and then he passes, but the word gets out that he's still attached. It's frustrating."