Why Nicolas Cage Is Everywhere at Independent Film Markets

Nicolas Cage - 2016 German Sustainability Award - Getty - H 2017
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His diminishing value hasn't stopped foreign distributors from betting on the actor.

In an indie film world where nothing is certain, one man remains dependable: Nicolas Cage.

The Oscar winner, 53, hasn't had a true box-office smash since lending his voice to The Croods (which grossed $187 million in the U.S. and $573 million worldwide) in 2013, and his last live-action hit was 2007's National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($220 million domestic, $457 million global). But his diminishing value hasn't stopped foreign distributors from betting on the actor.

Like clockwork, a new Cage action-thriller was announced a week before the American Film Market's Nov. 1 opening — A Score to Settle, from the Highland Film Group.

"When you have a Cage film, you know you can sell it. It has value in all the windows — theatrical, VOD, international," says The Exchange CEO Brian O'Shea, who is presenting Cage-starring Primal at AFM. "It's one of the few constants in our business."

Indeed, a sample of projects announced since last year: Mandy, starring Cage as a man hunting the religious sect that killed his lover; #211, as a cop trying to stop a bank heist; Looking Glass, as a husband who buys a haunted desert motel; and Mom and Dad, as a father who violently turns against his kids.

Cage projects may not have the same theatrical appeal as his action-star prime in the mid-late 90s —in fact it's a rare indie Cage film these days that gets a U.S. theatrical release — but the number of platforms worldwide looking for content still makes them solid business opportunities.

“Big or small, if you look at the various windows you can sell a movie into —theatrical, VOD, international —a Nic Cage film has value in all of those. The only thing that will change is the price point,” adds O’Shea.

"Worst case, you can get $500,000 for TV rights. I could buy now for $300,000 and make money," says Leeding Media founder David U. Lee, who released 2011's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in China, where he thinks Cage has appeared in more theatrically released films than any other Western actor.

Despite the flood of announcements (and Lee admits the "batting average" of films that actually get made "isn't quite 100 percent" — Primal's Oct. 23 start date in Puerto Rico was delayed following Hurricane Maria, while Abel Ferrara's Siberia, which Cage joined during Cannes 2016, remains up in the air), fears of oversaturation haven't materialized.

"That comes down to the variety of films he does," says The Fyzz Facility co-founder Wayne Marc Godfrey, who executive produced Mom and Dad. "He mixes it up, and that gives distributors the ability to market things in a different way." 

This story first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.