- 1The failed Superman project of the late 1990s has become the stuff of legend. The tentatively titled Superman Lives was to be based on the Death of Superman storyline, and was at the time being actively pursued by uber-producer Jon Peters. It led in part, to an extended falling-out between screenwriter Kevin Smith and director Tim Burton. (The two supposedly buried the hatchet after Smith jokingly accused Burton of stealing the ending of his new Planet of the Apes film from a Jay and Silent Bob comic.)
Notoriously, Peters' beloved concept for a fight between Superman and a massive robotic spider inspired the climax of his 1999 disaster Wild Wild West. But of course, the tidbit everyone remembers is that Nicolas Cage, the weird not-necessarily-all-that-buff guy far-from-mild-mannered guy, was the main contender to play Superman and his alter-ego, Clark Kent.
In 2009, this image – said to be a test of Cage in what was then being considered as a Superman suit – spread around the Internet, confirming what most had long suspected. Nicolas Cage as Superman is a weird idea. Also, Nicolas Cage is either very stoned or his take on Superman is very squinty, like Clark Kent is permanently doing a Clint Eastwood Man With No Name trilogy impression whenever he dons the cape.
Burton essentially backed off from the entire superhero genre and can currently be seen putting Johnny Depp in silly costumes once a year, for which they are each paid $500 billion. In 2006, the Superman franchise was revived (in a fashion) by Bryan Singer, whose Superman Returns rebooted the storyline from the 1970s Christopher Reeve movies. DC and Warner Brothers did it again in 2013 with Zack Snyder's Man of Steel.
In an odd final twist on this whole story: In 2000, thieves stole a valuable copy of Action Comics #1 – the 1938 edition that introduced Superman – from Cage's Los Angeles home. (The comic resurfaced years later in a storage locker, and was returned to Cage.) A film about the Nicolas Cage-Superman heist is currently in the works.
Who Got the Part
Brandon Routh in "Superman Returns" (2006)
- 2[Image by Anthony_Hopkins from Reddit]
Cage revealed in a 2011 interview that Peter Jackson had discussed casting him as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films.
He decided to turn down the role of Isildur's heir, not because he didn't feel like it was believable that all the Kingdoms of Men in Middle-Earth would unite behind his rule, but because he wanted to spend more time with his family.
(As all the Lord of the Rings films were made at the same time, starring in the series required a 3-year time commitment in New Zealand! Which is, I'm sure, quite lovely, but let's face it... a green hill covered in sheep is a green hill covered in sheep.)
But still... not wanting to spend so long away from home, and preferring to be around his family. That's understandable, right?
You have to value that quality time with loved ones. I mean, just look at these sorts of treasured memories he was making during that time with son Weston Cage:
I mean, what's being remembered forever as the ultimate Ranger from the North when you're experiencing this kind of familial bliss, I ask you?
Who Got the Part
Interestingly enough, Stuart Townsend was eventually cast in the role of Aragorn and spent two months on set preparing for the films before being hastily fired, and replaced by Viggo Mortensen.
Russell Crowe was apparently also in the running for a short time. Nicolas Cage to Stuart Townsend to Viggo Mortensen... seems like PJ couldn't make up his mind about what he was looking for.
Viggo Mortensen in The Two Towers (2002)
- 3In the same interview where Cage discussed his short-lived flirtation with playing Aragorn, he also discussed passing on starring as Neo in the original film The Matrix.
See, according to Cage, he didn't want to go to Australia, so he was like, "forget appearing in a classic action film that kicked off an entire trilogy for which I would have been handsomely paid for, thus being able to keep my impressive comic book collection and castle-like Los Feliz mansion." Cause that's what, like a 14-hour flight? I mean, get real, people.
Who Got the Part
Keanu Reeves ended up playing The Chosen One in the Matrix films.
Honestly, I think most would agree that Keanu Reeves isn't as good an actor as Cage, but it's still probably for the best that he got the part in between 6-month long bouts of sitting on a park bench being sad.
Cage as Neo just wouldn't be believable. I mean, we're supposed to think that, with that iron physique, he didn't already know kung fu? Puh-leeze.
Keanu Reeves in a lovely evening gown... I mean, in The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
- 5[Photo from Nic Cage as Everyone]
The beloved Roald Dahl children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was originally adapted into an equally beloved 1971 musical film starring Gene Wilder as the unpredictable candymaker and, let's be perfectly fair here, slave owner Willy Wonka. A remake had been discussed since the mid 1990s, with various directors and actors being attached over the years. (Interesting side note: One of the early directors who had been considered for the project was Pleasantville director Gary Ross, who recently broke box office records and hearts with the mega-smash Hunger Games.)
Michael Keaton, Christopher Walken, and John C. Reilly were all in the early running for the role of Wonka during these initial discussions, as was, obviously, Nicolas Cage. He'd certainly be believable in the scenes requiring Wonka to send adorable children off to gruesome, terrifying fates, but I'm not sure it would have the same zany sense of fun as the Wilder version. Cage as Willy Wonka terrorizing poor, morbidly obese Augustus Gloop sounds more like "Saw" for the pre-teen set. ("Oh, so you like chocolate? Do you want to play a game?")
And can you imagine Cage trying to channel the impish glee of the "Pure Imagination" sequence? I can, and it's a memory I'm going to treasure forever.
Who Got the Part
By 2003, director Tim Burton had officially signed on to direct the remake, and he quickly decided to collaborate once again with his frequent partner-in-peculiarity Johnny Depp. Their near-unrecognizable take on Wonka essentially turned the character into a Michael Jackson impression, only somehow creepier and proved divisive with audiences.
Johnny Depp in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
- 6During a Q&A at New York Comic-Con in 2011, the duo behind Crank – Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor – mentioned that they had initially written the main character of Chev Chelios as Nicolas Cage.
No word on whether Nicolas Cage would have done the movies with a Statham-esque raspy British accent, but sources can confirm that, if true, this would be super-awesome.
It's not terribly hard to envision an amped-up Cage needed to constantly maintain a high state of adrenaline in order to function. Werner Herzog essentially made this same concept a few years ago with his gonzo Bad Lieutenant re-imagining, only with less Amy Smart and more iguanas.
Neveldine and Taylor fulfilled their lifelong dream (and let's be honest, the lifelong dream of every young director) of working with Cage when they worked on his Marvel Comics sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. So, yeah. That's a thing that happened. They made another movie about that flaming skull guy.
Who Got the Part
The part ended up being memorably inhabited by Jason Statham in two films to date and remains one of his signature characters.
Jason Statham in Crank (2006)
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