Nicolas Cage has a rare combination of gifts amongst Hollywood stars. He's simultaneously a wonderful actor (consider Cage's award-winning performances) and, clearly, a totally crazy person. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. Because it means that, when you're watching a Nicolas Cage performance, he's expertly portraying a character while also showing us the most insane possible incarnation of that character.
So Honeymoon in Vegas isn't just about some poor schmo whose new bride gets stolen away by a scheming professional gambler. It's about that same set-up happening to a nutcase whose response is to run around Hawaii eloquently swearing at strangers. Face/Off could have been a story about a government agent who trades identities with a mercenary in order to foil a terrorist attack. Instead, it's about John Travolta assuming the identity of a drug-addled, oversexed bug-eyed lunatic. You see where I'm going with this.
Perhaps this rare combination is what makes Cage such a compelling presence on screen, and why so many different filmmakers over the years have been tempted to cast him as larger-than-life on-screen characters.
Cage has not only completed dozens of films in which he plays over-the-top heroes and villains, he's also been considered for dozens of roles that, for whatever reason, he never got a chance to realize. Sometimes, the movies got made with other actors. On occasion, the films simply died in turnaround or had wildly different visions realized years later by other filmmakers.
Still, looking over the list, you can't help but wonder... "What if that guy had been played by Nicolas Cage?" And then feel a twinge, knowing that you've missed out...
For more true stories about your favorite actors, check out these roles Bill Murray almost played and great true stories about Johnny Depp.
The 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)
Also Rankedsee more on Superman
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)
Also Rankedsee more on Aragorn
In 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)
Also Rankedsee more on Neo
While promoting his "Ghost Rider" sequel in early 2012, Cage told MTV news about a meeting he'd had years earlier with director Joel Schumacher.
After directing 1995's "Batman Forever" and then the largely-reviled "Batman and Robin," Schumacher was somehow actually being considered for a third take on Bruce Wayne & Co., the tentatively titled "Batman Triumphant."
Because apparently no one at Warner Bros. had bothered to watch those last two, and weren't aware of Nipplegate, surely still rocking the world of fandom at this point.
Not only had Schumacher apparently made a deal with Satan for another shot at one of comic-doms most treasured icons, but he was ALSO chasing after Cage for the role of Jonathan Crane, Gotham's mad psychiatrist who transforms into The Scarecrow. The guy's a risk-taker, I'll give him that.
Mercifully for Nicolas Cage, it means he won't have to get dangerously close to any fear toxin any time soon.
Because we all know he's deathly afraid of bees:
Who Got the Part
And mercifully for Caped Crusader fans, Schumacher's third Batman never made it to the big screen, and instead the brilliant Christopher Nolan has taken over the franchise. (Nolan wisely cast Cillian Murphy as Crane/Scarecrow in "Batman Begins.")
Cillian Murphy in "Batman Begins" (2005)
#21 on The Best Comic Book Villainssee more on Scarecrow