When Nicolas Cage won the Academy Award for his role in 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, the general feeling was that the indie-film maverick had finally gotten his due and was about to graduate to prestige cinema. When he followed that up with big, muscle-bound action roles in The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off, people reacted as if this was a betrayal of his acting pedigree.
This was confirmed in the last decade, as his unpredictable career moves and cartoonish performances completed his evolution into a punchline. But who is the joke on? You never know where Cage’s muse will take him, which makes him exceedingly vital; he is among the bravest actors, in part because he’s so comfortable with people thinking he’s a joke.