Nicolas Cage walks into a movie theater and grabs a microphone. This may sound like the setup for a joke, but it’s a true story.
The actor grabs the mic not to introduce himself. He doesn’t even address the 200+ fans who packed an Alamo Drafthouse for a 10-hour, 5-film Nicolas Cage movie marathon. No, Cage grabs the mic and launchs into a highly unexpected and increasingly passionate performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. After its fiery conclusion, Cage drops the pages of the short story like they’re a microphone. He lets the crowd, now in rapturous applause, absorb the moment. Then he finally addresses the room with a three-word declaration:
“That just happened.”
It was a very surreal way to spend Sunday morning, to say the least. But before we get into how the rest of the day played out, some history. A few years ago Alamo Drafthouse programmer Greg MacLennan came up with the brilliant idea of doing mystery movie marathons dedicated entirely to one actor. There’s been VanDamage to celebrate Jean Claude Van Damme, Russelmania for Kurt Russell, and Cruise Control for Tom Cruise. And of course there was Caged to celebrate Nicolas Cage.
But unlike some of the other marathon members, Nicolas Cage has made a lot of movies. Like, a whole, whole lot. His filmography allows multiple marathons without ever even repeating a movie. So for the past four years, MacLennan and the Drafthouse have done Caged, Caged 2: Uncaged, Cag3d, and now C4ged 4-Ever. Every year MacLennan invites Cage to attend the marathon, but until now the closest he’s ever gotten is getting the actor, through mutual friend Elijah Wood, to deliver a written note for the audience. This year, Cage – to the surprise of everyone in the room – actually showed up.
But that’s not all. The Con-Air star didn’t just randomly read an Edgar Allen Poe story and then leave (though that alone would have been awesome). He actually hand picked the marathon’s lineup, and he stayed to watch all five films with the audience, then stand for an hour-long Q&A with everyone at the end of it all. Yes, Nicolas Cage went all in on C4ged.
The movies Cage chose to share with the audience were:
Bringing Out the Dead
Army of One
Lord of War
He didn’t give explanations for why he chose each film, though he did say Bangkok Dangerous was chosen in honor of his girlfriend, who is Thai, and Joe was in honor of the marathon taking place in Austin, near where the movie was filmed. But he also didn’t really need to explain the programming. After all, a Caged marathon is all about showing off the actor’s staggering range. And the mix here was really stunning. Bringing Out the Dead, in particular, showed off just how damned singular and magnetic Cage is when it comes to injecting comedy into the darkest recesses of humanity. Army of One is all about dialing a performance to 11 in order to make a rather unlikable character somehow lovable. Joe and Lord of War both show very different ways to play men who understand the evil of the world all too well.
That’s the kind of marathon lineup that’ll make you fall in love with an actor all over again. That’s always the ideal goal for one of these actor-specific marathons. But this one had the distinction of being crafted and attended by Cage himself. And he didn’t half-ass it, either. I’ve been to plenty of screenings hosted by a celeb who just shows up for an intro and then disappears. But Cage sat there amongst his fans all day long, generously talking to nervous fans during breaks between movies (he even blessed a wedding proposal between two diehard Cage fans!), and watching each and every movie with a smile on his face.
That part’s even more amazing when you consider that Cage mentioned during the Q&A that he does not like watching himself in movies, and that he hadn’t seen many of these since they were made. He referred to the whole event as being “extraordinarily bizarre” for him. And yet he did it.
But that’s the genius of Cage in a nutshell, isn’t it? He knows what’s bizarre, but he goes there anyway. He’s willing to explore the extreme in search of something unpredictable and unprecedented. He’s a man who knows when to create a moment in space and time that causes everyone, himself included, to take a step back and acknowledge: that just happened.
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