As much as people joke about the myth that Nicolas Cage doesn't turn down any roles on film, they would be dead wrong. In fact, the star of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which parodies his career and life, plays a fictionalized version of himself, and he has turned down some of the biggest franchises in cinema history. One such difference between the film and the real-life version of the actor is his priorities opening up to People about them, along with director Tom Gormican and co-screenwriter Kevin Ettan.
"First and foremost … there's no version of Nic Cage in reality that doesn't want to spend time with his children," Cage said. "There's no version of Nic Cage that didn't put family first over career. I turned down 'Lord of the Rings,' and I turned down 'Matrix' because I didn't want to go to New Zealand for three years or Australia for three years because I needed to be home with my son Weston; that's a fact." In Unbearable Weight, Sharon Hogan and Lily Sheen play his wife and daughter, respectively, finding themselves at odds with the film's personality over his work-obsessed ways. "So there is a huge disparity between that Nick Cage in 'Massive Talent' and the Nic Cage sitting in front of you right now."
While Cage accepted the absurd role and labor of love, the actor managed to surprise the director and writer. "The thing that surprised us most is he has this reputation of this sort of crazy, wild guy. Then he came, and he was so unbelievably prepared, and he had thought so much about the character," Gormican said. "We were just fascinated by his process." "He understood that if he took something like this on, he would get to really, on a huge scale, play with people's ideas of who they think he is versus who he really is. It's like a big performance art piece in that way," added Etten.
The actor, who's about as self-aware about his image as it gets about his reputation, remained humble throughout the experience even after his initial reluctance about the film. "I always say to myself, 'I never had a career, only work.' What I mean by that is sometimes —, and I won't mention names — but when you get into this career-minded perception of one's self, it can be a slippery slope, and it can lead to things where you start believing in your own mythos, and you start taking yourself way too seriously," Cage explained. "You become pretentious, and then you fall into the realm of diva, and that's when mistakes happen in your personal life and on camera." Lionsgate's The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which also stars Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris, is currently exclusively in theaters.