Actors have played themselves in movies before. John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich and Bill Murray in Zombieland are just two of many examples. Nicolas Cage joined the club this year in an action-comedy, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which premiered at SXSW.
The SXSW Conference, which began in 1987, returned this year to live presentations after two years of virtual-only events. Cage’s film screened to a packed house at Austin’s Paramount Theatre and included a live Q&A with actors and filmmakers.
The premise of the film is that the fictional Cage has gotten into deep financial and personal trouble. On the outs with his wife and daughter, he has lived in a hotel for a year, running up a $600,000 bill. Cage assures his manager, played by Neil Patrick Harris, that it’s OK, because “They like having me there.” His manager, however, has found a way out for him. A super-fan of Cage, played by Pedro Pascal, has offered one million dollars if Cage will attend his birthday party.
After considerable cajoling and a bit of desperation, Cage agrees to attend the party in Europe. The events take a surprise twist when Cage’s plane lands and two CIA agents, played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, recruit him for a mission. Events turn deadly, and he must call on his acting skills and channel his on-screen characters to accomplish the mission and hopefully save himself and his wife and daughter.
Talking About the Film
Tom Gormican wrote and produced the film, his second feature. After the screening, Gormican joined Cage and other cast and crew members to discuss the film and answer audience questions.
Cage, who received a standing ovation from a crowd packed with his fans, admitted that he was not initially enthused about the project. “First, I wasn’t enthusiastic about playing myself,” Cage said. “Then I realized it was not like an SNL script making fun of me.” Though it is a comedy, it presents Cage playing Cage as a hero.
Part of the humor in the film comes from the relationship that develops between Cage and his mysterious fan, Javi. Pedro Pascal, who played Javi, joined Cage on the stage.
Cage spoke about how the two characters interacted on screen. “A lot of what you see on the screen,” Cage said, “actually evolved from conversations Pedro and I were having offscreen.”
Cage vs Cage
One of the fun aspects of the film is Cage interacting with an imaginary younger version of himself. The special effects that allow Cage to discuss issues with his alter ego are amazing.
About that character, Cage observed, “That was Nic Cage 1990, and I’m so glad I’m not that person anymore.”
A charming moment during the audience Q&A occurred when one of the fans at the microphone said, “I don’t really have a question, but I brought you a rose.” Cage accepted the fan’s gift and held it for the rest of the session.
The film will open in theaters on April 22. You can watch the trailer below.