Cage received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for his performance as an alcoholic Hollywood writer in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) before coming to the attention of wider audiences with mainstream films, such as The Rock (1996), Face/Off (1997), Con Air (1997) and City of Angels (1998). He earned his second Academy Award nomination for his performance as Charlie and Donald Kaufman in Adaptation (2002). He also directed the film Sonny (2002), for which he was nominated for Grand Special Prize at Deauville Film Festival. Cage owns the production company Saturn Films and has produced films such as Shadow of the Vampire (2000) and The Life of David Gale (2003).
Cage was born in Long Beach, California, to August Coppola, a professor of literature, and Joy Vogelsang, a dancer and choreographer. He was raised in a Catholic family. His father was of Italian descent and his mother was of German and Polish descent. His paternal grandparents were composer Carmine Coppola and actress Italia Pennino, and his paternal great-grandparents were immigrants from Bernalda, Basilicata. Through his father, he is a nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola and of actress Talia Shire, and the cousin of directors Roman Coppola and Sofia Coppola, film producer Gian-Carlo Coppola, and actors Robert Carmine and Jason Schwartzman.
Cage's two brothers are New York radio personality Marc "The Cope" Coppola and director Christopher Coppola. He attended Beverly Hills High School, which is known for its many alumni who became entertainers. He aspired to act from an early age and also attended UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. His first non-cinematic acting experience was in a school production of Golden Boy. He cites James Dean as the key inspiration for his career, saying, "I started acting because I wanted to be James Dean. I saw him in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden. Nothing affected me—no rock song, no classical music—the way Dean affected me in Eden. It blew my mind. I was like, 'That's what I want to do'."
At fifteen years old he tried to convince his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, to give him a screen test, telling him "I'll show you acting." His outburst was met with "silence in the car". By this stage of his career, Coppola had already directed Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Robert De Niro. To avoid the appearance of nepotism as Coppola's nephew, he changed his name early in his career to Nicolas Cage, inspired in part by the Marvel Comics superhero Luke Cage.
Since his film debut with a minor role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), opposite Judge Reinhold and Sean Penn, Cage has appeared in a wide range of films, both mainstream and offbeat. He auditioned for the role of Dallas Winston in his uncle's film The Outsiders, based on S.E. Hinton's novel, but lost to Matt Dillon. He was also in Coppola's films Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married.
Other Cage roles included appearances in the acclaimed 1987 romantic-comedy film Moonstruck, also starring Cher; the Coen Brothers cult-classic comedy Raising Arizona; David Lynch's 1990 film Wild at Heart; a lead role in Martin Scorsese's 1999 New York City paramedic drama Bringing Out the Dead; and Ridley Scott's 2003 black comedy crime film Matchstick Men, in which he played a con artist with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Cage has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, winning once for his performance as a suicidal alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas. His other nomination was for his portrayal of real-life screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Kaufman's fictional twin Donald in Adaptation. Despite these successes, most of his lower-profile films have performed poorly at the box office compared to his mainstream action/adventure roles. The suspense thriller 8mm (1999) is considered a cult film. He took the lead role in the 2001 film Captain Corelli's Mandolin and learned to play the mandolin from scratch for the part. He made his directorial debut with 2002's Sonny. In 2005, two films he headlined, Lord of War and The Weather Man, failed to find a significant audience despite nationwide releases and good reviews for his performances. Poor reviews for The Wicker Man resulted in low box office sales. The much criticized Ghost Rider (2007), based on the Marvel Comics character, fared better, earning more than $45 million (the top earner) during its opening weekend and over $208 million worldwide through the weekend ending on March 25, 2007. Also in 2007, he starred in Next, which shared the concept of a glimpse into an alternate timeline with Cage's film, The Family Man (2000).
Most of Cage's movies that have achieved financial success were in the action/adventure genre. In his second-highest-grossing film to date, National Treasure, he plays an eccentric historian who goes on a dangerous adventure to find treasure hidden by the Founding Fathers of the United States. Other action hits include The Rock, in which Cage plays a young FBI chemical weapons expert who infiltrates Alcatraz Island in the hope of neutralizing a terrorist threat, Face/Off, a John Woo film where he plays both a hero and a villain, and World Trade Center, director Oliver Stone's film about the September 11 attacks. He had a small but notable role as the Chinese criminal mastermind Dr. Fu Manchu in Rob Zombie's fake trailer Werewolf Women of the S.S. from the B-movie double feature Grindhouse.
In November 2007, Cage was spotted backstage at a Ring of Honor wrestling show in New York City researching for the lead role for The Wrestler. However, Cage dropped out of production shortly afterwards because he felt that he did not have enough time to prepare for the role and director Darren Aronofsky preferred Mickey Rourke for the lead part. Rourke would go on to receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance. In an interview with slashfilm.com, Aronofsky said of Cage's decision to leave the film that "Nic was a complete gentleman, and he understood that my heart was with Mickey and he stepped aside. I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but ... you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity, so he pulled himself out of the race."
In 2008, Cage appeared as Joe, a contract killer who undergoes a change of heart while on a work outing in Bangkok, in the film Bangkok Dangerous. The film is shot by the Pang Brothers and has a distinct South-East Asian flavor. In 2009, Cage starred in the science fiction thriller Knowing, directed by Alex Proyas. In the film, he plays an MIT professor who examines the contents of a time capsule unearthed at his son's elementary school. Startling predictions found inside the capsule that have already come true lead him to believe that the world is going to end at the close of the week, and that he and his son are somehow involved in the destruction. The film received mainly negative reviews but was the box office winner on its opening weekend. Also in 2009, Cage starred in the film The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, directed by acclaimed German director Werner Herzog. He portrayed a corrupt police officer with gambling, drug and alcohol addictions. The film was very well received by critics, holding a rating of 87% positive reviews on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. Cage received lauds for his performance, with Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune writing "Herzog has found his ideal interpreter, a performer whose truth lies deep in the artifice of performance: ladies and gentlemen, Nicolas Cage, at his finest." This film reunited Cage with Eva Mendes, who played his love interest in Ghost Rider. In 2010, Cage starred in the period piece Season of the Witch, playing a 14th-century knight transporting a girl accused of causing the Black Plague to a monastery, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice, in which he played the sorcerer.
In 2012, Cage reprised his role in Ghost Rider's sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. He voiced the character Grug Crood in the animated film The Croods, which was released in 2013. The Croods received positive reviews from critics and was a box office success grossing $585 million against a budget of $135 million.
Cage made his directorial debut In 2002 with Sonny, a low-budget drama starring James Franco as a male prostitute whose mother (Brenda Blethyn) serves as his pimp. Cage had a small role in the film, which received poor reviews and a short run in a limited number of theatres. Cage's producing career includes Shadow of the Vampire, the first effort from Saturn Films.
In early December 2006, Cage announced at the Bahamas International Film Festival that he planned to curtail his future acting endeavors to pursue other interests. On The Dresden Files for the Sci-Fi Channel, Cage is listed as the executive producer.
Cage, an avid comic book fan, auctioned a collection of 400 vintage comics through Heritage Auctions for over $1.6 million in 2002. In 2007, he created a comic book with his son Weston, called Voodoo Child, which was published by Virgin Comics. Cage is a fan and collector of painter and underground comic artist Robert Williams. He has written introductions for Juxtapoz magazine and purchased the painting Death On The Boards.
Since the beginning of Cage's career, many critics, including Roger Ebert, have described his performance as "operatic." In February 2011, Cage said that, at a certain point in his career, he realized that he had developed his own method of acting, which he described as "Nouveau Shamanic." He noted, "at some point I'll have to write a book" about it. Cage later explained that he drew the inspiration for the name from the book The Way of the Actor by Brian Bates, in which he read about the parallel between the ancient shamans and thespians.
In 1988, Cage began dating actress Christina Fulton, who later bore their son, Weston Coppola Cage (born December 26, 1990). Weston was the lead singer of the black metal band Eyes of Noctum, which broke up in 2012. Arsh Anubis, his new band of the same genre, was formed in 2011. Weston also appeared in his father's film Lord of War as Vladimir, a young Ukrainian mechanic who quickly disarms a Mil Mi-24 helicopter. Weston and his wife Danielle have a son, Lucian Augustus Coppola Cage, born July 1, 2014.
Cage has been married three times. His first wife was actress Patricia Arquette (married in April 1995, divorce finalized in 2001).
Cage's second marriage was to singer and songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley. Cage is an Elvis fan and used the star as the base of his performance in Wild at Heart. Presley and Cage married on August 10, 2002 and filed for divorce on November 25, 2002, a divorce which was finalized on May 16, 2004. The divorce proceeding was longer than the marriage.
Cage's third wife is Alice Kim (born December 27, 1983), a former waitress who previously worked at the Los Angeles restaurant Kabuki and at the Los Angeles-based Korean nightclub, Le Privé. She gave birth to their son, Kal-El, (after Superman's birth name) on October 3, 2005. They were married at a private ranch in Northern California on July 30, 2004. The couple separated in January 2016.
Cage grew up in a family of Catholic background, but does not talk about religion publicly and refuses to answer religion-connected questions in his interviews. When asked about the movie Knowing being a religion-themed film or not, Cage replied, "Any of my personal beliefs or opinions runs the risk of impinging on your own relationship with the movie. I feel movies are best left enigmatic, left raising more questions than answers. I don't want to ever preach. So [whatever you get] from the movie [is] far more interesting than [anything] I could ever offer."
During his visit to University of California, Santa Cruz he stated that he is not a politically active actor and that he can do it in his work as he learned more about nuclear power from the movie The China Syndrome.
Cage has been called one of the most generous stars in Hollywood. He donated $2 million to Amnesty International for them to use to offer rehabilitation shelters, medical services and psychological and reintegration services to some of the 300,000 children forced to fight in conflicts across the world. He has also donated $1 million to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. He became the first artist to support ArtWorks, an artist engagement program to raise awareness of fundamental rights at work, including freedom from slavery and from child labor. Cage has also honored with Humanitarian award from United Nations for his works and appointed as an UN ambassador for Global Justice. He led a campaign around the film Lord of War to raise awareness about international Arms Control, supported "Heal the Bay," the United Negro College Fund efforts, and the Royal United Hospital's Forever Friends Appeal to build intensive care units for babies.
Nicolas Cage was once considered one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors, earning $40 million in 2009 according to Forbes, although he failed to make Forbes' Top 10 List in 2014.
Cage had a Malibu home where he and Kim lived, but sold the property in 2005 for $10 million. In 2004 he bought a property on Paradise Island, Bahamas. In May 2006, he bought a 40-acre (160,000 m2) island in the Exuma archipelago, some 85 miles (137 km) southeast of Nassau and close to a similar island owned by Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
He bought the medieval castle Schloss Neidstein in the Oberpfalz region in Germany in 2006 and sold it in 2009 for $2.5 million. His grandmother was German, living in Cochem an der Mosel.
In August 2007, Cage purchased "Grey Craig," a 24,000-square-foot (2,200 m2) brick-and-stone country manor in Middletown, Rhode Island. With an estate occupying 26 acres (110,000 m2), the home has 12 bedrooms and 10 full bathrooms and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. It borders the Norman Bird Sanctuary to the west. The sale ranked among the state of Rhode Island's most expensive residential purchases.
Also in 2007, the actor purchased Midford Castle in Somerset, England. Shortly after selling his German castle, Cage also put up his homes in Rhode Island, Louisiana, Nevada, and California, as well as a $7 million island in the Bahamas, for sale.
On July 14, 2009, the Internal Revenue Service filed documents in New Orleans in connection with a federal tax lien against property owned by Cage in Louisiana, concerning unpaid federal taxes. The IRS alleges that Cage failed to pay over $6.2 million in federal income tax for the year 2007. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service has another lien for more than $350,000 in unpaid taxes dating from 2002 to 2004. Cage filed a $20 million lawsuit on October 16, 2009, against his business manager, Samuel J. Levin, alleging negligence and fraud. The lawsuit states that Levin "had failed to pay taxes when they were due and had placed [Cage] in speculative and risky real estate investments 'resulting in (the actor) suffering catastrophic losses.'" Cage is also facing separate lawsuits from East West Bank and Red Curb Investments for unpaid, multimillion-dollar loans.
Samuel Levin filed a counter-complaint and responded to the lawsuit in a filing stating that he warned Cage that he was living beyond his means and urged him to spend less. Levin's filing states that "instead of listening to Levin, cross-defendant Cage (Coppola) spent most of his free time shopping for high ticket purchases, and wound up with 15 personal residences." Levin's complaint continued: "Likewise, Levin advised Coppola against buying a Gulfstream jet, against buying and owning a flotilla of yachts, against buying and owning a squadron of Rolls Royces, against buying millions of dollars in jewelry and art."
In his filing, Levin says that in 2007, Cage's "shopping spree entailed the purchase of three additional residences at a total cost of more than $33 million; the purchase of 22 automobiles (including 9 Rolls Royces); 12 purchases of expensive jewelry; and 47 purchases of artwork and exotic items." One of those exotic items was a dinosaur skull of a Tarbosaurus for which Nicolas Cage paid $276,000 in an auction after winning a bidding contest against Leonardo DiCaprio. After discovering that the Tarbosaurus skull was stolen, he has since returned it to the Mongolian authorities.
According to Cage, he owned the "Most Haunted House in America," a home located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Known as "The LaLaurie House" after its former owner Delphine LaLaurie, the house was foreclosed and sold at auction on November 12, 2009 along with another New Orleans property for a total of $5.5 million, in the wake of Cage's financial problems.
His Bel Air home, which had six loans totaling $18 million on it, failed to sell at an April 2010 foreclosure auction despite an opening offer of $10.4 million, substantially less than the $35 million that Cage had originally tried to sell it for. The home, built in 1940 for $110,000, had been owned at different times by Dean Martin and singer Tom Jones. The home eventually sold in November 2010 for $10.5 million. Another home in Nevada also faces foreclosure auction.
In November 2011, Cage also sold his Action Comics 1 in an online auction for a record-breaking $2.16 million (the previous record being $1.5 million), to assist paying his tax liens and other debts. Cage purchased the comic in 1997 for $110,000.
Now worth around $25 million (as of May 2017), Cage is reportedly "taking [film] roles left and right" in order to pay off his remaining debts.
In December 2009, Christina Fulton sued Cage for $13 million and for the house in which she was living. The suit was in response to an order that she leave the dwelling; the order resulted from Cage's financial difficulties. The case was settled in June 2011.
On April 15, 2011, at 11:30 pm, Cage was arrested in New Orleans' French Quarter district for suspicion of domestic abuse battery, disturbing the peace and public intoxication, after a police officer was flagged down by onlookers after Cage allegedly grabbed his wife's upper arm while appearing to be under the influence of alcohol. Cage was held in police custody until a bail of $11,000 was posted by Duane "Dog" Chapman. He was later ordered to appear in court on May 31, 2011. On May 5, 2011, it was announced that the charges against Cage had been dropped.
In May 2001, Cage was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by California State University, Fullerton. He spoke at the commencement ceremony. Cage has also been nominated for an Academy Award twice. He won an Academy award for best actor in a leading role for his role in the film Leaving Las Vegas in 1995. He was nominated for a second one for his role in the film Adaptation in 2002. He also won a Golden Globe award, Screen Actors Guild award and many more awards for Leaving Las Vegas. He has received nominations by the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA for his films Adaptation, Honeymoon in Vegas and Moonstruck. He has also won and been nominated for many other awards.