Nicolas Cage has, in the past, found himself in the right place at the wrong time—never more so than with superhero movies.
Decades before they dominated the box office, Cage was tapped to play Superman in a Tim Burton adaptation called Superman Lives, in which Cage envisioned the Man of Steel as a loner and an outsider (paging Emo Batman). That project never saw the light of day. He then returned to the comic book world as the title character in 2007’s Ghost Rider and 2011’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, right before the Marvel wave hit big. These were a middling success—they made bank, were panned by critics, and are mostly remembered because Cage plays a skeleton who is on fire.
But Cage has a longstanding personal connection to the subject matter. He is foremost a fan: His prized copy of Action Comics No. 1, Superman, was once stolen from his home, only to be recovered by Cage, and later sold at auction for $2.1 million; he named his second son Kal-El, after Superman’s birth name; and he even had to cover up his actual flaming skull Ghost Rider tattoo when filming the Ghost Rider movies.
All of which puts him in a unique position to offer thoughts on the assent of superhero movies over the past 15 years. Along with his documented superhero love, he is also a genuinely voracious cinephile with an appreciation for world cinema and a desire to continue starring in independent films. These, of course, are the very projects (along with the mid-budget movie) that are being pushed out of theaters by blockbuster superhero franchises.
When we met for our second interview for the April cover story, in New Orleans, Cage was talking about wanting to return to his indie roots, as he did with 2021’s Big. As he looks toward the future of his career, I asked him about the rumors that he would be appearing as Ghost Rider once again in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. “Oh, I don’t think so. I don’t think they’re casting me,” Cage told me. “I mean, I would do it. It would be fun. I’d love to work with Cumberbatch, but I don’t think that’s happening.”
I wanted to know his perspective on the Marvel phenomenon and brought up that many directors, such as Martin Scorsese and his uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, have criticized them. (The former said, “I don’t think they’re cinema,” and the latter recently told GQ that “a Marvel picture is one prototype movie that is made over and over and over and over and over again to look different.”)
“Yeah, why do they do that?” Cage said. “I don’t understand the conflict. I don’t agree with them on that perception or opinion.”
I raised the idea that Marvel movies were making it more difficult to produce the other kinds of movies that Cage enjoys.
“I think that the movies that I make, like Big or Joe, are not in any kind of conflict with Marvel movies,” he said. “I mean, I don’t think the Marvel movie had anything to do with the end of the tweener. By tweener, I mean the $30 to $50 million budget movie. I think movies are in good shape. If you look at Power of the Dog, or if you look at Spencer, or any of Megan Ellison’s movies. I think that there’s still Paul Thomas Anderson.
“Marvel has done a really excellent job of entertaining the whole family. They put a lot of thought into it. I mean, it’s definitely had a big progression from when I was doing the first two Ghost Rider movies. Kevin Feige, or whoever is behind that machine, has found a masterful way of weaving the stories together and interconnecting all the characters. What could be wrong with wholesome entertainment that is appealing to the parents and the children, and gives people something to look forward to? I just, I don’t see what the issue is.”