Could Any Other Actor Play Himself as Well as Nic Cage Plays Nic Cage

Tim Molloy and Eric Steuer • June 2, 2022

Nicolas Cage plays a neurotic, pretentious, deluded and still lovable version of Nicolas Cage in the new film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which got us thinking: Could any other actor play himself as well as Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage?

In the latest episode of the Low Key Podcast — available on Apple, Spotify and below — we talk about how The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent may be our favorite film ever in the actors-playing-themselves genre. John Malkovich was great in Being John Malkovich, of course. And Bill Murray made a terrific Bill Murray in Zombieland. But could anyone besides Cage carry an entire film built around his off-screen persona?

A film that not only doesn’t wear out the joke, but works on every level?

In our recent cover story, Nicolas Cage took care to note that he doesn’t share that much in common with the version of himself he plays in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

“It’s so hard to talk about this movie,” Cage laughed in our interview. “It’s so triangular. I don’t know what to say.” But he said the film offers a “stylized interpretation of so-called Nick Cage,” and that he explained to director and co-writer Tom Gormican, who wrote the film without ever having met Cage that, “this isn’t really me. This is your interpretation of me as this highly neurotic, anxiety-ridden guy.”

Of course, it helps that Cage invites so much curiosity and is the subject of so many Hollywood myths and legends. In an age of cautious studios and obsessive publicists, many actors are allowed to convey only a bland affability off-camera.

But there are exceptions, and in this episode of Low Key, your hosts Aaron Lanton, Keith Dennie and me explain why we think the following actors could sustain a movie playing outsized versions of themselves:

Tom Cruise: Besides being arguably the most famous actor in the world, and one of the only true movie stars, he has a complicated personal life and fascinating perfectionism, as well as a drive to perform incredibly risky stunts at great personal peril. All the weird stuff aside, we love watching him.

Samuel L. Jackson: A master at playing cranky good guys with hearts of gold who are not to be toyed with, he gets a royalty every time someone says “mothafuckin.'” We would all watch a movie that consists of him trying to book a clown for a child’s birthday party.

Will Smith: Post-slap, in India. This would be a great movie, we’re absolutely positive.

You can check out the rest of our picks on the episode, where we also share our favorite Cage roles, and try to think of a single movie he’s been bad in.