Nicholas Cage has been one of the biggest names in Hollywood for three decades. He and his films have raked in millions. Incredibly, Cage found a way to blow through his earnings with wildly absurd purchases. How did it come to this?
Bringing In The Dough
Throughout his career, Cage brought in around $150 million. Unfortunately, his foolish purchases have put him in a pickle. In just a few years, almost all of his fortune was no more. Let’s wind it back to see how he got to the top.
Viva Nicholas Cage
Based on his most recent films, you might never have guessed that Cage could hit the dramatic notes. These days, Cage finds himself mostly in action films and goofy comedies. However, Cage was even rewarded for his dramatic prowess in the film Leaving Las Vegas. He picked up an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. It would be his only win at the Oscars, but it started a run of films which made him a star.
The Horror, The Horror
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Cage opened up about the ridicule he received on set of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He called it a “terrible experience.” He desperately wanted the role of Brad which went to Judge Reinhold and auditioned for it ten times. Cage was underage so he could not work enough hours for the part. In addition, the other now-famous actors would shout lines from his uncle’s Apocalypse Now while he was in his trailer.
A Little Nepotism Doesn’t Hurt
Even though he changed his name (with some inspiration from Marvel’s Luke Cage) to avoid the constant reminder of his uncle, Cage found himself in Coppola’s films Rumble Fish and Peggy Sue Got Married. It helped him get on his feet and take on bigger roles. As his profile grew, he worked on the Coen Brothers’ Raising Arizona and starred opposite Cher in Moonstruck. The late 80s saw him rise as an actor, but he could never have expected the upcoming windfall.
A Difficult Choice
In Peggy Sue Got Married, there is a scene in which Cage sings on stage with Jim Carrey. Cage has stated that he and Carrey used to be close, so close in fact that Carrey offered him a role in Dumb and Dumber. Carrey and Jeff Daniels made the film into a classic, but we can only imagine how goofy Cage would have been. Instead, he passed to join a smaller film called Leaving Las Vegas, a career-defining move.
What Would You Do For Love?
With his career coming along nicely, Cage went looking for the only thing missing from his life – a wife. He already had a son with a past girlfriend, but he was ready to settle down. Cage married actress Patricia Arquette in April 1995 after they met at a California deli. Before they divorced in 2001, Arquette had Cage hunt down a signature from author J.D. Salinger to prove his love. He found one, but the marriage would not last.
Patricia Arquette would not be Cage’s only famous wife from a famous family. Not long after his divorce with Arquette was finalized, Cage met Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley. Even before meeting her, Cage was a huge Elvis fan and had used Elvis as inspiration for his character in Wild at Heart (1990). The couple was introduced by famed punk guitar player Johnny Ramone. Cage rewarded Ramone by naming him best man at the wedding.
Cage and Presley did their best to start a life together, but it came crumbling down quite quickly. They married on August 10, 2002, but the relationship would not live to see 2003. They divorced after only 108 days. Many people accused Cage of wanting Presley because of her higher level of celebrity. He felt otherwise, saying, ” I was the lesser celebrity? Well, celebrity is a word I take great umbrage with. I’m actively anti-celebrity. I’m about creative expression. That particular relationship was really based on humor.”
The Government Comes A-Callin’
The good times for Cage would not continue forever, however. Although his film National Treasure was a major success, the government came looking for treasure which Cage had been withholding. The Internal Revenue Service alleged that he owed $6.2 million in federal income tax in 2007, the year the National Treasure sequel was released. Due to the lien against Cage, he filed a lawsuit against his business manager. When the manager countersued, he exposed Cage’s absurd spending habits.
Money In The Bank
Thanks to the National Treasure series and Ghost Rider, Cage’s wealth swelled to $150 million. The only problem is that he had so much money he did not know what to do with it. Cage did not realize his spending habits would be exposed in his legal battle. His manager, Samuel Levin, warned him that he needed to earn $30 million a year to maintain his lifestyle. Cage was living far beyond his means. His purchases will shock you.
Rich In Real Estate
One of the root causes of his financial trouble was an obsession with real estate. Cage became obsessed with investing in property. He began buying up properties all over the world including dwellings in California, the Bahamas, Germany, Rhode Island, the United Kingdom, Louisiana, and Nevada. It was not just the price tags or upkeep which really hurt him though. Cage bought most of his properties between 2005 and 2009. Of course, the housing market crashed in 2008, and he was out of luck.
How Many Houses!?!?
For those of us that without Academy Awards, one house is enough for us to live. For Nicholas Cage, all of the houses were enough. Cage had not two nor five nor ten homes – he had 15 at one time. None of them were exactly one room huts either. He bought his Newport Beach home for $25 million. On the other coast, Cage spent $15.7 million on Newport, Rhode Island estate. Some of his properties had unique qualities too.
I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost
While his houses in California, Nevada, and Rhode Island – among others – could be considered “normal,” Cage also invested in homes with some character too. One even had a history with the supernatural. In 2006, he purchased the LaLaurie mansion for $3.45 million. The New Orleans building was owned by the LaLauries in the 1800s. Delphine LaLaurie was notorious for torturing and murdering slaves. People claimed to hear screams of the mutilated slaves even when the building was vacant.
His Own Valley Of The Kings
Oddly enough, planning for his eventual death also contributed to his financial woes. Not far from his LaLaurie Mansion, Cage bought space at the St. Louis Cemetary No. 1 for himself. He had a nine-foot-tall pyramid mausoleum there. The grave does not have a name and is only inscribed with the Latin phrase “Omni Ab Uno,” which means “Everything From One.” He has not spoken publicly about it, but people believe its an homage to National Treasure.
King In The Castles
At the peak of his wild spending, Cage took his wallet overseas. Not only did Cage spend on European housing, but he went after some of its historical buildings. He bought a castle in both England and Germany. Perhaps he was reading too much Game of Thrones, but Levin was not too keen on the purchases. He warned Cage that they were “decrepit and needed huge expenditures.” He sold most of his properties, including Midford Castle, after 2008 due to various financial issues.
Honey, I Shrunk The Heads
If his real estate purchasing habits were not bizarre enough, Cage also had a peculiar collection. For some reason, he started a collection of pygmy shrunken heads. Visitors to his home claim that he has the odd collection on display for his guests to see. It is unknown why he does so. Shrunken heads was a common practice in the Amazon. Hunters would shrink their enemies heads to harness their spirit and force them to serve the shrinker.
A Slithery Situation
He might have had 15 homes, but Cage did not want to be in the homes alone. Perhaps to overcome some loneliness, he went on a rampage of pet purchases. At one point, Cage decided he needed to have a snake, so he went out and bought two albino king cobras. He made sure to keep the anti-venom around just in case things got out of hand. Cage spent $270,000 for his legless friends to move in with him.
Under The Sea
Cage was not satisfied with only having deadly snakes in his home. He decided he needed a piece of the deep blue sea too. For the crisp price of $150,000, Cage took home an octopus to add to his pop-up zoo. According to sources, he bought the octopus because he wanted to use it as an “acting aid.” Whether he speaks to the eight-legged creature like a co-star, or he uses it as motivation, we will never know.
In one of his more normal rich person purchases, Cage bought himself a Gulfstream jet. Levin referred to this in his suit. It read, Instead of listening to Levin, cross-defendant Coppola spent most of his free time shopping for high ticket purchases and wound up with 15 personal residences, most of which were bought against Levin’s advice. Likewise, Levin advised Coppola against buying a Gulfstream jet.” Naturally, Cage did not listen to Levin and went ahead with it.
What’s the point of owning a jet if you cannot take it to the coolest places on Earth? Whether someone asked Cage this question and he took it as a challenge, or the purchase just felt right, Cage decided he needed his own tropical locale. He bought his own private island in the Bahamas. Cage must have really loved the area, because he bought multiple homes in the Bahamas during his spending spree. His deserted island cost $3 million.
Sailing Takes Me Away
Without a landing strip on his island, Cage needed a way to reach his isolated dwellings. He enlisted an armada of yachts to help navigate the open seas. He bought around $20 million worth of yachts which he used similarly to his numerous homes. With his four yachts (because one was definitely not enough), Cage could make quite the entrance at Cannes. Only if his recent films were worthy of entrance to a film festival.
It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane
Cage is such a superheroes nerd that he named one of his kids Kal-El after Superman’s birth name. At one point, Cage had a comic book collection worth upwards of $1.6 million. His prized possession was Action Comics #1, the story which first introduced Superman. Cage paid $150,000 for it. However, the comic book was stolen in 2000. He got it back in 2011 but was forced to sell it, taking in $2,162,000 for it. He also owned Detective Comics #38 in which Robin is introduced.
We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Why invest in pets which will comfort your houseguests like a dog or a cat when you can get the most terrifying fish on the planet? Cage decided a goldfish was not menacing enough for his aquarium, so he bought a shark. Maybe Cage was hoping to film his own reboot of Jaws? In need of more cash to finance his habit, we can only pray that he reshot the classic film with himself playing every role.
A Revolutionary Vehicle
Cage bought plenty of cars during his era of lavish spending, but one stood out among the rest. For $450,000, Cage bought a 1971 Lamborghini Miura SVJ at an auction. The car did not even have 2,000 miles on it when he got it because the previous owner barely used it. The previous owner was none other than Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Pahlavi had it special ordered and secretly shipped to his ski vacation home in 1971.
Welcome To Jurassic Park
One of Cage’s most bizarre purchases was actually highly sought after by another famous actor. Cage got in a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio over a massive fossil. Both actors went after an enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, with Cage taking it home for $270,000. The self-proclaimed history buff got his seven million-year-old skull but unfortunately had to return it soon after. The skull was stolen, so Cage was forced to return it to the Mongolian government.
Dog Bailed Him Out!
As if things couldn’t have got any more difficult for Nicolas Cage during his financial troubles. The actor was held in custody after being stopped by the police in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Amazingly, it was Dog “The Bounty Hunter” Chapman himself who paid the $11,000 bail to get Cage out of jail. Despite this, Cage was ordered to go back to court. Eventually, though, Cage was able to walk away a free man when all charges were dropped.
Despite his financial troubles, there is no denying that Nicholas Cage is one of the biggest Hollywood superstars in the last couple of decades. In 1998, Cage was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also, his Academy Award for his role in Leaving Las Vegas wasn’t the only recognition that Cage has received in his career. He also won a Golden Globe for his role in the same movie and has also received awards for movies such as Honeymoon in Vegas and Moonstruck.
If you thought sharks and octopuses weren’t enough, then have no fear – Nicholas Cage also wanted more. In his pop-up zoo at his home, Cage invested in a crocodile, adding to a plethora of wild and exotic animals. It seems like Cage just has this mentality that he can have whatever he wants, and at one point, he could. Not only did he have the money to buy virtually anything, but he also had the money to manage such luxuries.
Nearly Killed His Career
In a desperate attempt to pay back all of his debts, Nicolas Cage nearly risked his own reputation as an actor when he starred in the critical and commercial failure Bangkok Dangerous. The movie is about a guy called Joe who is a professional assassin who sticks by the rules and gets into all sorts of trouble. Although the movie had a $45 million budget, it only made $42.5 million at the box office. Somehow, Cage is still finding work ten years later.
Not The Wicked Man
Another movie that nearly cost Cage his career was 2006’s The Wicker Man. Although the original 1973 movie starring Christopher Lee is considered a great movie, with one critic calling it “The Citizen Kane of horror movies,” Cage’s version is considered to be more like “The Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Another film that failed to make back it’s $40 million budget, not even Cage could save this movie from being absolutely lambasted by horror fans and critics alike.
I’ll Take Anything!
Nicolas Cage continues to desperately try to pay his debts by taking whatever movie roles come his way. In the last ten years alone, Cage has starred in just under 40 movies! That’s a respectable number of movies to star in in an entire career! Some of the highlights in those ten years include his role as Big Daddy in the hit super hero movie Kick-Ass as well as the comic book movie Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Things could have been a lot different for Nicolas Cage had he got his ultimate wish – to play Superman. In the mid-90s, that was about to become a reality when Tim Burton got the green light to create his own movie called Superman Lives. A documentary about the failed movie called The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? was directed by Jon Schnepp and chronicles the events surrounding the development of the movie. Although there is only archival footage out there, know this: Cage could have been Kal-El.
Fast Times Leads To Fast Changes
Cage’s first film appearance came in Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut Fast Times at Ridgemont High alongside future stars Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Crowe cut most of Cage’s scenes from the final cut, but the film became a learning experience for young Nicholas. Cage said that he was resented on set by his peers due to his famous connections and changed his name to stand out from his family. It’s his only film credited as Nicholas Coppola.
Lights, Camera, Action, Action, And More Action
1996 and 1997 were very good to Cage. He would work consecutively on three of the best films from his long career. The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off not only made him into a star, but they made him into one of the most bankable action stars in Hollywood. All three films made over $220 million at the box office; Working with Sean Connery, John Travolta, John Cusack, and Ed Harris will do that to an actor.
The Family Man
When Nicholas Cage started acting, he thought he had a major advantage over others – his family name. He was born Nicholas Coppola of those Coppolas. Cage is the nephew of The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola and Rocky actress Talia Shire, and cousin of Sophia Coppola. Before he attended UCLA film school, Cage tried to get his uncle to give him a screen test. He told a man that had worked with Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, and Robert De Niro, “I’ll show you acting.”
A Very Bad Year
According to Levin’s countersuit, 2007 was not the best year for Cage’s wallet. He claimed that 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.” In addition to his individual purchases, he spent plenty of cash on vacations for his extended entourage, and parties which would have made Gatsby jealous.
In the end, his purchasing habits forced him to take any role he could get, even if it damaged his reputation. He eventually owed the IRS $14 million in taxes which he paid back by selling most of his ridiculous stuff including his California, Las Vegas, and New Orleans homes, German castle, his yachts, and his dinosaur skull. Today, Cage’s net worth hovers closer to $20 million, a long ways away from that $150 million fortune he once held.