Not the Memes! Nicolas Cage Laments How He ‘Had No Control’ Over the Internet’s Reaction to His Work
Throughout the past two decades of internet humor, there has been nothing more reliably entertaining to the terminally online than screen acting icon Nicolas Cage losing his shit on screen. But what will happen if he ever loses his shit on the terminally online?
Roughly a decade ago, the actor famous for his distinctly expressive artistic style, described by Cage as “Western Kabuki,” commented on his unique online following whose interest in his work seemed to reach past his performances into stranger meta-territory. The community in question was a subreddit called “OneTrueGod,” which accumulated a six-figure membership over meme posts proclaiming the divinity of the actor who inspired scores of ubiquitous screenshots shared in forums across the internet. “I just can’t keep up with that stuff,” Cage told The Guardian of his online presence, which had quickly taken on a life of its own outside of his understanding or control. “The internet has developed this thing about me — and I’m not even a computer guy, you know? I don’t know why it is happening. I’m trying not to… lemme say this: I’m now of the mindset that, when in Rome, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Ten years later, Cage is still a favorite subject for reaction GIFs, image macros and unhinged YouTube edits, but his feelings toward the completely singular phenomenon of Cage comedy has changed. This past Friday, Cage again spoke to The Guardian about the internet’s ongoing fascination with him, declaring, “I didn’t get into movies to become a meme.” Of course he didn’t — everyone knows he got into movies for all the free cake.
Cage is currently on a press tour for his latest indie feature, a fittingly weird A24 film called Dream Scenario. In the Ari Aster-produced project, Cage plays a quiet, unremarkable college professor who starts inexplicably appearing in the dreams of strangers across the planet, giving him an unsettling and uncontrollable level of celebrity that turns his life and career upside down. That kind of serendipitous casting sounds comparable to Michael Keaton appearing in Birdman or John Malkovich reluctantly accepting a script that already had his name on it.
“I might have been the first actor who went through a kind of meme-ification,” Cage commented to The Guardian. “One person had cherrypicked from all these different movies where I was having meltdowns, but without any regard for how the character got to that place. I was frustrated because I didn’t know what people were taking from the movies other than that.” Obviously, not everyone who watched any one of the many “Nicolas Cage loses his shit” compilations watched every one of the (mostly shitty) movies featured, but Cage figured at least some of them would eventually pick up Vampire's Kiss.
Cage said of the many meme mash-ups, “I thought maybe they would compel someone to go back and look at the movies. But I had no control over it.” He then connected the phenomenon to his newest character, saying, “The same thing happens with Paul in Dream Scenario: He has no control over this inexplicable phenomenon.”
Despite the internet’s obsession with him being as unbridled and chaotic as a Cage performance in a shoestring budget action film, Cage has painstakingly come to terms with his perplexing online profile, saying, “I made friends with it, but it was an adjustment.”
At the end of the day, sometimes, meme-status is like a helmet full of bees — fighting it won’t get rid of the sting.