Nicolas Cage has commanded the screen, for better or worse, for nearly 40 years. The Oscar winner has delivered brilliant, subtle performances in movies like Joe, Adaptation, and Bringing Out the Dead, but the majority of his work is tied to being the man behind the “Oh no, not the bees” meme.
Those zany performances show Cage’s need to overcommit rather than underperform. Acting choices aside, there’s always something memorably off in a Cage movie — be it his hairline in Bangkok Dangerous, his white jumpsuit in Kiss of Death, or his Alabama accent in Con Air. Past the first impressions, you’ll notice something more mind-boggling — the character’s name.
As the actor has signed on to play Joe Exotic in an upcoming TV mini-series (because, of course), now is a good time to check out the most memorable/outlandish names on his resumé. Here, we can wonder what would happen if these characters would face off (sorry) in a cage match (really sorry). Rest assured, no character will get… left behind (that was a stretch, but sorry).
THE ELITE EIGHT
Castor Troy — Face/Off
In the first 15 minutes of John Woo’s 1997 action hit, Cage plays a villain who headbangs in a priest costume, brags about how he “can eat a peach for hours,” and slurps on a soft drink before sniping a kid riding a carousel. Such an iconic villain can only be named Castor Troy.
Benjamin Franklin Gates — National Treasure
Cage doesn’t have to do much because this movie gives him the immortal line, “I’m gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.” It doesn’t hurt that his Indiana Jones-lite is named after one of the Founding Fathers.
Memphis Raines — Gone in 60 Seconds
Muscle cars, Angelina Jolie in dreads and Cage shaking off the nerves before calmly sighing, “OK, let’s ride” — this is a Jerry Bruckheimer production after all. Memphis is a cool name that’s wasted in a movie that never shifts into second.
Stanley Goodspeed — The Rock
Cage plays a good-natured biochemist named Goodspeed. How good-natured is he? He sings Elton John’s “Rocket Man” while launching a rocket at Tony Todd’s chest.
Little Junior Brown — Kiss of Death
If you want to steal a movie from David Caruso, play an asthmatic bodybuilder/mobster. If that’s not enough, cement that character’s stature with a repetitive double-adjective nickname.
Red Miller — Mandy
A movie made for midnight screenings, Mandy builds tension before letting Cage run wild with a chainsaw. His character’s name isn’t that memorable. However, out of context, playing a lumberjack named Red living in a secluded cabin in the woods sounds about right for Cage.
H.I. McDunnough — Raising Arizona
With Coen Brothers movies, the devil is in the details. As his career was getting started, Cage had all the gonzo ingredients laid out on a silver platter, including the dopey name H.I. Raising Arizona proved how the actor could make absurdity relatable and worth repeated viewings.
Cameron Poe — Con Air
Cage upstaged John Malkovich, Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi by turning on the Southern charm and growing out his hair. Such a character could not be named anything cliche like Billy Bob. No, Cameron Poe has a folkloric ring, which is necessary for a movie that tosses the dead body of a young Dave Chappelle out of a plane into city traffic.
Winner: Castor Troy, Face/Off
What the hell does Castor mean? In Spanish, it means “beaver.” To astronomers, it’s a star in the Gemini constellation. In Greek and Roman mythology, Castor is the mortal twin brother to Pollux, and together, they protected warriors and sailors. In Face/Off, Pollux (played by Alessandro Nivola) is the younger brother to Castor, and both are slimy terrorists.
Whatever the intended meaning, Face/Off is Woo’s American masterpiece, due in large part to John Travolta and Cage having a blast as the alternating hero and villain. Castor Troy is a ruthless criminal, armed with golden handguns and a box of Chiclets. In short, it’s the penultimate Cage role. The epic name matches the hilariously bloated beats of a movie that is just another action blockbuster without those details.
THE SWEET SIXTEEN MEMES
Behmen — Season of the Witch, Balthazar — The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Gallain — Outcast
Sometimes, Cage appears as other-worldly sages, wizards and warriors. Given his inability to attempt an Old English accent, his aura is understood and given an equally baffling name.
Big Daddy — Kick-Ass, Johnny Blaze — Ghost Rider
In a career voicing Superman and Spider-Man Noir, Cage has also starred in not-so-great comic book adaptations where he’s given nothing to do except “be weird.”
Fu Manchu — Grindhouse, Acid Yellow — Sonny
When you write cameo roles that are “loco,” there’s only one man for the job.
Araña — Kill Chain, Yuri Orlov — Lord of War
When in doubt, cast Cage as someone whose name has an international ring to it, that will always work. (Looks for nearest window to jump out of.)
Seth — City of Angels
Imagine Cage as he gets the call to play an angel who falls in love with Meg Ryan.
“Sounds great,” Cage says to his agent. “But what’s the angel’s name?”
“Seth,” the agent replies.
“Brilliant, book it,” Cage exclaims. He hangs up and polishes his Oscar.
Milton — Drive Angry
Imagine Cage as he gets the call to play a vengeful father who has escaped from hell to rescue his daughter.
“Sure. I need something more down to Earth,” Cage says, mid-gulp of a Red Bull. “You know, my last movie? Season of the Witch? They had me playing a guy named Behmen. Me, Nic Cage as Behmen…. So, what’s this demon dad’s name?”
“Milton,” the agent replies.
“Milton…huh, well, that sounds like a dad! Book it,” Cage exclaims. He hangs up and chugs the rest of Red Bull. “I’m gonna be a Milton. Woo.”
The Cook — Running with the Devil
Cage gets a call from his agent.
“Book it. I gotta pay for this T-Rex skull,” Cage yells.
“Don’t you want to know his name?” The agent asks.
“To hell with names, what is the character’s occupation?” Cage asks.
“He’s a cook,” the agent says.
“Call him The Cook then. Sounds great. I gotta polish this skull,” Cage says, slamming his thumb on his iPhone 5.
Smokey — Rumble Fish, Stone — The Trust
Playing someone with a mysteriously cool, one-word name is so very Cage.
Sailor Ripley — Wild at Heart, Rayford Steele — Left Behind
On one hand, you have a David Lynch movie that’s a subversive mix of black comedy, crime drama and dark romance film. On the other hand, you have a movie based on a faith-based bestseller. The fact that Cage is in a faith-based movie warrants frustration, then you see he’s named, not Raymond, but Rayford… Steele. Now, you’re allowed to scream into a pillow with rage.
Winner — Seth, City of Angels
Was Gabriel taken? There are so many better names for angels — Michael, Francis, John … City of Angels is a sappy movie with a soundtrack that doubles as a perfect Mother’s Day gift. The premise of an angel falling in love with a human isn’t original or that ridiculous. But an angel named Seth…
BONUS ROUND: THE JOES
Joe — Between Worlds, Joe — Joe, Joe — Bangkok Dangerous, Joe Enders — Windtalkers, Joe Exotic — Upcoming Joe Exotic miniseries
Cage is like all of us: a regular Joe! If you don’t believe me, just look at how often he’s been cast as a guy named Joe throughout his 100+ acting credits.
Winner — Joe, Joe
Like the Coens, Lynch and Spike Jonze before him, director David Gordon Green knows Cage is better when toned down. For those quieter roles, the actor will never be remembered for playing “a regular Joe.” With Green, Cage moves past eccentric habits. It’s subversively genius casting, and unlike other directors, Green delivers a character study free of distraction.