The nephew of legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, the equally noteworthy actor Nicolas Cage made his debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and his fruitful career hasn’t shown any signs of stopping ever since.
The actor has become known for creating his very own category of acting, one that he inhabits all by himself — and somehow, he keeps raising the bar with almost every new performance he offers. However, for every iconic Cage role that audiences get to see, some never came to be.
10 As John Constantine in ‘Constantine’ (2005)
In this very unique DC Comics adaptation, Keanu Reeves plays the antihero John Constantine, an expert sorcerer and con man who teams up with a policewoman to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister.
Although Reeves’s performance went down in comic book movie history as one of the most underrated in the subgenre, it would have been just as interesting to see what Nic Cage would have done with the role. In an interview with DiscussingFilm, director Francis Lawrence revealed that Cage was once attached to Constantine with a different director before that version fell apart.
9 As Joe Exotic in An Untitled ‘Tiger King’ Project
After Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King, about the intriguing Joe Exotic, became one of the shows that defined the pandemic, Amazon quickly caught up to its popularity. They announced a fictional version of Exotic’s story and began a slow pre-production process.
Cage revealed to Variety that he was offered the project at an early point in development but that he thought Amazon eventually felt they had taken too long to make the show and the story’s potential had gone out of fashion. Whether the series will ever actually happen is a mystery, but what’s certain is that Cage would have had a blast with the role of Joe Exotic.
8 As Shrek in ‘Shrek’ (2001)
Nowadays, Mike Myers‘s voice performance as the grumpy ogre Shrek is remembered as one of the best in animation’s history, so it’s hard to picture anyone else in the role.
However, Cage was at some point offered to voice the character in Shrek, one of the best fantasy movies of the 21st century (while also parodying the genre it succeeds at). The actor revealed to TODAY that he didn’t feel the role was quite right for him, and though fans think he would have definitely done a great job, Myers’s take on the character is the best they could’ve possibly gotten.
7 As Harry Dunne in ‘Dumb and Dumber’ (1994)
In this comedy cult classic, a couple of friends possessing stupidity beyond description find a lost suitcase with money belonging to a beautiful woman. They decide to go on an adventure to return it.
Though Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels became one of the genre’s most popular duos in just doing Dumb and Dumber, Carrey, who was good friends with Cage at the time, wanted him to play the role that eventually went to Daniels. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cage opted for doing a smaller movie: Leaving Las Vegas, the one that got him his first (and so far only) Oscar.
6 As Mr. Wednesday in ‘American Gods’ (2017-2021)
Based on one of Neil Gaiman‘s most praised books, American Gods is a terrific show about a former inmate who’s one day thrown into a storm bigger than he could ever possibly imagine.
The part of Mr. Wednesday, the leader of the Old Gods, went to Ian McShane, who made the role his in all the best ways. According to the Los Angeles Times, however, Cage was offered the role but had to turn it down because he still feels that doing television would make him feel trapped. He’s one hell of a movie actor, but fans would be more than willing to see him make the jump to TV.
5 As Dr. Doom in ‘Fantastic Four’ (2005)
Although some fans consider it one of the most fun pre-MCU Marvel projects, the divisive 2005 Fantastic Four movie got many things about its source material wrong; according to many viewers, its depiction of the iconic Dr. Doom was one of its biggest shortcomings.
Love or hate this version of the character; though, it’s hard to deny that the great Julian McMahon did the best he could with the material he was given. ComicBook.com reported that Nic Cage was offered the role first and had even been properly cast, but things evidently didn’t pan out in the end.
4 As Neo in ‘The Matrix’ (1999)
The Wachowski sisters’ sci-fi cult classic The Matrix needs no introduction. It’s the thrilling, visually striking tale of a man leading a double life who discovers that his reality is twisted in ways far beyond his comprehension.
This is one of the main roles that made Keanu Reeves the massive star he is today, but the film might have looked very different if the original casting plans had been fruitful. In conversation with PEOPLE, Cage revealed that he turned down the role of protagonist Neo to be with his son instead of traveling to Australia to shoot The Matrix.
3 As Aragorn in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ (2001)
Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, often lauded as the best fantasy movie franchise of all time, is generally considered perfect in every sense, from the story to the visuals to the casting.
But though it’s now hard to imagine anyone other than Viggo Mortensen in the shoes of Aragorn, it’s a role that was highly coveted before the movie came out (and one of the many parts that Keanu Reeves chased but lost). Cage was approached to play the part, but in the same interview with PEOPLE, he said that he also chose not to travel to New Zealand for such a long time and instead spend time with his family.
2 As John Bender in ‘The Breakfast Club’ (1985)
One of the best and most memorable coming-of-age comedies of the ’80s, The Breakfast Club, shows five high school students who start to unexpectedly bond while stuck in detention.
According to TheThings, Cage was up for the part of John Bender for a while, right when his career started taking off. However, he was passed up, and John Cusack was cast instead. When that didn’t work out either, the role eventually went to Judd Nelson, and it was undoubtedly one of the best casting decisions of that decade.
1 As Superman in ‘Superman Lives’
One of those fascinating doomed projects that never came to be, Tim Burton‘s Superman Lives was set to be the next superhero sensation by the same director that made the genre staple Batman in 1989.
According to Collider, although Cage was thrilled to work on the project (as the self-confessed comic book fan he is), its tumultuous production history ended in disaster. The world never got to see the actor’s take on the Man of Steel. It’s a shame, but there are more than enough memorable and incredibly fun Nic Cage performances out there to make up for it.
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