Getting a major Hollywood star to be in your movie is never an easy task, but it’s doubly difficult when a role was specifically written for one actor. That was certainly the case with “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” which stars Nicolas Cage as a fictionalized version of himself.
The film was written by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, who wrote the script before they ever met Nicolas Cage. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the two men shed light on the difficult process of shopping a script that only one actor could star in.
“We were told that Nick has done these projects before and he’s not wild about Nick as Nick,” Etten said. “And we weren’t two guys who had a huge body of work that you could point to and be like, ‘No, trust us.'”
Despite Cage’s hesitancy about playing himself, several studios were interested in the script. But while that scenario would be a dream come true for most screenwriters, the pair were extremely aware of how quickly it could all collapse.
“The funny part about that was we have a bunch of studios interested in the script,” Gornican recalled. “But there’s an asterisk on all of this meaning if he doesn’t want to do it, your sale goes away. Like, by the way, we don’t want this fucking thing if he’s not in it. There is no other version of it. When he was reading the script it was like this sort of double anxiety. It’s not like if he doesn’t do it, we’ll offer it to somebody else. It was gone.”
As they anxiously awaited Cage’s decision, Gormican and Etten began to think of contingency plans. One of which happened to involve luring one of the most reclusive actors of all time out of retirement.
“There were times when I think I… was trying to talk myself into other ideas,” Etten said. “The only actually good idea — I don’t know whose it was — was to have either Christian Bale or Daniel Day-Lewis playing Nick Cage.”
The fact that the only backup plans involved other actors playing Cage is a testament to his unique presence, with neither Gormican nor Etten feeling like another actor’s public persona could anchor the film.
“Nobody else who really has a mixture of the super high talent he has and the goodwill of people wanting him to succeed,” Etten said.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is now playing in theaters.