Genius, madman Nicolas Cage inspires pair of local tributes

The work of the Academy Award-winning actor and living meme is the subject of two local appreciations. Hey, why not?

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Nicolas Cage is having a moment. 

In Detroit, he's having two. 

Actor Nicolas Cage

The wildly eccentric actor is currently riding a wave of praise for his role in 2021's "Pig," in which he plays a reclusive Portland chef back from the wild, which is his most acclaimed performance in years.  

Now he's the subject of a pair of local appreciations. Hamtramck's Film Lab is programming Cage content starting Friday and continuing all month, and February sees the 8th incarnation of Nicolas UnCaged, an unhinged celebration of all things Cage, which will act as a fundraiser for midtown movie house Cinema Detroit.

"He’s one of the most entertaining characters in cinematic history," says Jack Schulz, the founder and proprietor of the Nicolas UnCaged festival. "Not just because he has great movies that are well-received and beloved, but also because he’s not afraid to put himself out there."

Nicolas Cage in "Pig."

Schulz engineered the first UnCaged fest in 2015 to celebrate the "Leaving Las Vegas" Oscar winner and as a way to lighten his load from his day job as a civil rights attorney in Detroit. He and his roommate organized the fest and held it at the Burton Theatre in Detroit, the then-home of Cinema Detroit, and showed "The Wicker Man" and "Drive Angry," which both fall on the more idiosyncratic side of the 58-year-old's filmography.

What was a bit of an inside joke became a hit, and Schulz found others, too, had a unique fondness for Cage, a man who could oscillate between blockbuster action roles, quirky indies and straight-to-streaming detritus and always bring full commitment to the part. The fest not only screens Cage films, but also allows fans to sing songs, read poetry and otherwise express their admiration for the "National Treasure" star. 

Nicolas UnCaged grew and eventually moved to Planet Ant's Ant Hall in Hamtramck, and 2019's festival featured an appearance from Nicolas Cage's stuntman, Schuyler White, who agreed to be lit on fire as part of his performance.

This year's festival will be held Feb. 19 at Detroit's Senate Theater and will feature screenings of 2002's Oscar-nominated "Adaptation" and 2018's mondo trippy "Mandy" — "to give a best of both worlds viewpoint as to the acting chops of Nicolas Cage," Schulz says — and will feature a formal gala theme. Tickets, $25, will help raise money for Cinema Detroit, Schulz' way of giving back to the venue that first gave the festival its feet.

An Elvis impersonator doubles as a Nicolas Cage in "Honeymoon in Vegas" impersonator at 2020's Las Vegas-themed Nicolas UnCaged festival.

The Film Lab is also showing "Adaptation" and "Mandy," which screen on Friday and Saturday, respectively, and continues with the Cage offerings "Face/Off" (Jan. 22, Jan. 29) and "Wild at Heart" (Jan. 28, Jan. 30), with a night of Nicolas Cage trivia on Jan. 27. 

"It was purely a matter of asking myself, what was the most fun thing I could think to do in what is the most depressing month of the year in Michigan?" says Lara Sfire, owner of the Film Lab. The answer, naturally, was program a bunch of Nic Cage films.

For Sfire, Cage — who is part of the Hollywood's Coppola dynasty, and is the nephew of Detroit-born Francis Ford Coppola — is an inspiration, an unpretentious, hard-working entity who gives 1,000% to his craft. The fact that he has such a broad reach doesn't hurt, either. 

"He appeals to every single person, and he doesn’t have any snobbery about anything he does," she says. "I feel like he is a person who just really tries to enjoy life, and I have respect for that."

Nicolas Cage in "Mandy."

Back in 2015, Nicolas UnCaged's Schulz feels he was on the cutting edge of the Cage cult, "and now geeking out over Nic Cage is a full-on thing," he says. 

Not that anyone can ever out-Cage the man himself. 

"He’s living in 3022," Schulz says, "and we’re all stuck in 2022."


Cage films at The Film Lab

"Adaptation" (6:30 p.m. Friday and Sunday), "Mandy" (6:30 p.m. Saturday and Jan. 21), "Face/Off" (6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 and Jan. 29), Nicolas Cage Trivia (6:30 p.m. Jan. 27), "Wild at Heart" (6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 and Jan. 30)

Tickets $12

The Film Lab, 3105 Holbrook Ave., Hamtramck, MI 48212

Nicolas UnCaged 8

7 p.m. Feb. 19

Tickets $25

Senate Theater, 6424 Michigan Ave., Detroit