The saga of Nicolas Cage as it’s known to the public includes some pretty infamous financial ups and downs that led to, so the story goes, Cage appearing in a variety of low-budget direct-to-video action movies that were beneath his talents as an actor. Cage went into detail about this in a recent interview on “60 Minutes,” saying that after a real estate crash he was saddled with $6 million in debt.
Cage explained his former situation like this:
“I was over-invested in real estate. The real estate market crashed, and I couldn’t get out in time…I paid them all back, but it was about $6 million. I never filed for bankruptcy.”
And the actor also said he had reasons other than financial ones for working at such a steady clip during this period, but that he never turned in a lazy or half-hearted performance even in these less distinguished projects:
“Work was always my guardian angel…It may not have been blue chip, but it was still work. Even if the movie ultimately is crummy, they know I’m not phoning it in, that I care every time.”
A few years ago, Cage was doing an average of four movies a year, and they weren’t the kind of prestigious films or high-budget blockbusters he was known for in his heyday. And it’s hard to believe that Cage would be forced into such working habits just to pay off $6 million, but some of his infamous financial escapades at the height of his stardom explain how that might have happened.
Between 2000 and 2007, Nick Cage went on a legendary spending spree. He dropped enormous amounts of money on not just expansive real estate holdings (15 different homes!) but luxury yachts, exotic cars, a $30 million Gulfstream private jet, and even a private island.
The one thing he was not spending money on during this period was the IRS, and he ended up with sizeable tax bill that was reported to be more than $13 million in total. That led to a rush to sell off as much of his assets as possible, plus a $20 million lawsuit against his business manager.
As Cage himself characterized it in a 2022 GQ interview:
“The phone stopped ringing. It was like, ‘What do you mean we’re not doing ‘National Treasure 3’? It’s been 14 years. Why not? Well, ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ didn’t work, and ‘Ghost Rider’ didn’t really sell tickets. And ‘Drive Angry,’ that just came and went…I’ve got all these creditors and the IRS and I’m spending $20,000 a month trying to keep my mother out of a mental institution, and I can’t. It was just all happening at once.”
He also spoke about the situation in an interview with NYT Magazine back in 2019:
“I can’t go into specifics or percentages or ratios, but yeah, money is a factor. I’m going to be completely direct about that. There’s no reason not to be…It’s no secret that mistakes have been made in my past that I’ve had to try to correct. Financial mistakes happened with the real estate implosion that occurred, in which the lion’s share of everything I had earned was pretty much eradicated. But one thing I wasn’t going to do was file for bankruptcy.”
Cage characterizes his debt as largely based in a crash in the real estate market, but the public naturally seized on such stories as the $276,000 stolen dinosaur skull he was once forced to return. But the reality is that if his real estate investments hadn’t imploded and if he hadn’t gotten into tax trouble with the IRS, he probably would have been able to continue making such acquisitions indefinitely without taking the kind of jobs he found himself in in the 2010s.
Cage seems to be on much surer ground today, and is enjoying a career renaissance in higher-profile projects like last year’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and this year’s “Renfield,” in which he plays Count Dracula. But hopefully he won’t be going on any more insane spending sprees, and will make sure he stays settled up with the IRS, or we might see him churning out DTV action movies once more.