Nicolas Cage Research Part 2 – Good or Bad Actor?

79662 Due to his strange style and eclectic choice of films Cage has attracted considerable criticism and has become a point of controversy for many. There are certain questions that recur in conversation, in the news and across the internet:
  • Is Nicolas Cage Immortal?
  • Is Nicolas Cage a Vampire?
  • Why is Nicolas Cage everywhere?
  • Is Nicolas Cage part of the Illuminati?
We’ll skip over all of these for the moment (the answer to all is ‘yes’) and focus on one question in particular:
  • Is Nicolas Cage a good or a bad actor?
This is a difficult question to answer since it is largely a matter of opinion. There is no checklist one must fulfill in order to become either a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ actor so there is no real metric that will answer this question conclusively. There are countless ways to try and reach a reasonable answer. Two of them, each with conflicting outcomes are presented here.

Approach 1 – Google Trends

Using Google Trends various search terms can be compared against one another for different actors. A small sample of actors was taken and for each one the word ‘good’ and the word ‘bad’ was indexed. This shows whether people are more likely to use the word ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in a Google search for that actor’s name. Apart from Cage, 4 actors were chosen. Two that are widely regard as good: Johnny Depp and Leonardio DiCaprio. And two that are widely regarded as bad: Kristen Stewart and Paris Hilton. The latter isn’t so much a bad actor as a bad human being, but for the purposes of this experiment will still suffice. On each chart Nicolas Cage is represented in blue (light for ‘Good’, dark for ‘Bad’) and the opposing actor is shown in orange (again light for ‘Good’, dark for ‘Bad’). JD LD KS PH There are some important observations to note on the graphs above.
  • Searches involving Nicolas Cage and each of the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ show similar levels of web search interest.
  • For both Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, searches involving the word ‘good’ exceed those with the word ‘bad’.
  • For both Kristen Stewart and Paris Hilton, searches both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are close to being equal.
It would therefore seem that Nicolas Cage has more in common with ‘bad’ actors like Paris Hilton and Kristen Stewart than he does with ‘good’ actors like Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio. Though not conclusive at answering whether Nicolas Cage is specifically a bad actor it suggests that the opinions people hold of him are in general not particularly positive.

Approach 2 – Logic

One could propose a theory that says if an actor is actually bad then the movies they make will not profit and that actor will stop being offered roles (Hilton is a good example of this and I believe Stewart is becoming one too). On the other hand actors that are truly talented will be rewarded with financial compensation, praise and more roles in high profile films (DiCaprio and Depp are good examples of this). Although Cage has certainly been a part of some shocking movies and box office bombs he has been a part of quite a lot of good ones too. He has carried many movies to financial success and since 1995 he has been in 10 movies that have scored over 7 stars on IMDB. Since the beginning of his career movies in which he has starred have grossed a sum of $5 billion dollars worldwide. More than a third of that sum is above and beyond film budgets. Cage is showing no signs of slowing down and has several movies set to release in the next two years including a  third National Treasure movie.  Like Depp and DiCaprio, Cage keeps finding big roles in high grossing blockbuster movies. It is hard to say what keeps him in business, but he certainly isn’t fading from the public eye so he must have something good going for him.

Approaches 1 & 2 in Summary – Good or Bad?

Approach 1 suggests Cage has more in common with other ‘bad’ actors than those that are ‘good’. On the other hand, Approach 2 suggests that if he is a ‘bad’ actor he is a rather profitable one… Actors that are truly bad; that have no redeeming features or qualities tend to fade from the public eye fairly quickly. The very fact that Cage has been a prominent face in film for close two decades shows that he possess some redeeming qualities (whatever they might be). That he keeps getting cast in big films, but continues to draw so much negative criticism could be an indication of two things:
  • He is not particularly bad at acting, he just has a style which is not universally well liked.
  • He chooses his movies poorly. It is difficult for even the best actor to shine in a film where other elements of production are poor. Cage is well known for starring in a fairly peculiar range of films for an equally peculiar set of reasons. (His reason for acting in Drive Angry was that he would get his eyes shot out. He had wanted to do this since Season of the Witch but had been denied the opportunity by the producers).
Neither makes him a ‘bad’ actor, though it doesn’t necessarily make him a good one either. Lacking the ability to conclusively label him ‘good’ or ‘bad’, perhaps the most fitting label we can apply to Cage is simply ‘famous’.

Up Next…

Next post we’ll be doing a linear regression to test the hypothesis that Cage’s movies have been getting worse over time.

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