Warning: This contains mild spoilers for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
With Nicolas Cage playing a fictional version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, there are seemingly endless opportunities for Easter eggs and references to the movie star’s career. Although he is listed in the credits as playing Nick (rather than Nic) Cage and several facts are altered for the fictional portrayal, Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent uses Cage’s life details for some of the film’s best moments. This blending of fact and fiction sets up the film’s premise, which imagines the skills acquired through a lifelong acting career that allows Cage to become the type of action star he has often played onscreen.
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Nick Cage is given a fictional family in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, including an ex-wife named Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and their daughter Addy (Lily Sheen). Although Sheen is not related to Cage in real life, she is familiar with being the child of celebrities, as the daughter of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale. This is one of many ways the cast and characters of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent blur the line between fact and fiction, on top of more direct references to Cage’s career and filmography in the screenplay.
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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent joins Nick Cage at a low point in his career, with the actor in debt from overspending and facing declining popularity. This is a reference to Nicolas Cage’s actual habit of collecting various expensive items in the past, which led to financial troubles for the movie star. As a result, the actor has been less selective with his film choices out of financial necessity, leading many to believe Nicolas Cage only makes bad movies. This is a criticism his character addresses in early scenes of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and is also what leads Nick Cage to take a $1 million job appearing at the birthday party of billionaire Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal). Here’s every Nicolas Cage Easter egg and reference in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent opens with a scene from Con Air, which is being watched by the daughter of a politician before she is kidnapped. As the kidnappers break into the apartment, Con Air’s Oscar-nominated song “How Do I Live” increases volume to become part of Unbearable Weight’s soundtrack. This is not the only time a clip from Con Air has been used for comedic purposes, as the film was also included for parody in Lonely Island’s Cool Guys Don’t Look At Explosions video. The slightly burnt pink stuffed bunny prop from Con Air is also featured in Javi’s collection of Nic Cage memorabilia in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
While attending a therapy session with his daughter, Nick Cage discusses his attempt to show Addy The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, one of his favorite movies. Discussion of the classic German silent film occurs several more times throughout Unbearable Weight, with Cage’s ex-wife Olivia describing the movie as “insane,” and Javi listing it as his second favorite film of all time. The inclusion of the film is likely a reference to Nic Cage’s unique style of method acting, which he refers to as “Nouveau Shamanic.” In creating this method, Cage was influenced by German Expressionism, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is considered a definitive release in the 1920s film movement.
David Gordon Green
In an attempt to reclaim some of his credibility as an actor, Nick Cage is actively pursuing a role in a David Gordon Green film at the beginning of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Green has a cameo as himself in an awkward meeting between the director and star, which results in Cage giving an impromptu audition that fails to impress. In real life, Cage previously worked with Green in the independent crime drama, Joe. While Joe lands somewhere in the middle in the rankings of David Gordon Green’s movies, it is often listed as one of Nicolas Cage’s best film performances.
Related: How David Gordon Green’s Exorcist Trilogy Departs From His Halloween Films
Wild at Heart
In some of the wildest moments of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Nick Cage is joined by an imaginary friend/alter ego known as Nicky, who is just Nicolas Cage dressed as his character from the film Wild at Heart. In case there are any questions about which version of Cage Nicky is intended to be, he is wearing a t-shirt for the 1990 David Lynch film. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction even further, the role of Nicky is listed in the credits as being played by Nicolas Kim Coppola, which was Cage’s real name before he changed it to his stage name. The only other film Cage is credited with his birth name was the 1982 teen comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
As surreal as it is to see Nicolas Cage playing opposite a fictional version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, there are noticeable similarities in another acclaimed film starring the actor. In Adaptation, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman blurred the lines between reality and fiction when he wrote himself into the screenplay about efforts to adapt an actual non-fiction book, The Orchid Thief. Cage not only starred as Kaufman in Adaptation, but he also plays the screenwriter’s fictional twin brother, Donnie. The use of double Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is likely a reference to Adaptation, which is among the best Charlie Kaufman movies and Cage performances.
When Nick Cage first arrives at the Spanish island where Javi lives, he is spotted by married CIA agents Vivian and Martin Etten (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz). After Vivian hears the name Nick Cage, she mentions Moonstruck, the 1987 romantic comedy that provided the actor with one of his first breakout performances. Martin responds by stating his preference for Face/Off, a sentiment later shared by Javi, who is the subject of the CIA investigation. Additionally, Javi owns the wooden hand prop from Moonstruck, briefly seen in his collection of movie memorabilia.
The Croods 2
Looking for an excuse to make contact with Nick Cage, Vivian approaches the actor to praise The Croods 2, the animated sequel released in 2020. The Croods 2 has a high-profile voice cast with new and returning characters, but Cage specifically references one castmate when he responds to the praise by simply saying “I made that movie with Emma Stone.” When Martin is pressed on The Croods 2, he responds by questioning why a 44-year-old man would see Croods 2.
Related: Croods 2 Had The Same Insane Delays As New Mutants (But Did Way Better)
Leaving Las Vegas
Nicolas Cage’s Academy Award-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas is subtly referenced in a poolside scene. When Javi’s criminal cousin Lucas (Paco León) implies that Cage is washed up as a movie star, the actor jumps into the swimming pool with a bottle of beer. A shot beneath the surface of the water showing Cage drinking from the beer bottle is the intentional recreation of an iconic moment from Leaving Las Vegas. This connection to a past performance suggests The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is not the first time Nic Cage has played a variation of himself, as well as setting up the film’s bromance. Instead of Elizabeth Shue diving in to kiss him, in Unbearable Weight, it is Pedro Pascal’s Javi who jumps in the water to pull Cage out.
While giving a speech at his birthday party, Javi tells a story about watching the film Guarding Tess on a hospital TV with his dying father. The billionaire claims the film brought him closer to the parent he had little else in common with, hinting at his disinterest in the family’s criminal organization. Following the celebration, Cage is also seen watching the film on his laptop.
Shortly after agreeing to help the CIA investigate Javi, Nick Cage uses developing an original screenplay as an excuse to stay on the island. Cage takes LSD with the billionaire, who insists it will help with the creative process. Referencing the 1997 mob movie starring Johnny Depp, Cage tells the CIA his drug use is a “Donnie Brasco situation.” In Donnie Brasco, the character based on a real-life FBI agent is forced to commit crimes to infiltrate a crime family. The fact that Nicolas Cage was briefly considered for the role adds another layer to this reference.
Gone in 60 Seconds
While on drugs, Javi and Cage become paranoid and believe they are being watched. Attempting to escape quickly by car, Javi insists that the actor gets behind the wheel, using the fact that Cage did all his own driving stunts in Gone in 60 Seconds as reasoning. Cage’s ego is unable to allow him to deny this fact and he takes the wheel to show off his skills, though they don’t quite match the ones seen in the action film remake.
Related: Nicolas Cage’s VOD Era Produced Some Of His Best Performances
During his flight to Spain, Nick Cage watches a scene from The Rock with former 007 actor Sean Connery being yelled at by the star. Along with seeing Cage give his “Cut the chit-chat, A-HOLE!” line from the film, Javi owns memorabilia from The Rock in his collection. As well as owning a slate from the film’s production, the strand of green balls used as a prop for the chemical weapons in The Rock are predominately displayed. Lucas also brings up the film while striking up a conversation with Cage for the first time.
The movie memorabilia collection owned by Javi is filled with references to Nicolas Cage’s career, including the chainsaw prop from Mandy. Directed by Panos Cosmatos, Mandy is a 2018 psychedelic revenge horror film that has earned cult status since its release. When Nick Cage points out the prop, both he and Javi agree that the film is a “masterpiece.”
One of the best early Coen Brothers movies is also featured in Javi’s shrine to Cage’s career. Along with a slate from Raising Arizona, two of the film’s props are also on display amongst the Nicolas Cage memorabilia. The diapers stolen by Cage’s character in the film can be seen, along with the pair of stockings he memorably wears as a mask.
It Could Happen to You
Also among the movie props is memorabilia from Nicolas Cage’s 1994 romantic comedy, It Could Happen to You. The film follows the relationship between a waitress and a street cop played by Cage, who promises to split his lottery ticket in place of a tip and follows through after winning the jackpot. The winning lottery ticket can be seen amongst the other movie props.
Related: Every Nic Cage Movie Releasing After Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
Javi names his favorite movie as Face/Off, in which Cage plays the villain who goes up against John Travolta as the cop chasing him. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that the film features heavily in Javi’s collection. Along with a slate from the production, there is a life-size wax replica of Cage as Castor Troy in Face/Off, holding two working golden guns which come into play later in the film. There is also a climactic moment later in the film which has Nick Cage recreating a showdown sequence from Face/Off, ending with him being stabbed in the leg with a knife in the same way his character was in John Woo’s early American movie.
Peggy Sue Got Married
In one of the more obscure references, movie memorabilia from Peggy Sue Got Married is also in Javi’s Cage collection. Briefly seen on the shelf when Nick Cage explores the collection of props is the crown worn by his character in a photo seen in Peggy Sue Got Married. Only the most die-hard Nicolas Cage fans are likely to recognize the reference.
When Javi has an argument with Lucas, his cousin calls him “Coppola” as an insult. Given they are framed between two statues of horse heads and are both members of a crime family, this is clearly a reference to The Godfather. Because Nicolas Cage is nephew to Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather, this reference has added significance.
While running from danger, Javi tells Nick Cage he knows he is fast from watching National Treasure. In a rare moment of humility paired with the desire to hide, Cage attempts to give credit to the stunt department. Javi calls him on his lie, having watched the National Treasure making-of featurette, which shows that Cage did his own running in the film. Javi’s collection also features a National Treasure poster, a torch prop used in the movie, and a copy of the screenplay.
Related: National Treasure’s Reboot Can’t Work Without Nicolas Cage
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
While having a conversation with Javi, Nick Cage says he met his fictional ex-wife Olivia on the set of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, on which she worked as a makeup artist. When Nick Cage is forced to go undercover as a reclusive Italian criminal with help of Olivia’s makeup, he uses a terrible exaggerated accent campy enough to be in House of Gucci. With a 28% score on Rotten Tomatoes, many critics criticized Cage’s Italian accent as one of the failures of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and he seems to be mocking this criticism by going even bigger. Nick Cage and Javi also briefly discuss the film, both agreeing that it is “underrated.”
The Wicker Man
One of the film’s final references is a simple throwaway line that will be recognized by Nicolas Cage fans as a quote from the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. While Nick Cage shows off a tarantula belt buckle he chose to wear to the premiere of his latest movie, he talks about discussing other alternatives with the stylist. Among the options Cage lists are bees, to which he responds “Not the bees!” This is a line screamed by his character in an alternate ending of The Wicker Man, which has since been turned into a popular Wicker Man/Nicolas Cage meme. This is a fitting reference to end The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with, as one of Cage’s more memorable on-screen moments.
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About The Author
(34 Articles Published)
Ryan Izay is a Movie/TV Features Writer for Screen Rant, and has worked as a film critic and journalist for over 20 years. Starting as the Los Angeles representative for Real Movie News, Ryan was also a staff writer for the horror genre magazine, “Girls and Corpses.” Along with Screen Rant, he is a regular contributor to Total Nerd at Ranker and is currently working on an academic book on the horror genre.
As a third-generation actor, Ryan achieved some early success in independent film before he was cast as a series regular on Logo’s “DTLA.” Leaving performing behind for the field of education, Ryan is a film studies adjunct at a number of Southern California universities.
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