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Oh dear. Oh Michelle. It’s happened. We were having such a lovely time, and you had to say it. And you said with such an offhand nonchalance that it has shaken me to my core.

“I actually think Nicholas Cage is a bad actor.”

Dear, sweet Michelle.

Two dates in and you feel comfortable enough to let loose with your half-baked opinions. I pity you as you sit across from me, smiling, lit beautifully under a halo of light in this tastefully decorated Olive Garden, unaware of the rhetorical whirlwind to come.

For my first volley, I pepper you with the basic facts, softening you up the way an expert boxer would a novice opponent.

Films that Mr. Cage has appeared in have grossed over $5 billion at the box office. More than Al Pacino. More than Bradley Cooper. And your “fave,” your Timothee Chalamet, who you constantly talk about but who I could definitely take in a fistfight? He’s $4 billion behind.

Oops.

*Lead actor. None of this “ensemble” bullshit. Courtesy of Tableau Public and The-Numbers.com

Now that you’re awake to the fact that this is not my first rodeo, that I’ve defended Mr. Cage before, and will do so again until my dying breath, let me dig deeper into your tragic mistake.

Mr. Cage made his first film appearance in 1983. Since then, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under a fifteen-year house arrest, returned to power, then placed under house arrest again. Muammar Gaddaffi, one of the world’s longest-reigning dictators, was overthrown by his people. Steve Bannon gracefully transitioned from successful screenwriter to political power player. Mr. Cage’s career has seen the rise and fall of empires, yet still he stands—passive, implacable, like a great sphinx, always slouching towards another masterpiece film, or at least something that will pull down some solid numbers in Asia.

It really makes you think… Courtesy of Tableau Public

“Well, just because he’s done it for a long time, doesn’t mean he’s good at it.”

Touché.

Despite the fact that longevity is so often an indicator of quality, I allow you to enjoy your smart retort. It will make my eventual victory that much sweeter.

Subjectively, Mr. Cage is also a genius. The lengths to which he will go in a performance are legendary. In the film Kiss of the Vampire, Mr. Cage ate a live cockroach. During commentary for the film with its director, he explained that it was like a great stunt or special effect. He believes this likely added $2 million to the film’s box office.

Matt Damon didn’t eat the rat at the end of The Departed, and it’s a worse film for it.

Courtesy of Tableau Public

You’re starting to look for the exit, check your phone. I’ve got you on the run in this argument. And you’ve got nowhere to hide.

I don’t let up.

If we dive even deeper into the numbers, we start to find metrics that indicate the real staying power of Mr. Cage. It’s a little statistic I refer to as “CSPS”, or “Crazy Shit Per Scene”. It’s the indicator of how many wild moments will occur onscreen to further draw your eye. Moments like Mr. Cage in Matchstick Men, screaming at a drugstore customer that he will beat him so bad that he will “piss blooooood!”. The aforementioned cockroach is another example.

(I won’t use the “bees” moment in The Wicker Man because that’s all anyone ever talks about when they mention how “crazy” Nic Cage is. It’s tacky. The Wicker Man was a bad movie and he was doing his best to make a very boring film memorable. That’ll be the last time I mention “bees” in this argument. We’re trying to elevate the Cage discourse, not sink to the lowest common denominator.)

Klaus was a lot. Courtesy of Tableau

When Mr. Cage speaks of acting, he talks of German expressionism, Kabuki theater, paintings, great works of fiction. Unlike your “fave” Timothee Chalamet, who likely learned how to act from, I don’t know, TikTok or something.

(By the way, I still find your fascination with him puzzling. He looks like a kid, Michelle. I bet he doesn’t even bench that much. I can definitely bench more than him.)

You’re on the run now. Literally.

You’ve picked up your purse, are calling for a Lyft, and look desperate to leave. You’re “tired of this conversation” and think I’m “ruining the night.”

As you leave the table, you try and get the last word in.

“No one likes a guy who always needs to be right.”

Michelle. The stars do not glow because it is their opinion that they glow. They glow because they are made of light. They glow because that is what stars do. As does Nicolas Cage.

He is not great because I say so.

He is great because he is.

Casey Karaman is a writer, performer, improviser, and teacher who has worked with the Washington Improv Theater. He has performed in multiple theater productions, most recently in Second City's production...