Dear Mr. Cage,
I know that you’re a huge Elvis fan, and so am I.
You have probably heard that story (I believe I read it in the 1999 30th anniversary edition of Elvis’s post-comeback studio recordings, Suspicious Minds: The Memphis 1969 Anthology) where Chips Moman, the producer with whom Elvis would collaborate on the sessions, was trying to get through to Elvis just how out-of-touch he was, having spent the Age of Aquarius shuttling back and forth between Graceland and Hollywood, surrounded only by a crew of hanger-ons and lackeys who did little more than sit around and worship him.
The story goes that for some reason or another, Chips wants Elvis to go outside with him when they were meeting for the first time in California. Elvis tells him, no way, I’m the biggest star in the world and I’m just gonna get mobbed. Chips is able to finally convince Elvis to try it and the two men walk down the street in late-’60s Los Angeles. And Elvis is shocked at the fact that not only is he not mobbed, but that no one seems to even notice him.
The upshot was that Elvis sobered up (at least momentarily) enough to reassess his situation and work with Chips, who was pretty much the only producer of his mature career to challenge him on material and performance. In so doing, Elvis made the finest studio recordings of his life.
I relate this rock and roll version of The Emperor’s New Clothes because I fear that you are in a similar situation that Elvis was in in the late 1960s, and I fear that you may be surrounded by yes men and hanger-ons who don’t know or don’t care about the work you’re doing.
What follows is a manifesto of what one potential fan of yours would like to tell you:
1. You are 47 years old. There is no reason why you should be making action movies that would make Shia Labeouf look immature.
2. Your hot costars are young enough to be your children. Drop-dead blonde 20-somethings don’t fall for 47-year-olds, unless you are rich and can potentially be used to gain recognition, either financial or otherwise…Oh, wait, I see. Still, it doesn’t make it comfortable to watch.
3. People who talk like David Schwimmer don’t make realistic action stars. If you talked like Matt LeBlanc, there’d be no problem here. I think I could even work something out if you talked like Matthew Perry. But Schwimmer? You’d be better off if you talked like Courteney Cox.
4. You have an Oscar. Use it for something other than rubbing your back after a hard day of injuring yourself with stunts that mostly had to be done by a double anyway.
5. Return to your roots (and I don’t mean hairplugs). Accept the fact that as time moves forward, your film returns diminish. You cut your teeth on indie/outsider stuff like Birdy and Raising Arizona before breaking through artistically with Leaving Las Vegas. But then, you had one great action film (The Rock, although the Criterionites are still almost as pissed it’s #108 as they are that Armageddon is #40, but I digress) and one decent action film (Face/Off) before the long, sad slide into one generic blob of loud and crashy dreck.
6. Finally -- and this one’s probably going to hurt -- you should never play Superman EVER. EVER. EVER. You playing Superman would be like the equivalent of Steve Buscemi waking up one day and telling his agent, “Hey, I think I should play Mr. Darcy in a remake of Pride and Prejudice.” Or Sylvester Stallone deciding to direct and star in a remake of Hamlet. Or Bob Dylan convincing his label to record him crooning Bing Crosby-style Christmas standards. (Oops, scratch that last one…But you get the picture.)
I hope I’m not totally being totally disrespectful of your career or your talent. Please understand that this comes out of a deep respect for these things. I loved you in Birdy, thought you were charming in Moonstruck, and that The Rock was a lot of fun. Heck, I’ll even take 2,000 Miles from Graceland over your current work.
Which brings us back to the King. What I’m hoping is that, like Elvis getting his hard-to-take-but-much-needed wakeup call from Chips Moman, you too can take this advice and prosper into a late-period career worthy of comeback kids and late bloomers like Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray. Heck, you still have a chance to win a second Oscar before Harrison Ford or Tom Cruise land their first. But time is always of the essence.
And as I already mentioned, you are 47 years old. If you were Elvis, you would’ve been dead five years ago.