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Feb 13, 2007

Build 'em up...Tear 'em down.

It wasn't that long ago that the world was in love with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. Just 13 years ago, we collectively decided to let Travolta back into our hearts and homes with his portrayal of Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. And it was a good decision - he was deserving of our praise and of his so-called "second chance" or "comeback" or whatever you want to call it. The next movie he made after Pulp, the terrific Elmore Leonard adaptation Get Shorty (White Man's Burden was his first film released after Pulp Fiction, but if I recall correctly, if was made before Pulp really hit it big) was somewhat of a perfect storm as well. Director Barry Sonnenfeld was at the top of his game (just before Men in Black), as was costar Rene Russo, and it even featured a then-mostly-unknown actor named James Gandolfini.

Unfortunately, it's been pretty much all downhill since then. Travolta should be an actor's primary cast study for "What not to do when you hit it big if you want to maintain a career and a legacy." Instead, he opted to take the money and run, and boy, has he! By my count, Travolta made 16 films prior to Pulp Fiction, over a span of approximately 18 years. Contrast that with this list of major films released since 1995 (with many thanks to www.imdb.com):

1995
White Man's Burden
Get Shorty

1996
Broken Arrow
Phenomenon
Michael

1997
She's So Lovely
Face/Off
Mad City

1998
Primary Colors
A Civil Action
The Thin Red Line

1999
The General's Daughter

2000
Battlefield: Earth
Lucky Numbers

2001
Swordfish
Domestic Disturbance

2002
Austin Powers in Goldmember

2003
Basic

2004
The Punisher
A Love Song for Bobby Long
Ladder 49

2005
Be Cool

I think I'll stop there, as that takes us from the first Leonard adaptation to it's sequel. That's 22 in 11 calendar years. I challenge anyone to find another actor who has starred in even 20 films in 11 years. The only film I see listed that he didn't have a major (if not the outright lead) role in is Austin Powers. No wonder the man owns planes. I would too.

It looks as though Hollywood had had enough of Vinnie Barbarino by 1999, as he had released no less than 11 films in the three years prior, some of which weren't half bad. But enough is enough.

As you may or may not have noticed, one of Travolta's 1997 films was Face/Off. Yes, that's right - it's the 10 year anniversary of the John Woo film that may have signaled the end for Mr. Cage and Mr. Travolta. What could, should, or might have been a big hit for both of them turned out to be a bit of a joke, no thanks to a ridiculous story and the arrogants direction of Woo.

But that's besides the point, which is that Face/Off was just another in the long line of paychecks for our two heroes. Remember the challenge I issued just three short paragraphs ago? Look no further than Michael Bay's muse, Nicolas Cage.

Though it's hard to pick a definite peak in his career (a la Pulp Fiction for Travolta), it's safe to say that Cage went from sometime quirky independent/commercial leading man to full-time commercial star (and money earner) around the time of his Oscar win for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. After that point, gone was the guy we knew from Moonstruck and Wild at Heart. What was born was a MARQUEE STAR who occasionally dabbled in serious films. Here we go again:

1996
The Rock

1997
Con Air
Face/Off

1998
City of Angels
Snake Eyes

1999
8MM
Bringing Out the Dead

2000
Gone in Sixty Seconds
The Family Man

2001
Captain Correlli's Mandolin


2002
Windtalkers
Sonny
Adaptation

2003
Matchstick Men

2004
National Treasure

2005
Lord of War
The Weather Man

2006
Ant Bully
World Trade Center
The Wicker Man

2007
Ghost Rider
Next
Time to Kill
Grindhouse
National Treasure: The Book of Secrets

I'll stop with 2007, though it's worth noting that Cage has no less than five (5!) films either announced or in pre-production slated for 2008. Staggering. And by the way, I just listed 25 films from 12 calendar years, though he did not star in Sonny (just directed it) and none of his 2007 films have been released yet. However, with a strong 2007 and 2008, Cage is on pace to best even the mighty Travolta in terms of cowwing the cash.

In the end, I'm not sure how much I fault these guys, as much as I might enjoy picking on them. They are both talented actors, or at least, they were at one point. And who am I to argue with their philosophy of "The more the merrier" in regards to their respective filmographies - after all, when not faced with the prospect of earning millions of dollars per film, it's easy to say that I (or anyone else) would be more cautious or judgemental with our choices. the sad fact is that you never know when your star will flame out - it just seems obvious to me that saying yes to everything that comes your way (or at the least, seeming to do so) is a surefire way to make your star fade that much quicker.

Perhaps they should have compared notes during the time spent making Face/Off, rather than actually making it.


2 people have chosen wisely: on "Build 'em up...Tear 'em down."

NFL Adam said...

you know the Rock was one of the Top 5 movies of all-time, right? The Top 5 being (in no particular order):

Cannonball Run
Heartbreak Ridge
Caddyshack
The Rock
Independence Day

Fletch said...

I hope you're not married. If so, I empathize with your wife. ;)

But seriously, any "Top" list that features The Rock better be followed by the words "movies with 'Rock' in their title starring Nic Cage," and even then it would place #2 to Red Rock West.