Leaving Las Vegas director Mike Figgis reveals that Nicolas Cage was never paid for his role in the film. Based on John O’Brien’s semi-autobiographical novel, Cage starred in the film as Ben Sanderson, a man whose life crumbles around him as he loses his job, family, and friends. With nothing else to live for, Ben goes to Las Vegas with a plan to drink himself to death, only for his relationship with Elisabeth Shue’s Sera, a sex worker employed by an abusive pimp, to put everything in a new perspective for him. .
Released in 1996, Leaving Las Vegas netted Cage’s only Oscar win for Best Actor in a Leading Role, after he received his follow-up nomination for his performance in Amendment to Adrien Brody for the pianist. The critically acclaimed drama marked a unique point in Cage’s career as he moved away from a variety of light comedy fare like Guarding Tess and Honeymoon in Vegas to the more dramatic realm, making him a serious actor in the industry. Although his time in the blockbuster genre with people like Ghost Rider and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice led to very divisive reviews, at least they proved to be more fruitful compared to one of his most acclaimed roles.
While appearing on The Hollywood Reporter‘s It happened in Hollywood podcast, Leaving Las Vegas director Michael Figgis revealed that neither he nor Nicolas Cage were ever paid for their work in the film. Cage and Figgis were both promised $100,000 for their work in the film, only for financier, Lumiere Pictures, to keep their promise to pay them both under the guise that the film “never made a profitSee below what Figgis says about his lack of pay:
“Whatever. I mean, my career took off again, and the next movie I did I got paid really well. And within a year [Nic] was making $20 million a movie, so that was pretty good.”
Nicolas Cage Succeeded Financially After Leaving Las Vegas
The story of Figgis represents a classic story for filmmakers and stars like Cage who get to work in independent film. Leaving Las Vegas was made on a budget of only $4 million, which was considered small for film even in 1995. Such micro-budget films often have low returns, even with their small budgets, because they often had to deal with distribution problems, so a problem with profit returns. For filmmakers, independent films often don’t bring filmmakers and actors a lot of money, so for the studio to keep their promises to the Leaving Las Vegas crew and cast members is disappointing to learn, although head held Figgis doesn’t make the story quite disappointing.
As Figgis alludes, neither his career nor Cage suffered the financial loss of Leaving Las Vegas, namely when Cage won his only Oscar for his performance in the film. Though he’s made some rough-and-tumble movies over the past two decades, Cage has continued to find success in the indie genre with the likes of Mandy, Color from outer space and Pigas well as the meta-action comedy The unbearable weight of enormous talent. Audiences can revisit Cage’s Oscar-winning work with Leaving Las Vegas available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount+.
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