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Apparently Nicolas Cage Turned Down Roles In The Matrix And The Lord Of The Rings For The Sweetest Reason

Nicolas Cage in Prisoners of the Ghostland
(Image credit: RLJE Films)

Can you imagine Nicolas Cage waking up from a training download, whispering “I know kung fu,” then entering a feud with Laurence Fishburne? Because that might have happened if Cage accepted a role in The Matrix that we can only assume was Neo. Cage admitted to passing on The Matrix, as well as The Lord of the Rings, while making the publicity rounds on behalf of his upcoming comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. In that film, Cage plays an exaggerated version of his classic Hollywood persona, agreeing to play himself at a birthday party of a super-fan for $1 million. But when talking with People about his past offers, and why he turned them down, Cage explains:

First and foremost ... there's no version of Nic Cage in reality that doesn't want to spend time with his children. There's no version of Nic Cage that didn't put family first over career. I turned down Lord of the Rings and I turned down Matrix because I didn't want to go to New Zealand for three years or Australia for three years because I needed to be home with my son Weston, that's a fact. … So there is a huge disparity between that Nick Cage in Massive Talent and the Nic Cage sitting in front of you right now.

I love Hollywood “What If?” stories. Tom Cruise almost played Iron Man instead of Robert Downey Jr. in an earlier version of the production, or Sylvester Stallone almost considering Beverly Hills Cop as a starring role – which eventually went to Eddie Murphy, and fit him like a glove! In both of those cases, the roles ended up in the right hands… and I think you have to say the same about The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings

Back in 1998, when The Matrix was filming, Nicolas Cage was coming off of the massive hits The Rock, Con/Air and Face Off. They are the Nic Cage movies that most inspire The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, so you can see why any studio and producer would want to offer the red-hot Cage a role in a tentpole. But Cage, at that time, didn’t possess the Zen-like calm that is necessary to be The One. He was channeling a raw, nervous energy into his action roles, and his tendency to chew scenery might have disrupted the flow The Wachowski siblings brought to the first Matrix movie.  

That’s not to say Nic Cage hasn’t found that Zen mentality in later films. In fact, recent quiet work in movies like Pig had Nicolas Cage in the awards conversation, showing the actor’s ability to seamlessly shift gears at this stage in his career. He’s even able to poke fun at himself in the referential Unbearable Weight, playing opposite a smitten Pedro Pascal. The Mandalorian star has the perfect three-word review of his new movie with Nic Cage. If you need more words, our review will be on the site before the end of the week. In the meantime, keep track of every upcoming 2022 movie release, so you know exactly what’s opening in theaters near you. 

Sean O'Connell
Sean O'Connell

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.