Nicolas Cage’s career takes a turn for the metatextual in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The 2022 movie, which also stars Pedro Pascal, incorporates large parts of the actor’s filmography and on-screen persona into an outlandish story about passion, fandom, and a plot to take down an international arms dealer. Director and co-writer Tom Gormican’s willingness to mix reality and fiction didn’t stop with the script. A disagreement between Cage and Pascal over the appearance of a prop made it into the final cut of the film.
‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ has a second life online thanks to TikTok
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent isn’t just interested in the mythology around Nicolas Cage. It is entirely built around his career and the ways his work is perceived by the world.
Cage plays a fictionalized version of himself, and the movie begins with him in a personal and professional rut. Cage plans on retiring from acting, but only after he accepts an offer of $1 million from a mysterious, playful superfan named Javi (Pascal). The two hit it off, but Cage soon gets brought in by two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz), who suspect that Javi is an arms dealer behind the kidnapping of a politician’s daughter.
The movie didn’t leave a big impression on the industry when it was in theaters last summer, but it ascended in the public consciousness after one scene became a popular meme on TikTok. For those unaware, it goes like this: a concerned Cage is in the passenger seat of a convertible, turning his head slowly to find Pascal, leveling up as a celebrity thanks to The Last of Us, staring back at him with a big, goofy grin.
A TikTok user named Vanessa asked Cage about the meme at the Miami Film Festival, where he was honored with Variety’s Legends and Groundbreakers Award.
“I have no understanding of that, that world — viral. I’m not really online, but I’ve heard about it,” Cage said. “Pedro’s a great actor. We had a lot of fun together so I’m happy it’s making people happy.”
A real argument with Pedro Pascal over a prop pillow stayed in the film
Pascal recently appeared on an episode of the Youtube show Hot Ones. During his conversation with host Sean Evans, the actor revealed that one exchange between him and Cage was improvised during filming.
Each member of the Massive Talent cast received a reversible sequin pillow with Cage’s face and signature. You can see one of the pillows in the scene where Javi walks Cage through his shrine full of memorabilia.
The pillow was added against Cage’s wishes, who wanted to get rid of it before Pascal convinced him that it should stay. But Cage’s mild discomfort played a role in how the scene played out.
“He points to it, he’s like ‘uh, that’s weird’ and he changed its face,” Pascal said. “And I was like ‘no, it’s nice and I put it back’ and they kept it in the movie. That was definitely an improvised moment, the one time I was disagreeing with him.”
Pedro Pascal is more than willing to work with Nicolas Cage again
Pascal has been a fan of Cage for decades. He shared his “Mount Rushmore” of Cage performances includes Raising Arizona, Peggy Sue Got Married, Face-Off, and Moonstruck.
Some say to never meet your idols, but Pascal greatly enjoyed his time with Cage. The actor told Entertainment Tonight reporter Ash Crossan that he would “love” to make another movie with Cage. Hopefully, they can agree on the set design next time.