Nicolas Cage Changed His Name, But Not For The Reason Everyone Thinks

Acclaimed thespian Nicolas Cage has revealed why he left behind his famous family name, but it is not precisely why you would guess.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

nicolas cage wild at heart

It is currently a good time to be Nicolas Cage. After a number of years in the trenches of direct-to-DVD action thrillers, Cage is in the middle of a career renaissance the likes of which have not been seen since Matthew McConaughey did that weird chest-pounding thing in The Wolf of Wall Street. His latest film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is getting some of the highest praise of his career (and hopefully leading to a Paddington 2 revival) and Cage will soon be getting to satisfy his lifelong ambition of playing a velvet-clad Count Dracula. As part of the press junket for all of these things, Cage recently gave an interview to Wired in which he explained why he changed his name from Nicolas Coppola to Nicolas Cage. The reason? People kept making dumb jokes. 

Nicolas cage

As Nicolas Cage tells it, in one of his first film jobs, people would not stop making Coppola jokes around him and he got sick of it. The role in question was as “Brad’s Bud” in Amy Heckerling’s seminal high school film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a silent fast-food employee who does not stand up for Judge Reinhold’s character in a time of need. Apparently, other people on set kept making pretty bad puns about him being part of the famous Coppola film dynasty and he decided that he was not going to go for it any longer. While the common assumption is that Cage did not want his film career to be overshadowed (or may be credited to) the success and reputation of his famous uncle Francis Ford Coppola, it was really more the case that he just was tired of hearing people making Apocalypse Now jokes. Here are Nicolas Cage’s own words:

I changed my name because I was doing a little movie called Fast Times at Ridgemont High and I was still Nicolas Coppola, and people would not stop saying things like, ‘I love the smell of Nicolas in the morning,’ because of Apocalypse Now, and Robert Duvall saying, ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning,’ and it made it hard to work and I said, ‘I don’t need this,’ and changed it to Cage. 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of only two roles that Nicolas Cage was credited for under his government name, the other being a TV movie titled The Best of Times that also featured a young and beautiful Crispin Glover. According to the erstwhile Nicolas Kim Coppola, he changed his name to Cage in honor of two of his greatest influences, experimental composer John Cage and Marvel superhero Luke “Powerman” Cage. This honestly makes a lot of sense given the breadth of Cage’s career and his shifting back and forth between oddball films like Vampire’s Kiss and Pig and high-octane action like Face/Off and The Rock. 

Nicolas Cage may not be generally thought of as a Coppola by the public at large, but he has no short of relatives in the industry. Academy Award-winning actress Talia Shire is his aunt, while Scott Pilgrim vs The World actor Jason Schwartzman is his cousin. So is indie rock band Rooney frontman Robert Schwartzman, as well as acclaimed filmmaker Sofia Coppola. Through her, he is in-laws with French pop band Phoenix singer Thomas Mars. Those Coppolas really get around in Hollywood, but they should be proud to have Nicolas Cage as one of their greatest scions, if not in public name. Even if he doesn’t like the jokes.