Nicolas Cage Was Not Paid For His Best Movie?

Nicolas Cage and director Mike Figgis were not paid for Leaving Las Vegas.

By Mark McKee | Published

Being a famous actor seems like a pretty good living, with exotic locations, beautiful co-stars, the adoration of millions of fans, and let’s not forget the paychecks. That is, of course, if the actor chooses the right film that makes the studio a ton of money and becomes a success in the theater, and the actor has actually to receive the paycheck. According to MovieWeb, the director of Leaving Las Vegas, one of the best and most successful Nicolas Cage movies, revealed that he and Cage were never paid for the movie, which is even odder because Cage won an Academy Award for his performance.

Mike Figgis, the director of Leaving Las Vegas (1995), revealed that neither he nor Nicolas Cage received the $100,000 fee they were owed for the movie. While the film grossed nearly $50 million at the box office on a meager budget of under $4 million, the studio claimed it didn’t turn a profit and therefore wasn’t responsible for paying the director and lead actor. Figgis went on to say that he and Cage moved on to bigger and better things; he got paid exceptionally well for his next film, One Night Stand, starring Wesley Snipes (Blade and The Expendables), Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes) and Ming-Na Wen (Mulan and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). 

nicolas cage

Nicolas Cage was also on to bigger and better things by the next year as he kicked off his action trilogy over the next two years, including The Rock (Sean Connery and Ed Harris), Con Air (John Cusak and John Malkovich), and Face-Off (John Travolta and Joan Allen). Even though Leaving Las Vagas wasn’t a box-office sensation, the movie kicked off his career and turned him into a household name; leading to him landing roles in films like Gone in 60 Seconds (Angelina Jolie and Robert Duval), National Treasure (Sean Bean and Jon Voight), and Ghost Rider (Sam Elliot and Eva Mendes). Leaving Last Vegas is also the only movie of his career to gain an Oscar when he took home the Best Actor statue in 1996 at the 68th Academy Awards. 

Leaving Las Vegas follows Ben (Cage), who lost his family and moved to Sin City to lose himself in alcohol. He muses at one point that he isn’t sure if he lost his family because he drinks or if he drinks because he lost his family. Along the way, he meets Sera (Elizabeth Shue), who takes him in and attempts to bring him a level of compassion and return him from the brink of oblivion with nothing but love and care. 

Nicolas Cage is equally heartbreaking and charming in the role, having spoken to alcoholics and watching numerous movies with alcoholic performances to prepare for the role. Filming took less than a month, and Cage revealed that he was happy not to have to stay in the mind of a suicidal alcoholic for long, as it could be dangerous to his mental state. After that much preparation, pouring his heart into a performance that garnered him an Oscar, and raking in $50 million, not getting his $100,000 payday is a travesty by Lumiere Pictures.