Cinema: The Saga Of Nic The Nice

An eccentric actor copes with mainstream stardom

Should we worry about Nicolas Cage? Watching this gifted actor in the lush new war romance Captain Corelli's Mandolin, as he struts and frets so handsomely and woos starlet-of-the-moment Penelope Cruz--as he pays obeisance to all the courtly gestures of the traditional leading man--a viewer has to wonder if Cage is tethered forever to the peculiar job description of Movie Star.

Cage used to be just an actor--a fabulously unpredictable one, equal parts promise and menace. For his first decade in movies, he danced on the weird side: as a blond goofball in Valley Girl, the blind Vietnam vet of Birdy,...

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