Nicolas Cage’s decision to drop the Coppola surname came early in his acting career. The actor’s uncle, Francis Ford Coppola, is a critically acclaimed director behind films like The Godfather trilogy and Revelation now. But Cage changed his name after his film debut as Brad’s Bud in Fast times at Ridgemont Highthe only film to which he is credited as “Nicolas Coppola”.
Many actors can thank their family’s involvement in the film industry for their successful career. Like Cage, Emilio Estevez decided to use his birth name instead of the stage name his father, Martin Sheen, adopted. But despite Cage’s foot in the door due to his famous family members, the actor was turned away for several movies. These rejections particularly stung Cage, but he was able to continue his film career without his uncle’s films.
In a WIRED Autocomplete interview posted on April 21, 2022, Cage answered many questions, including why the actor was missing a tooth. Dreamer and his decision to change his name. Cage also opened up about his uncomfortable experience working on the set of Fast times at Ridgemont High because of his birth name. “People kept saying things like ‘I love the smell of Nicolas in the morning’ because of Revelation now“, Cage revealed. “It made it hard to work, and I said, ‘I don’t need that,’ and changed it to Cage.”
In addition to why Cage adopted a stage name, the actor revealed the inspiration behind his new last name. “It’s a combination of Luke Cage from Marvel Comics and John Cage, the vanguard songwriter,” Cage said. “Says a lot about everything I’ve done since.”
Cage appeared in several of his uncle’s films throughout his career, including SE Hinton’s 1983 film adaptation growling fish alongside Matt Dillon. The same year as growling fish, Cage auditioned to play Dally Winston in another film adaptation of Hinton’s novels – The foreigners. According to IMDb, the actor largely prepared for the role through the acting method, only for Coppola to turn him down. Dillon was then recruited to play Dally, and Cage settled in with a cameo appearance in the rumble scene.
Additionally, Cage explained how he practically begged Coppola to let him play Vincent Corleone in The Godfather Part III. “I really think I should be in your movie, uncle,” Cage said. “It just wasn’t going to happen.” Coppola then chose Andy García instead, but Cage still made his career.