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Unbearable Weight Filmmakers Discuss How They Got Nicolas Cage To Play Himself In The Film - Exclusive

The inventive new action-comedy "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" was truly an all-or-nothing risk for director-writer Tom Gormican and writer-executive producer Kevin Etten, since it would only work with film icon Nicolas Cage starring as a heightened version of himself. There was no plan B, the filmmaking duo told Looper in an exclusive interview, since they didn't create a blueprint script where Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves could be plugged in if the Cage idea didn't work out.

"This one was always Nic from the very beginning. It was very carefully constructed around him. I will slightly object to the idea that you can do a heightened version of Nicolas Cage, because I don't know if there's any higher than actual, real Nic Cage," Gormican said, laughing. "It was always Nic, and the more we thought about it, the more it couldn't possibly be anyone else."

That's not to say Gormican and Etten didn't think about ways to get really creative if Cage wouldn't commit.

"The only idea we talked about very briefly — a friend floated it — was the idea of a Christian Bale or Daniel Day-Lewis in Nic Cage prosthetics, playing Nic," Etten added. "Christian Bale as Nic Cage was the one thing we were willing to [do]."

New in theaters, "The Unbearable Weight" stars Nicolas Cage as Nick Cage, a fictionalized version of the actor whose career opportunities are waning. In need of some quick cash, Nick agrees to appear for a $1 million fee at the birthday party of Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), a super-wealthy superfan who, unknown to the actor, is also a crime kingpin. While Nick agrees to be an informant for the CIA to spy on the crime operation, his stay turns dangerous when his wife (Sharon Horgan) and daughter (Lily Sheen) are kidnapped by Javi's crew. With no other option to save his family, Nick channels some of his most famous action-hero characters to make their escape from Javi's compound.

The filmmakers' heartfelt letter to Cage got him to sign on to the film

Naturally, the first step Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten took in getting Nicolas Cage to star in "The Unbearable Weight" was pitching him the film, which he initially turned down. Ultimately, Cage signed on the dotted line when the duo convinced him that they were not mocking the actor's career, but rather celebrating it because they are true fans of the Oscar-winning actor's work.

"We ended up writing him a letter that explained our intentions and explained that this was really a love letter to him, to his work, and that it would be a chance for him to play with people's perceptions or beliefs about who he is versus who he really is versus who he puts out there," Etten explained to Looper. "It was this opportunity to do this big, weird performance art piece. If there was one kind of actor who might do something like that, Nic is the guy who would take on something that brave."

Another key factor that influenced Cage to sign on to the film, the filmmakers believe, is that Cage doesn't take himself too seriously — and that approach has served the actor well.

"We try to take this from Nic: He takes the work incredibly seriously but doesn't take himself that seriously. That's the key here, and it's the key to success," Gormican observed. "The work part of it ... We didn't realize that Nic was going to be so incredibly prepared and so deeply thoughtful about the movie that we were making, and he was. He does take that part of it seriously, which is the other component to longevity and success here."

"The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" is now in theaters.