The Big Picture

  • Nicolas Cage turned down major roles in Lord of the Rings and The Matrix because he wanted to be with his son.
  • Nicolas Cage almost played Superman in a movie as well, and recently had a cameo as the Man of Steel in The Flash.
  • Cage has no regrets about his choices and enjoys watching Lord of the Rings.

Who doesn’t love Nicolas Cage? The eccentric actor has played countless exciting and notable roles that push him (and the audience) to the absolute limit. An action star, a horror icon, and a dramatic actor all in one, the current renaissance of Cage has proven that fans only want more. But what if we had more? Back in the 1990s, Nicolas Cage had an opportunity to play a major part in two blockbuster film trilogies, but he turned them both down. Those movies? The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix. Here’s what happened.

Nicolas Cage Didn’t Want to Leave His Family

“I turned down Lord of the Rings and I turned down Matrix because I didn’t want to go to New Zealand for three years or Australia for three years because I needed to be home with my son Weston,” Nicolas Cage revealed in a 2022 interview with People Magazine. “That’s a fact.” Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine Nicolas Cage in either Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings or The WachowskisThe Matrix films, but considering that this would’ve been the Nick Cage of The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, and even the first National Treasure era, it’s most certainly an interesting proposition. But Cage had a real reason for turning down these two sci-fi/fantasy trilogies: he didn’t want to miss his son’s childhood.

“First and foremost … there’s no version of Nick Cage in reality that doesn’t want to spend time with his children,” the actor explained. “There’s no version of Nick Cage that didn’t put family first over career.” That doesn’t quite sound like the Nick Cage we met in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, but that’s sort of the point. In the 2022 Cage-playing-Cage dramedy picture, the actor learned that he needed to put family first above his career as a viable Hollywood actor (he even fights with his imaginary younger self about it). But as far as the real-life Nicolas Cage is concerned, passing on acting in favor of his family was never a problem. Giving up roles in some of the biggest movies ever made meant he got to spend more time with his kids, and that’s one of the noblest causes a person could devote oneself to.

Along with Weston (who is now in his early 30s), Cage has two other children through subsequent marriages, a son named Kal-El (after Superman’s birthname) and a daughter named August Francesca. The actor has been married five times, and his youngest and only daughter was born to his current wife, artist Riko Shibata, whom he married in 2021. Despite having a teenager and a toddler at home, Cage has been working a lot lately, starring in five pictures alone in 2023, including Renfield, Dream Scenario, and The Old Way.

Nicolas Cage Turned Down ‘Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn

Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) holding a sword and looking determined at the Battle of Helm's Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Image via New Line Cinema

To this day, Nicolas Cage doesn’t live with regrets. According to the actor in an interview with Newsweek, they’re simply “a waste of time.” Instead, he chooses to look forward to whatever opportunities may arise next. “There certainly were movies that I probably would have benefited from if circumstances in my life allowed me to make them,” the actor noted, and when pressed revealed that The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix were at the top of his list. While Cage didn’t explicitly say that he would have been Neo in The Matrix, we do know that the role he was hoping for Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptation was none other than Aragorn himself.


Why ‘The Wicker Man’ Is the Key to Understanding Nicolas Cage

The first step of watching this movie is setting concepts like “good” or “bad” on fire.

There’s no denying that Viggo Mortensen was perfectly cast as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, so much so that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. He ended up playing the part as best as anyone could have, but it’s certainly fun to wonder how different The Lord of the Rings might’ve been with Cage standing in his place. But even though he looks back on nearly playing Aragorn himself, Cage is happy with his choice to pass on the role. “The thing is about those movies, I can watch them. I can enjoy them as an audience member,” he noted, explaining that he doesn’t often watch his own work. “And so I genuinely do have the joy of watching these—especially with Lord of the Rings.” Being unable to watch The Lord of the Rings again sounds just about awful to us, too.

Nicolas Cage Was Almost Superman

Nicolas Cage in the Superman suit while testing for Superman Lives.
Image via Warner Bros

Another role that Nicolas Cage nearly landed was as his favorite comic book character Superman in the Tim Burton-directed/Kevin Smith-penned Superman Lives, a film that was in development back in the ’90s. This Superman feature never happened for a load of different reasons, and Cage’s Man of Steel was pushed aside in favor of projects like television’s Smallville and later the Brandon Routh-led Superman Returns. But while he didn’t get to play Superman on the big screen, he did get to play other comic book characters going forward, namely Marvel’s Ghost Rider in two separate feature films and Big Daddy in Kick-Ass. But Superman lived on in the back of Cage’s mind and was no doubt part of the reason he named his second son Kal-El.

But unlike his passed-on roles in Lord of the Rings and The Matrix, Cage was able to (sort of) revisit his time as Superman later on in life. In the 2023 superhero movie The Flash, Cage’s Superman appears in a multiverse sequence in which he destroys an alien spider-like creature, not unlike what we’ve seen in leaked storyboards from the development of Superman Lives. Cage, who only showed up on set for a few hours, didn’t do much for his return as Superman, and reportedly only stood around while they shot him in costume. “Kal-El was bearing witness [to] the end of a universe, and you can imagine with that short amount of time that I had, what that would mean in terms of what I can convey,” Cage explained to Entertainment Weekly. “I had no dialogue [so had to] convey with my eyes the emotion. So that’s what I did.”

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