Actor Nicolas Cage has always strived to make a name for himself based on his work, rather than on his lineage. As the nephew of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Cage altered his last name to avoid accusations of nepotism. (He chose "Cage" both out of admiration for avant-garde musician John Cage and en homage to comic book hero Luke Cage). Even if he had retained the family name, it isn't likely that anyone would consider Cage holding fast to his uncle's coattails. Time and again, Cage travels to great lengths to add verisimilitude to his roles.
Born January 7, 1964, in Long Beach, CA, to a literature professor father and dancer/choreographer mother, Cage first caught the acting bug while a student at Beverly Hills High School. After graduation, he debuted on film with a small part in Amy Heckerling's 1982 classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Following a lead role in Martha Coolidge's cult comedy Valley Girl (1983), Cage spent the remainder of the decade playing endearingly bizarre and disreputable men, most notably as Crazy Charlie the Appliance King in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Hi McDonough in Raising Arizona (1987), and Ronny Cammareri in the same year's Moonstruck, the last of which won him a Golden Globe nomination and a legion of female fans, ecstatic over the actor's unconventional romantic appeal.