Nicolas Cage + Left Behind = Awesome

Nicolas Cage + Left Behind = Awesome October 20, 2012

How can something so wrong feel so right? Variety reports “Nicolas Cage in talks to star in ‘Left Behind’ reboot“:

Nicolas Cage is in negotiations to topline “Left Behind,” a mainstream reboot of the Christian-themed movie trilogy that will mark the first film from Stoney Lake Entertainment, a new production company led by Paul Lalonde of faith-oriented banner Cloud Ten Pictures.

The “Left Behind” franchise is based on the series of books written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins that have sold more than 65 million copies worldwide.

… The Christian-themed “Left Behind” reboot will follow a group of survivors during the first few hours after the Rapture.

The original trilogy, which launched in 2001, starred Kirk Cameron.

The reference to Cam-Cam there is surely misleading. Cage is 48 years old. Cameron played Cameron — Buck Williams, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time  — and the 30-year-old reporter would be a stretch for Cage.

So does this mean Cage is set to play Rayford Steele? He wouldn’t be my first choice for the misogynist, pompous, repressed and hilariously un-self-aware pilot. For Rayford, I’d look for someone more like a young Fred Willard- or Mitt Romney-type, though I’m not sure who that would be in Hollywood today.

Will Ferrell could do Rayford justice. Maybe Steve Carell. Bryan Cranston would be awesome. Richard Jenkins maybe.

But then again, the primary characteristic of Rayford Steele is that he’s creepy — and Nicolas Cage is really good at creepy. So maybe that could work.

The ideal Left Behind role for Cage would be Dirk Burton — Buck’s paranoid, conspiracy-theorist “source” from the first book. Unfortunately, Dirk only appears briefly before he’s murdered by the conspiracy of international [don’t say ewish-Jay] financiers in a tangential sub-plot that is quickly forgotten and then made irrelevant to the story.

I could also see Cage as Bruce Barnes — especially as sweaty, disheveled, sleep-deprived Bruce. Bruce Barnes would be a lot more fun with a dose of H.I. McDunnough.

But how about Nicolas as Nicolae?

I would enjoy that. I would pay cash money to go and see that in a movie theater. I’m rather fond of Gordon Currie’s scenery-chewing, campy turn as the Antichrist in the original awful trilogy of movies. I think Cage could start there and crank it up to 11.

And the movie would benefit from making Nicolae Carpathia the “topline” character. Unlike the story’s nominal “heroes,” Buck and Rayford, the Antichrist actually does things, and stories tend to be much more interesting when they focus on characters who do things rather than on characters who never, ever do.

Alas, the sketchy initial reports on this Left Behind reboot don’t provide any further detail on the casting of the film. Hollywood Reporter focuses on the director, “Stunt Icon Vic Armstrong,” and offers this tidbit on the upcoming movie:

The story will be more in the mold of a classic disaster film. The plot unfolds during the first few hours after the Rapture and focuses on the survivors.

Filmophilia, Collider, FirstShowing, Film School Rejects and /Film all chime in on the news, but don’t add much detail to the Variety report. While Zack Hunt at American Jesus is hoping for more of a Left Behind/National Treasure mash-up:

My only hope is they tweak the story a little bit and Nicolas Cage ends up having to steal the Lamb’s Book of Life from heaven because there’s a secret map hidden inside that can save the world from Armageddon.

So let’s have some fun. Let’s either ignore this project’s reported small budget ($15 million is, in Hollywood terms, a small budget) or else pretend that every actor in tinsel-town is in the same desperate financial straits as Cage, and let’s cast this reboot.

Here’s my hasty initial take:

Rayford Steele: Will Ferrell

Buck Williams: Jonah Hill

Nicolae Carpathia: Nicolas Cage

Chloe Steele: Clea Duvall

Hattie Durham: Anna Faris

Bruce Barnes: Steve Buscemi

Drunken Businessman on Airplane: John Goodman

Chaim Rosenzweig: Alan Arkin

Dirk Burton: Harry Dean Stanton

In the event that Tim Burton can be convinced to direct, then I’d be quite pleased to have Johnny Depp as Nicolae, Helena Bonham Carter as Hattie, Bill Murray as Rayford, and Mark Wahlberg as Buck Williams. That would be fine, too.

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  • Persephone

    Nicolas Cage makes everything awesomely crazy.

    Also here’s the best of him going crazy in film: (NSFW, language, eccentricity)

  • Persephone

     Oh, also violence. I forgot to mention violence.

  • Seeing Goodman and Buscemi in your fantasy list makes me wonder what the Coen brothers might do with a project like this. An evangelical-flavored O Brother? I might unironically enjoy that.

  • Eric B

    Rayford Steele:  Ty Burrell
    Buck Williams: Adam Scott
    Hattie Durham: Amy Adams
    Chloe Steele: Ellen Page 
    Bruce Barnes:  John Pinnette
    Steve Plank: Samuel L Jackson
    Stanon Bailey: Brian Doyle Murray
    Nicolae Carpathia: Robert Redford (made up to look like a young Robert Redford, of course)
    Dirk Burton: Nic Cage
    Chaim Rosenzwig: Rod Steiger
    Cardinal Matthews: William Devane
    Verna Zee: Angela Kinsey

  • Carstonio

    Is Cage in desperate financial straits, as Fred suggests? I’m wondering if the news item is the old tactic of negotiating through the entertainment press – perhaps another actor is playing hardball with the studio and this is the studio’s message that they have other options. I had understood Cage to be Catholic, unless he converted to PMD recently.

  • Jessica_R

    Rayford: Ciaran Hinds (Seriously, he was great as not Bill Clinton in Political Animals so he’d be aces at playing a pompous blowhard who could still find traces of humanity in the character.) 

    Buck: Matt Damon (So he’s obviously going to be likable and an actual journalist this time around.) 

    Chloe: Jennifer Lawrence 

    Bruce: Lance Henriksen 

    Stanton: Gene Hackman 

    Nicolae: Robert Downey Jr. 

    Dirk: Aaron Paul 

    Chaim: Mandy Patikin 

    Verna: Sigourney Weaver 

    Alice: Ellen Page 

  • Erikjohnsonillustrator

    If we can team up “Knowing” Nick Cage as Rayford with “Happening” Mark Wahlberg as Buck, and we may be looking at a movie that can match “Battlefield Earth” for wonderful awfulness. A pity we couldn’t rope in John Travolta to play Nicoale.

  • Carstonio

    O Brother’s soundtrack is arguably evangelical-flavored already. As much as I love the movie and the soundtrack, I find the worldview in the lyrics to be both saddening and disturbing. Very much “Life is full of pain but I’ll be with Jesus soon.” I can understand the appeal of that message in the period depicted, but it still seems like a refusal to tackle the suffering that is within human ability to redress. Years ago Fred pointed out that the focus on an next life at the expense of this life arose as a rationalization of slavery, and the rationalization probably continued to hold sway during Jim Crow.

  • GeniusLemur

    I thought Nick Cage  was a $20-million-a-movie superstar. How could they possibly afford him?

    And yes, Nick Cage would be horribly miscast as Buck Williams, but in my experience, Nick Cage is horribly miscast as anything other than a 2X4.

  • Grey Seer

    Nicholas Cage as EVERYONE.

    Seriously. I would pay money to see Cage playing the antichrist, all of his aides, all of the ‘heroes’ and the various assorted deities at once. It’d need a bit of CGI, but that’s what Hollywood does nowadays.

  • AnonaMiss

    Your pick of Johnny Depp as Nicolae is great, Fred. I never would have thought of it, but he’d be perfect for conveying the Antichrist’s creepy charisma-mojo.

    I gotta say, I don’t know where we could fit him in – Billings is the only character of the right age, but he would need to be played by someone who could do serene – but I’d love to see Clint Eastwood in the film somewhere.

    …Oh god, if only Leslie Nielson were alive. He’d do a killer Pastor Billings.

  • ZackHunt

    Arnold Schwarzenegger really needs to be in this movie too: “Come with me if you want to get to heaven.”

  • Tricksterson

    No Hattie?

  • Tricksterson

    Maybe as Nicolae’s rich backer who gets shot?

  • Kubricks_Rube

    I’m going all Mad Men:

    Rayford: John Slattery

    Buck: Vincent Kartheiser

    Chloe: Alison Brie

    Hattie: Christina Hendricks

    Bruce: Jarred Harris

    Nicolae: Jon Hamm

    Verna: Elisabeth Moss

    Chaim: Robert Morse

    Amanda: January Jones

    The Witnesses: Michael Gladis and Rich Sommer

  • I dunno why, but…Now I really wanna see Jeremy Irons as Nicolae.

  • Eamon Knight

    Waddya mean, Buck n’ Ray never do anything? Rayford flies planes while gritting his teeth and not-getting-it-on with Hattie! Buck buys SUVs which he drives on the shoulder! And they both work full-time snubbing every woman in sight! (Except their designated, properly virtuous and low-profile, love-interests).

    Action heroes, both of them!

  • Tybult

    Cage is 48 years old. Cameron played Cameron — Buck Williams, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time  — and the 30-year-old reporter would be a stretch for Cage.

    Nicolas Cage laughs at your pitiful notions of “plausibility.” Nicolas Cage is the bulldozer that rips through the delicate rainforest of acting methodology, paving the way for the Michael Bay Supercenter.

    The only way to not make this movie suck worse than Atlas Shrugged is to shoot the moon. So:

    Buck Williams: Nicolas Cage
    Chloe Steele: Kirsten Stewart
    Rayford Steele: RNC-style Clint Eastwood
    Amanda Steele: Megan Fox
    Nicolae: Christopher Walken at his Walken-est.
    Chaim Rosenweitz: Justin Long
    Tsion Ben-Judah: Fyvush Finkel
    Bruce: Kirk Cameron
    Director: Michael Bay

    You’ve got to take the pile of bullshit, set it on fire, strap monster truck wheels to it, and jump it over a racetrack full of ninjas and tigers.
    It’s the only way.

  • Funkula

    Oh wow, Brian Cranston as Rayford. With Aaron Paul as Buck, Anna Gunn as Hattie, Bob Odenkirk as Bruce, and Giancarlo Esposito as Nicolae. No really good candidates for Chloe, unless RJ Mitte in a dress works for you.

    Seriously, I’m just sitting here giggling, imagining Buck busting out with a “Yeah, bitch!”

  • “But how about Nicolas as Nicolae?  I would enjoy that. I would pay cash money to go and see that in a movie theater.”

    Not sure, but it might be more ethical to buy a ticket to ANOTHER movie & then sneak in to that movie, so your cash isn’t lining the pockets of these folks, right?

  • I think my fantasy film casting would be

    Bruce Barnes: Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Rayford Steele: Nathan Fillion

    Buck Williams: Joseph Gordon Levitt

    Hattie Durham: Miranda July

    Chloe Steele: Natalie Portman

    Amanda Steele: Julianne Moore

    Nicolae: Anthony Stewart Head

    Directed by Wes Anderson as a whimsical  multi-narrative take on finding love in the apocalypse. 

  • AnonaMiss

    Oh god my sides you’re right Christopher Walken.

  • Queenisis98

    To all who are saying Christopher Walken: Upon reading the title of this article my first thought was that it’s Christopher Walken who should really play Nicolae Carpathia – preferably with the odd emphasis on the beats of his sentences while reading his lines that he often does, especially during the long public speeches that Nicolae would often give – coupled with Walken’s general creepiness, how awesome would that be?! I’m glad that other people agree with me about it.

  • Victor

    Fred if  our old friend Paul Lalonde of the early ninetees gets Nicolas Cage, I’m sorry but we’re going to go see “IT” and please try to find something nice to say about these guys or “I’M” going to send a few of sinner vic’s cells to pay you a visit for Halloween! Maybe? :)

    I hear ya Fred! :(


  • PirateAnon

    Jeremy Irons already did ‘Omega Code’, another PMD inspired film, as a henchman, and was indeed the best part of that movie.

  • Tybult

    There’s a scene in “True Romance” where he plays a Sicilian mob boss, and he introduces himself as the Antichrist.

    But I’ll be damned if I can find the clip.

  • My quick youtube search didn’t find any scenes with him, but show Micheal Ironside being in the movie too. Is it worth tracking down, or is Jeremy Irons the only good thing in it?

    EDIT: Oh, and Walken would be the perfect antichrist too

  • Ursula L

    With the Rapture identified as a disaster and those left behind as survivors, the synopsis of this movie is already better than anything in the existing Left Behind cannon. 

  •  Now THAT is a movie I would see!

  • Jim Roberts

     I want to hear Christopher Walken’s read on “Azerbaijan” and “Namibia.”

  • Tomas

    As long as we’re wishing for the impossible…

    Build a time machine.  Get the cast and crew of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Set the whole thing to music…

  • Claire

    Or how about Uwe Boll directing it?  Low budget AND movie plot having little to nothing to do with the book plot. :)  So it’d be a terrible movie.  It’d be better than the books!

  • I’ve been toying with an idea for a Rapture themed story for NaNoWriMo. The hook would be that you don’t know it’s a Rapture story until halfway through because it’s only kids and the developmentally disabled who disappear. Most people think it’s aliens, and all the Rightwing Religious LaHaye-types who got left behind with everyone else all categorically deny that  it was the Rapture and instead blame it all on gays and abortionists. Then, halfway through, the protagonists discover that some adult Christians DID disappear, but they amounted to less than .01% of all practicing Christians and no one noticed when a tiny handful of nuns and soup kitchen managers vanished in all the confusion.

  • flat

    Well the good news for Fred is if this movie got made, he might get more visitors for his blog.


    Can you tell I’m a huge Breaking Bad fan? Oh, and he plays this awesome army captain guy in Revolutions.

    Oh yeah, and we totally need a Mike Ehrmantraut type. Actually I think Jonathan Banks would do a great Leon Fortunato, if they strip the buffoonery out.

    Now my idea?

    Chaim Rosenzweig: Alan Arkin

    No no nononononono.

    Terence Stamp!

  • Chris M

    Ha!  I love all the castings you all have done.  I don’t have one to add, but I did find it curious that the  quote referred to the cast as “survivors of the Rapture.”  Especially after all the discussion by Fred and everyone on whether the rapturees are dead or not.  I wonder if that’s Variety’s take on it or from the press release.

  • The alphabetization scene is the first thing I thought of.  And why I back Fred’s nomination of Cage as Nicolae.

    ETA: Unfortunately I almost never see movies or watch television any more. So I am unable to play the casting game. Though I would much rather see a Coen Brothers-directed LB than a Tim Burton-directed one.

  • Nicholas Cage has been in nothing but jaw-droppingly misogynistic movies over the past few years. If something has him in it these days, I know it’s going to be a movie largely centered on the worship of penii and hatred of women. So this is perfect casting.

    Oh, he’s also deeply in debt, partly because of his ridiculous collection of cars.

  • By the way: Lucy Liu as every white guy. 

  • vsm

    If our assets contain a time machine, we should get Howard Hawks to direct. He’ll get someone to rewrite it a couple of times until it’s about ace pilot Humphrey Bogart and war correspondent Cary Grant fighting Nazis and being competent and very shippable. Just to mess with everyone’s heads, Lauren Bacall plays Bogart’s daughter. The names will probably be changed, along with everything else, though Ray Steele is exactly the kind of name a Bogart character might have had (he once played a Dixon Steele).

    Alternatively, we could give the story to Billy Wilder, who’d see it as a hilarious farce. Fred MacMurray would be the perfect Rayford Steele, being a peerless interpreter of profoundly unpleasant masculinity. Jack Lemmon plays Buck (“please call me Cameron”) Williams as a hapless everyman stuck in a bizarre prophecy. Kirk Douglas is the Antichrist, dripping smarm. Pamela Tiffin has a great comic turn as Chloe Steele, an initially competent woman whose personality changes completely the moment she says the magic words.

    Hattie Durham, Whore of Babylon, will of course be played by Marilyn Monroe in both films. The Hawks version will be the Nazi general’s cuckoolander moll who helps the heroes at a crucial moment, while the Wilder character will be both hilarious and achingly sad, the only truly human character along with Cameron.

  •  While I have never especially liked Lucy Liu, I want to go on record right now as saying that her Watson is the only thing I actually like about “Elementary”.

  • Kiba

    Frank-N-Furter as Nicolae. Yes. I just might watch that.

  • wendy

    Yeah, Cage is notoriously broke. He bought a bunch of extremely expensive properties at the height of the real estate bubble, then when the stock market crashed realized he hadn’t paid 3 years of income tax and was underwater on a bunch of mortgages and the IRS has liens on everything. 

  • And we trust rich people to manage their money better than poor people because why, again?

  • EllieMurasaki

    We don’t. They just have more margin for error.

  • Rayford Steele: Bruce Campbell

  • Wingedwyrm

    Is anybody else thinking of this in terms of rewriting old cartoon characters?  Or new?  I kinda think this deserves the Family Guy treatment more than Star Wars did.  But, how about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Tribulation Team?

  • lovecomesfromlife

    I love all your ideas!  I love that even though you’ve taken literally YEARS breaking down these novels and movies and showing them for all their terrible theology, all their racism and sexism, and all their total lack of artistic sense you can find it within yourself to hope for better.  To see this story take on the shape it was meant to take on.  That’s some serious optimism.

  • PollyAmory

    In light of this news, there is bound to be a renewed interest in the series from a lot of people. So I hope Fred restores the links to the Left Behind compendium that used to be on the sidebar but have either gone away or made harder to locate.

    I can’t think of a better way to get to know the LF universe, without actually reading the wretched books.

  • (T_T) I’m now imagining Nicolae doing this song.

    Sadly “Just a sweet po-tent-ate” doesn’t have the same ring.