Christmas over? Must be time to marathon Nicolas Cage movies at the Depot – Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — The actor Nicolas Cage comes from California. He’s obsessed with New Orleans. He has appeared in movies set all over the world.

Light-skinned woman with short brown hair stands holding a card with the face of Nicolas Cage. Behind her are stills featuring Nicolas Cage in various film roles.

Depot director Mary Tennis at the inaugural “Caged In” event Jan. 6, 2023.

Contributed / St. Louis County Depot

Where does Duluth come into this story? Through the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, and a pun.

“There’s (a) gate that’s used to close the Lake Superior Railroad Museum off from the rest of the building,” explained Hailey Eidenschink, the St. Louis County Depot’s cultural coordinator. “When we would do ghost tours in the building … we would always get ‘caged in’ at the end.”

At a staff brainstorming session, those ghost tours led to an intriguing concept. Eidenschink described the line of thought: “Nicolas Cage … get ‘caged in’ … we should have a movie marathon!”

two women sitting on stage

Mary Tennis, left, and Hailey Eidenschink sit on the stage at the Depot Theatre on Dec. 20.

Clint Austin / Duluth Media Group

Last winter, that idea became a reality, with three Nicolas Cage hits screening for free in the Depot’s Great Hall on the eve of the actor’s Jan. 7 birthday. The first “Caged In” — an event that was gently absurd, despite involving the movies “Con Air” and “Face/Off” — featured trivia, waffles and a birthday celebration.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” said Eidenschink, but “we had a really great turnout.”

“We really just want to be a resource and an asset for folks,” said Depot director Mary Tennis. “Having people feel familiar and comfortable and safe in any of our Depot environments, that’s success.”

Tennis and Eidenschink were sitting on the stage of the Depot Theatre, where the second annual Caged In event will be held Friday. The theater has recently been outfitted with a new projector, previously put to use at the North Star Story Summit and two screenings of the Duluth-made movie “Rescuing Christmas.”

“We’ve been told that this is the nicest projector in town,” said Tennis. “I do not know what that means. I do not know how to qualify that, but it is beautiful.”

Although the Great Hall provided a striking setting for the first Cage marathon — “I mean, it’s great,” quipped Tennis — the theater seating will be a little more conducive to extended viewing.

“There will be some food and beverage options for people,” said Tennis, “so they can just settle in.” (

Superior Waffles

will return as a vendor.)

Darkened interior space in a 19th century train depot, with a crowd of people seated in chairs to the left and a movie screen to the right.

Attendees at the Depot’s first “Caged In” event watch a Nicolas Cage movie marathon in the Great Hall on Jan. 6, 2023.

Contributed / St. Louis County Depot

In addition to the aforementioned blockbusters, last year’s event included a screening of “National Treasure.” Trivia prizes included a specially decorated “National Treasure chest.”

Eidenschink and Tennis discussed the merits of each film in this year’s lineup. For specifics on movie timing and other details, see the Depot’s


and social media.

“It’s an earlier piece from Nicolas Cage’s career that really catapults him into the spotlight,” said Eidenschink. Plus, there’s a local angle: the Coen Brothers, who made the movie, grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

“That’s fun,” said Eidenschink, “to get to have some hometown hero stuff going on there.”

Theatrical release movie for "Raising Arizona," featuring a light-skinned woman, man and baby sitting in reclining lawn chairs.

Theatrical release poster for “Raising Arizona.”

Contributed / St. Louis County Depot

Cage plays H.I. “Hi” McDunnough, a formerly incarcerated man married to the police officer (Holly Hunter) who took his mugshot. Unable to have a child biologically, the spouses kidnap one of the quintuplets born to furniture salesman Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson). When two of Hi’s former cellmates (William Forsythe, John Goodman) escape prison and arrive seeking shelter, hijinks ensue.

“It’s kind of a screwball comedy (and) crime caper,” said Tennis. “The through line on all the movies we’re showing is they’re all kind of…” She paused. “Romantic?”

Though Cage had appeared onscreen in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) and “Peggy Sue Got Married” (1986), he wasn’t yet a star when “Raising Arizona” was released. Actor Sam McMurray, who played Hi’s boss, later told

Business Insider

that during a lunch break from filming the movie, a teenager who barely recognized Cage asked him to sign a cocktail napkin.

“He wrote down, ‘Tomorrow you will die. Nicolas Cage,'” McMurray remembered. “That’s when I decided I liked him.”

Theatrical release poster for movie "Moonstruck," featuring 40-ish woman dancing exuberantly in front of full moon.

Theatrical poster for “Moonstruck.”

Contributed / St. Louis County Depot

This beloved family drama stars Cher, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in the role of Loretta Castorini. Olympia Dukakis, playing Loretta’s mother, also won an Oscar; the film was nominated for Best Picture but lost to “The Last Emperor.”

Cage plays Loretta’s unlikely lover, nursing a prosthetic hand and a grudge against his late brother. He was not nominated.

“He marches to the beat of his kazoo,” said Eidenschink. “I’ve heard (a) legend that the director hated his performance, absolutely could not get down with it at all, and Cher defended him, which allowed his bonkers take on the character to go through.”

Revisiting the movie in 2003, critic Roger Ebert was


that it’s an ensemble piece. Although Cher is on the poster, there are actually several love stories in the movie, and director Norman Jewison keeps a handle on the tone. “The movie is never slapstick,” wrote Ebert, “even when Cage’s character is in full display.”

Tennis said that every time she mentions “Moonstruck” as a feature of this year’s Caged In event, she receives an enthusiastic reaction. “People really love that movie.”

While last year’s movie marathon leaned into Cage’s action-star era, this year’s selections highlight his sensitive side. Until “Ghost Rider.”

Theatrical release poster for "Ghost Rider," featuring image of flaming man approaching a motorcycle carrying a limp human figure.

Theatrical release poster for “Ghost Rider.”

Contributed / St. Louis County Depot

“Cage at his Cage-iest,” was how Eidenschink described this motorcycle movie. “The most gonzo, bonkers concept.”

“Ghost Rider” was based on a Marvel Comics character dating back to 1972. Cage plays a stuntman who sells his soul to the devil, played by — who else? — Peter Fonda, of “Easy Rider” fame. He can only earn his soul back if, as the fleshless Ghost Rider, he defeats a demon named Blackheart (Wes Bentley).

“Is the world ready for a flaming Nicolas Cage?” asked Jeannette Catsoulis rhetorically in a review for the

New York Times.

“After a long string of financial flops, this idiosyncratic actor is placing his faith in a comic-book character with a combustible body and an addiction to jelly beans.”

Cage’s faith was well-placed. “Ghost Rider” raked in more than twice its $110 million budget, and the actor reprised the role in a 2012 sequel.

“It’s just pure entertainment,” said Tennis.

Does Nicolas Cage know about his now-annual, unofficial Duluth birthday party? “We have no indication of that,” said Tennis.

“But we have great aspirations!” added Eidenschink. “Eventually, we’ll get enough collective clout. Even if we get, like, a Cameo (celebrity video message site) video from him or something, that would be pretty sick.”

two women sitting on stage

Mary Tennis, left, reacts to Hailey Eidenschink while talking about the upcoming “Caged In” Nicolas Cage movie marathon.

Clint Austin / Duluth Media Group

“We’re so close to Nicolas Cage, we can almost taste it,” said Tennis, referencing the Northland’s growing film industry. “It’s only a matter of time before he’s starring in a really awesome Hallmark Christmas rom-com.”

This year’s Caged In event will include more trivia and

a song contest

in which attendees will be invited to perform “goofy parodies, original compositions or anything in between” to honor the actor ahead of his 60th birthday.

Tennis pointed out that the Depot has no shortage of fine arts representation: it’s home to Minnesota Ballet, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra and, until May 1, Duluth Art Institute gallery space. Caged In is about making space for movies, one of the world’s most popular art forms.

“Nicolas Cage hits pretty much every level and every appetite of movie consumer,” said Tennis. “We want to be useful and engaging and approachable by everybody in the community, everybody in the region, and that is why it’s Nicolas Cage. He resonates.”

“He’s kind of a scene stealer,” said Eidenschink. One might say the same of Duluth itself.

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