Tom Gormican: 5 Movies That Inspired 'The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent'
Tom Gormican
Tom Gormican

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has a premise as outsized as its leading man: Nicolas Cage stars as Nicolas Cage, a down-but-not-out actor who accepts a $1 million invitation to attend the birthday party of his biggest fan -- and is then recruited by the CIA to stop an international crisis.

"We want to make people laugh and entertain, but we're also really interested in the artistry of just making stuff and creating a thing that, as Nick would say, could stand the test of time," director Tom Gormican tells A.frame. "My hope is that you can come back to this and go, 'You know what, I really enjoyed these shots!' Or you can just, like, be extremely high and laugh at the stupidity of what's going on. It's this mixture of high-low that excited us from the writing all the way through the filmmaking and editing process."

Below, Gormican shares five of the movies that he and co-writer Kevin Etten took inspiration from as they set out to make The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

Being John Malkovich
Being John Malkovich

Directed by: Spike Jonze Screenplay by: Charlie Kaufman

If the story works, you allow the character to do things that are both real and not real. One of our pitches to Nick was about playing with his identity, that this was an identity-based project where you can take who people think you are and who you actually are and play with that narrative on a large-scale, feature film-like canvas. We pitched it to him as a piece of performance art.

I think with Being John Malkovich -- which is a perfect movie, and it's incredible, and sets an entirely ridiculously high bar -- Malkovich isn't necessarily like that, and he was willing to play with his identity. That felt really cool and interesting. And, for us, that was an inspiration. If I were to tie two films, it's the Charlie Kaufman-Spike Jones collaboration of Being John Malkovich, with an actor playing himself, and Adaptation.


Directed by: Spike Jonze Screenplay by: Charlie Kaufman

When we were writing this and I was prepping for this, Nick and Young Nick -- or Nick and the Nicky version of him -- that is Adaptation. And we thought, could we put our absurdist comedic spin on this, but keep the grounded, detailed, nuanced performance that Nick gives in Adaptation? That was our benchmark for naturalistic acting, which he isn't always interested in. But the neurotic version of Nicolas Cage is something that Kevin [Etten] and I are particularly interested in.


Directed by: Sofia Coppola Screenplay by: Sofia Coppola

The ennui and the malaise of sitting around as an actor and being somewhat obsessed with yourself and your place in the entertainment ecosystem -- but also just trying to get by as a real guy -- it felt sort of sad and funny to us. And the best version of comedy to us is sad and funny. That felt like an actor willing to show a warts-and-all performance, and Stephen Dorff's great in that film. It's a quieter, more subtle film than we chose to make here, but it's a really nice character piece.


Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino Screenplay by: Paolo Sorrentino

A movie that really influenced the filmmaking of this, that I would speak about a lot with Kevin and our DP, Nigel Bluck, is Youth. I'm a huge fan of Paolo Sorrentino's collaboration with Luca Bigazzi, his cinematographer. Just to create these beautiful images where his absurdist comedy in The Great Beauty or Youth can live.

There's a surreality to the things that he does that we wanted to channel with this project. Because, you know, it's a movie, and then, they're writing a movie that becomes the movie that was made, and it's a movie about a movie. There's a certain amount of hyper-reality to the movie Youth, and the beautiful images that they were able to create while not detracting and just enhancing the story was something we were shooting for.

The Two Popes
The Two Popes

Directed by: Fernando Meirelles Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten

It's this mixture of these beautifully, beautifully composed wide shots with a lot of handheld interior stuff that gave a really nice feel to that film. Something about it really grabbed me. At times, you felt you were watching a documentary! But then you'd get this really insanely beautiful, composed wide shot that would suggest you're in a narrative fiction film. For us, it was a combination of that beauty, but also maybe we're in a real thing with real people with that handheld feel. Those were the little tricks that we were using to tie you to Nick's character.

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