When you think of celebrities that Chinese people love, star athletes like Yao Ming or Kobe Bryant may come to mind. When it comes to actors, Jackie Chan is still quite popular, as is Tom Cruise. But it’s a different Hollywood star who has won the hearts of China’s movie-hungry masses: Nicolas Cage.
As China draws the attention of various Hollywood actors, directors and executives, Nicolas Cage still manages to be one of the country’s most revered Western actors. While many in the West may see Cage’s career as passé, losing his action-movie edge to younger actors, his popularity in China continues to thrive. In fact, during the Huading Awards Show, which was held in the south Chinese gambling city of Macau in the Venetian Casino, Cage was awarded one of the program’s highest honors, “Best Global Actor in Motion Pictures.”
The award isn’t as random as it may sound. Many of Cage’s movies have made it to Chinese theaters, which is a difficult market to break into considering the country's often strict and sometimes arbitrary censorship rules. The most recent Cage movie that came to China was this year’s Dreamworks Animation Inc (NASDAQ:DWA) animated kids comedy "The Croods," which earned in China its highest foreign gross with more than $63 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Before that, Cage’s "Ghost Rider" franchise also opened in China, despite receiving less-than-stellar reviews stateside, as did "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." Cage’s current project, "Outcast," featuring another American actor, Hayden Christensen, is being filmed in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan.
One Chinese company, Beijing-based automaker BAIC, noticed the market’s positive reaction to Cage and decided to use him as its newest brand ambassador. Cage was featured in a somewhat awkward 1:34-minute advertising spot for one of the company’s sedans that went viral locally.
While some of Cage’s critics may say he’s past his prime, his shift to the China market is actually quite smart considering the nation’s profitability.
Some other big Hollywood names like Quentin Tarantino, Jeremy Irons and Nicole Kidman were also in attendance of the awards show, which is kind of a Frankenstein-version of America’s awards, honoring films, television, music and theater. While the awards are virtually unheard of outside of China, the live-streamed broadcast event was projected to have an audience of 800 million, an exposure that is hard to ignore.
“I was invited and it sounded like a lovely event,” Tarantino told the Hollywood Reporter. “And who would pass up an award that was given to them by 800 million Chinese people? That would be a real selfish bastard.” And a stupid one too, if they had any plans to make money off the Chinese movie industry.
Cage already has a leg up on them, even adding that he plans on living in China part time: “I want a base in Asia, and I decided that Hong Kong would be the perfect place for me to have a life.”