One Little Hiccup Kept Nic Cage From A Lead Role In Fast Times At Ridgemont High

There's been a lot of discourse about so-called "nepo babies" in the media of late, and whether they deserve their fame and opportunities. Being related to a famous person is certainly going to open some doors other people often find locked, and this seems especially true when it comes to Hollywood. That's not to say none of the people who benefit from nepotism aren't skilled or deserving, of course. Look at "The Boys" star Jack Quaid, or "Glass Onion" star Kate Hudson, or even Nico Parker (the talented young actor who plays Sarah in HBO's "The Last of Us").

But just because you're related to someone famous doesn't mean you're always going to get an easier path to success and celebrity yourself. It certainly didn't for Nicolas Cage as he was starting out in showbiz and vying for a lead role in a seminal 1980s teen comedy.

For those not aware, Nicolas Cage was born Nicolas Coppola. As in, an offspring of one of Hollywood's royal families. And believe it or not, being Francis Ford Coppola's nephew didn't enable him to immediately sidestep any hurdles when it came to trying to land a starring role in Amy Heckerling's high school comedy classic "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." While it's become pretty well known that one of the reasons he was relegated to a minor, blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in the film was the fact he was only 17 at the time, according to Cage himself there was another, bigger reason he wasn't cast as Brad (the character ultimately portrayed by Judge Reinhold). Instead, he believes that the very fact that he was — in the eyes of those around him — a child of alleged nepotism was the reason he didn't get his big break sooner.

A famous name often comes with plenty of baggage

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is the movie that put Judge Reinhold on the map, in no small part because it features one particular scene that is simultaneously extremely sexy for the audience and tremendously humiliating for Brad, whose ... shall we say, private time ... is abruptly interrupted. It was a role that helped catapult him to stardom and land a major part in the "Beverly Hills Cop" franchise. But it also very nearly went to Nicolas Cage, and might have if not for the baggage that came with having a famous last name. As Cage told the Huffington Post in a 2012 interview:

"I must have auditioned for the Judge Reinhold part 10 or 11 times. I was underage, so I couldn't get it because I couldn't work as many hours. And I was surrounded by actors, whose names I won't mention, who were not very open to the idea of a young guy named 'Coppola' being an actor. So that movie was instrumental in me changing my name because of the kind of unfortunate responses to my last name."

Not long after, he changed his last name and suddenly found that more doors were being opened, as he went into auditions without having to overcome or work around the expectations of being a Coppola. For Cage, not carrying the burden of his famous family's name was freeing, like having "this weight come off [his] body." Cage probably could have overcome the initial burden and still broken through with his famous name, but frankly we're glad that, instead, he decided to do it on his own terms and thanks to his massive talent.