Nicolas Cage in his Academy Award-winning performance as a suicidal alcoholic in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995).
Roger Ebert called Cage "fearless" - which was an understatement. In a career that includes more than 70 films, the actor has never failed to create characters that suck the oxygen from the room, whether it's in comedies ("Raising Arizona," "Moonstruck," "Adaptation"), dramas ("Bringing Out the Dead"), or big-budget action fare ("The Rock," the "National Treasure" films).
"I don't believe in the term 'over the top,'" Cage told CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan. "I believe in the term 'outside of the box.' Let's take chances, let's keep trying new things, and that's how you reinvent yourself. And that's how you stay fresh."
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
A nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, Nicolas Kim Coppola grew up in Long Beach, Calif., where his family name meant little. A skinny kid, he was bullied by the boys on his bus until one day, when he found that acting just might save him.
"I put these cowboy boots on," he told Cowan, "I put these like sunglasses on, I put chewing gum in my mouth and my older brother's leather jacket, and I went on the bus with all this attitude. And they said, 'You're Nicki Coppola.' And I'm like, 'No, I'm Roy Wilkinson. I'm his cousin. I'm gonna kick your ass.'"
It worked; they stopped. "It was just the power of attitude. It was the power of committing to a character."
"Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
Cage's first film appearance, as Nicolas Coppola, was a bit part in the 1982 comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," opposite Judge Reinhold.
He kept running into an obstacle - the Coppola name - which made auditions difficult. "It wasn't so much tough being a Coppola as it was, I'm in an audition, trying to remember my lines for the audition, but all the casting people wanted to talk about was the wonderful movies my uncle made.
"And by the time it was time for me to do the audition, I'd forgotten all my lines. I couldn't do the audition!"
So he changed his screen name to Cage, and the next audition he went on, for "Valley Girl," was a success.
"Valley Girl"Cage made a splash with his starring role in Martha Coolidge's 1983 comedy, "Valley Girl," co-starring Deborah Foreman.
"Racing With the Moon"Nicolas Cage and Sean Penn in the period drama, "Racing With the Moon" (1984), as two young friends just weeks from shipping out to the Marines during World War II.
"Birdy"In Alan Parker's 1984 drama, "Birdy," Nicolas Cage played a hospitalized Vietnam War veteran whose friend and fellow patient (Matthew Modine) has become fixated on the idea of flying like a bird.
"The Cotton Club"Nicolas Cage had already made a name for himself by the time he appeared in a few of his uncle Francis Ford Coppola's films, including "The Cotton Club" (left, with Diane Lane), and "Rumble Fish."
"Peggy Sue Got Married"In Francis Ford Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986), Nicolas Cage starred opposite Kathleen Turner.
"Raising Arizona"Nicolas Cage as "Hi" McDunnough in the Coen Brothers' farce, "Raising Arizona" (1987).
In the 1989 comedy "Vampire's Kiss," Nicolas Cage famously ate a cockroach.
"I was trying to get on the map," Cage told Lee Cowan. "I was trying to make a big noise, like punk rock, and say, 'Look at me. I'm here, and I want you to remember me.' I heard stories about Ozzy Osborne and all that, and I thought, wow, that's wild.
"I could tell you it was the most disgusting, horrible memory I have of any experience on a movie set," he continued, "but people are still talking about.
"Now, I did get a call from the animal rights people on the set. 'Well, excuse me, do you have a can of Raid in your house?'" he laughed.
"Moonstruck"Nicolas Cage is besotted with the unbelieving Cher in the romantic comedy "Moonstruck" (1987).
"Wild at Heart"Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern in David Lynch's tale of unbridled passion, "Wild at Heart."
"Honeymoon in Vegas"Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker in the comedy "Honeymoon in Vegas" (1992), with the "Flying Elvises" as witnesses.
"Leaving Las Vegas"In Mike Figgis' "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995), based on John O'Brien's autobiographical novel, Nicolas Cage played a suicidal alcoholic who develops an unusual relationship with a prostitute (Elisabeth Shue) while exercising his determination to drink himself to death. The performance won Cage the Best Actor Oscar, and earned Shue an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
"The Rock"When renegade Marines take control of Alcatraz Island, an FBI Agent (Nicolas Cage) must rely on the only man ever to have escaped Alcatraz (Sean Connery) to help break in, in the 1996 actioner "The Rock."
"Con Air"A prisoner transfer goes very wrong when a drug lord hijacks a plane, leaving Nicolas Cage to set things right, in "Con Air" (1997).
"Snake Eyes"Actor Nicolas Cage and director Brian De Palma on the set of the thriller, "Snake Eyes" (1998).
"8mm"Nicolas Cage is a private eye delving into the world of snuff films in "8mm" (1999), which co-starred Joaquin Phoenix.
"Bringing Out the Dead"In Martin Scorsese's "Bringing Out the Dead" (1999), Nicolas Cage plays an ambulance driver facing death on a nightly basis.
"Gone in Sixty Seconds"Angelina Jolie and Nicolas Cage in "Gone in Sixty Seconds" (2000), about a former master car thief who must return to his old ways.
"Captain Corelli's Mandolin"In "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001), following the Italian invasion of the Greek islands during World War II, an Italian Army officer (Nicolas Cage) falls for a beautiful woman (Penelope Cruz).
"Adaptation"In Spike Jonze's "Adaptation" (2002), screenwriter Charles Kaufman's struggle to adapt Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" to the movies became the plot of his script, in which a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) struggles to adapt "The Orchid Thief."
"Adaptation"Kaufman further complicated matters by creating a twin brother (also played by Cage), whose ambitions and attitude only seemed to make Kaufman's struggle worse.
"National Treasure"In 2004 Nicolas Cage starred in the adventure film "National Treasure," about a cryptologist's hunt for treasure using a decoded copy of the Declaration of Independence as a guide. Cage returned for a second film, involving clues of Abraham Lincoln's assassination. A third "National Treasure" film is in the works.
"Lord of War"
In "Lord of War" (2005), Nicolas Cage starred as an illegal arms trafficker (inspired by Viktor Bout), who looks to make a killing following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The film costarred Jared Leto, Ian Holm and Ethan Hawke.
"World Trade Center"Nicolas Cage played a Port Authority police office who become trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers following the 9/11 attacks, in Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center."
"Ghost Rider"Nicolas Cage played a Satanic motorcycle rider using his powers against the Devil in "Ghost Rider" (2007).
"Next"In the 2007 thriller "Next," Nicolas Cage is a man who can see into the future - a talent that brings the FBI, hot on the trail of terrorists.
"Knowing"Another thriller of premonition: In "Knowing" (2009), Nicolas Cage played an MIT professor who becomes convinced a set of numbers uncovered from a time capsule accurately predicted many tragic events - and a few still to occur.
"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"In this film vaguely inspired by Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" (which starred Harvey Keitel), Nicolas Cage played a drug-addicted police detective in a post-Katrina New Orleans whose moral compass spins wildly. Directed by Werner Herzog, "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" (2009) also starred Eva Mendes.
"Kick Ass"In this wish-fulfillment fantasy-satire, a gang of un-superheroic people (Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Johnson) decides to wield the vengeance of caped crusaders in the comic book adaptation, "Kick Ass" (2010).
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice"
In "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (2010), directed by Joe Turteltaub ("National Treasure"), Nicolas Cage played a sorcerer in modern-day Manhattan, out to stop one particularly evil nemesis (Alfred Molina) from destroying the world.
"Season of the Witch"
Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman played 14th-century knights
charged with helping to lift a witch's curse from the land in the 2011
supernatural fantasy, "Season of the Witch" (2011).
"Trespass"Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman are a couple taken hostage in the 2011 thriller, "Trespass."
"The Frozen Ground"In "The Frozen Ground" (2013), Nicolas Cage starred as an Alaska detective on the trail of a serial killer.
"Tokarev"In the 2014 thriller "Tokarev," Nicolas Cage plays an Irish mobster in the U.S. whose theft of a large sum of Russian mob funds only comes back to haunt him later.
In "Joe" (2014), Nicolas Cage plays a Southern ex-con at war with himself, who becomes a father figure to Tye Sheridan ("The Tree of Life," "Mud").
Brooding and funny, it's a film full of quieter moments.
"I wanted to see how minimal I can be and get to the truth of the performance, truth of the character with emotion and with feeling," Cage told Lee Cowan.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan