The bills are still due for Leaving Las Vegas, the lauded 1995 film that earned Nicolas Cage his Academy Award and garnered a handful of other nominations, including Best Director for Mike Figgis. Though the duo got plenty of acclaim, they never saw any actual cash, according to Figgis.
In a new interview for the It Happened In Hollywood podcast, The Hollywood Reporter’s Seth Abramovitch asked Figgis about the “microbudget” of “$3 or $4 million” for the film. “Who knows… I never saw the money. I mean, Nicolas and I never got paid,” Figgis says. “Because they said the film never went into profit.”
Hard to imagine that a film that significant never returned any investment for its key players, but Figgis is clear-eyed about the results: “Whatever,” he concludes. “I mean, you know, in a more philosophical note, of course, my career then took off again, and the next film I did, I got really well paid. … And within a year [Cage] was earning $20 million a film, so that was quite good. I think we were only owed $100,000 each.”
Decades later, neither of them are tracking down the missing paychecks—and Figgis, at least, has a little thing called artistic integrity. “It was a labor of love, and I would have done it for nothing actually,” the filmmaker asserts. “And Nic by the way, God bless him, eccentric dude though he is, he kind of… he bankrolled the preproduction essentially in the sense that he took a suite at the Chateau Marmont for us to rehearse—he rehearsed by getting drunk every night so he could get in the mode.”
Figgis adds, “No, he was heart and soul, he put himself into this, into this character, and the whole production, and was generous to everybody, I have to say.”