Nicolas Cage Says Claims He Was Never Paid for Oscar-Winning “Leaving Las Vegas” Role Are 'Probably True'

'Leaving Las Vegas' filmmaker Mike Figgis told 'The Hollywood Reporter' in 2022 that neither he nor Nicolas Cage ever received payment for the 1995 film

<p>United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock</p> Nicolas Cage in 1995

United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock

Nicolas Cage in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas

Nicolas Cage may have never been paid for one of his most famous film roles — but he does not seem concerned about it.

At the 2024 SXSW Film Festival last Monday, Cage, 60, made some waves when he told Business Insider it is "probably true" that he was never compensated for the 1995 drama Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won Best Actor at the 68th Academy Awards in 1996.

"But I haven't been thinking about it," he told the outlet. "I got to play a part that I absolutely had to play."

In Leaving Las Vegas, Cage portrayed a troubled Hollywood screenwriter named Ben who moves to Las Vegas after he loses his job. He subsequently meets a prostitute named Sera (Elizabeth Shue) and forms a relationship with her. The movie explores both Ben's experiences in Las Vegas and Sera's life as they intersect. It also costarred the late actors Julian Sands and Richard Lewis.

"There was no doubt in my mind that it would be an experience and a great movie. I wasn't going to stop — whether they paid me or not, I was making the movie," Cage told Business Insider at SXSW, where he was promoting his new movie Arcadian.

Related: Nicolas Cage Shares Meaningful Oscars Moment He Had with Bradley Cooper: 'I Admire' Him (Exclusive)

<p>Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection</p> Nicolas Cage in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas

Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

Nicolas Cage in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas

Cage was nominated for Best Actor at the 68th Oscars alongside Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus), Anthony Hopkins (Nixon), Sean Penn (Dead Man Walking) and Massimo Troisi (The Postman). He has since received a second Academy Award nomination for his role in 2002's Adaptation.

The question of whether Cage was ever actually paid for Leaving Las Vegas originally arose when the movie's director Mike Figgis told The Hollywood Reporter that neither he nor Cage ever received their $100,000 fees for directing and acting in the film. At the time, Figgis said Leaving Las Vegas' studio claimed the movie never made a profit, though Box Office Mojo shows the film made $32 million at the domestic box office. THR reported at the time that the film's budget was $4 million.

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“Whatever,” Figgis told the outlet of not being paid for the film at the time. “I mean, my career then took off again, and the next film I did, I got really well paid. And within a year [Nic] was earning $20 million a film, so that was quite good.”

Related: Nicolas Cage Says He Only Has 'Three or Four' Movies Left Before Retiring

<p>United Artists/ Courtesy: Everett Collection</p> Nicolas Cage in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas

United Artists/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

Nicolas Cage in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas

Figgis and Shue both received nominations at that year's Oscars ceremony for Leaving Las Vegas, though Cage walked away from the ceremony with the film's lone award.

Cage recently appeared with his wife Riko Shibata at the 96th Oscars on March 10. He helped present the Best Actor award to Oppenheimer's Cillian Murphy and specifically spoke to Paul Giamatti's performance in The Holdovers while he and fellow past winners Brendan Fraser, Matthew McConaughey, Forrest Whitaker and Ben Kingsley celebrated each nominee.

Cage's next movie Arcadian releases April 12.

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