Apparently even Nicolas Cage has had to learn the hard way that your best work can go unrewarded. Cage is well known for his one-of-a-kind screen persona that has helped franchises like National Treasure, Ghost Rider, and countless other now-famous films (Face/Off, Con Air Gone In 60 Seconds) find success; however, one of his most acclaimed and respected screen performances didn't end up earning him a dime.
Nic Cage starred in the 1995 hit film Leaving Las Vegas, playing a Hollywood screenwriter who has crashed and burned due to alcoholism. The writer, Ben Sanderson (Cage) decides to go to Las Vegas to blow all his money and remaining time on a campaign of drinking himself to death. Everything is going to plan until Ben meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a Las Vegas prostitute who recognizes something in Ben's downward spiral fall and becomes his companion in his final days of living. Leaving Las Vegas earned Cage his Oscar for Best Actor, with Shue, getting a Best Actress nomination, and filmmaker Mike Figgis getting both a Best Director nomination and a Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published nom, as well.
However, while appearing on THR's podcast show It Happened in Hollywood, Mike Figgis admitted that both himself and Nic Cage ended up not getting any kind of payday for Leaving Las Vegas. According to Figgis, he and Cage were promised $100,000 each by financer Lumiere Pictures; however, the deal was never honored, as Lumiere argued that Leaving Las Vegas "never went into profit" and therefore no payout was owed.
Figgis says that the matter never really had to be fought (legally or otherwise) because despite the financial returns, the Oscar-generating success of Leaving Las Vegas was enough to jump start his career and Nic Cage's in a way that quickly helped them recoup the losses:
"Whatever. 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," Figgis said.
For ever person that looks at an actor's career and questions their later choices in doing franchise or family film, there's an actor who will tell you a story of putting their all into an award-bait dramatic role, only to have the film go nowhere or (even with success) the money returns being abysmal. After watching Leaving Las Vegas and now hearing Cage got nothing for it, those Ghost Rider choices make all the sense in the world...