Nicolas Cage Lost $276,000 On Stolen Dinosaur Skull Wanted Leonardo DiCaprio
Nicolas Cage is a one-of-a-kind celebrity. The actor has transcended the heritage of his famous family to become an artist firmly in his own way. He’s magnetic and interesting whether the film he lends his talent to is a critically acclaimed project, a buzz-worthy indie picture or a schlocky action flick. No actor has lived as many lives as Cage. The roller coaster nature of the second half of his career is impossible to disentangle from his financial troubles.
Cage was clearly in a tough place for a long time because of his struggles. But the road to near ruin is paved with stories so absurd you can’t help but read about them. Example: Cage lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bidding war for a dinosaur skull with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Nicholas Cage learned the hard way that Mongol dinosaur skulls are a dangerous investment
The fame and success that Cage has earned has allowed him to walk through the weirdest rabbit holes reserved for the wealthy. In 2007, the actor spent $276,000 on a Tyrannosaurus bataar skull. He beat DiCaprio, from an IM Chait gallery in Beverly Hills. Seven years later, the Department of Homeland Security told Cage that the skull was illegally removed from his native Mongolia. It turned out that the gallery had purchased the skull, among other skeletons, from Eric Prokopi, a Florida man turned black market paleontologist.
Prokopi was charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods, possession of stolen goods, misrepresentation, smuggling goods into the United States, interstate sale and receipt of stolen goods for the smuggling of bones from Mongolia and China to the United States. helped prosecutors recover more than 17 fossils, including the skull.
Cage never received any charges of wrongdoing. He voluntarily abandoned the skull after learning the context. But the national treasure star still withdrew a significant portion of his bank account. In an episode of GQ is actually me video series, Cage explained that he was never compensated for returning the fossil.
“There’s this skull that I bought at an auction and bought it legally,” he says. “Here is the MacGuffin. When the Mongolian government said it needed it. I gave them, but never got my money back. So someone at the auction house should be in jail.
The situation shows how extravagant Cage’s spending was at the time. At the height of Cage’s commercial power, he had a fortune of $150 million and earned $20 million for his biggest films. But a few years of financial mismanagement left him on the brink of financial ruin.
As easy as it would be to point to the whole dinosaur skull fiasco as the reason he lost most of his money, the truth, as Cage explained in a recent cover story also for QGit’s more banal than that.
Nicolas Cage nearly lost all his money after a series of failed investments
He was just as affected by the housing crash of 2008 as people with regular jobs. Cage owned several exotic locations in North and Central America: the LaLaurie Mansion, also known as “America’s Most Haunted House” in New Orleans, the 16th century Schloss Neidstein in Germany, the of 18th century Midford in England, the Gray Craig Estate in Rhode Island and Leaf Cay Island in the Bahamas. When the bubble burst, he had nowhere to go.
“I didn’t believe in stocks because I think they’re gambling-like and dangerous, but you can get rid of a stock,” Cage said. “You can’t exit real estate that quickly.”
To make matters worse, he sued his business manager, Samuel J. Levin, for negligence and fraud in 2009. Levin then fought back, saying Cage’s recklessness couldn’t be stopped. The fiasco ended with the actor owing $14 million to the IRS in addition to significant charges to other creditors.
This coincided with a fallow period in Cage’s career. So without a box office hit in recent memory, he had to do anything straight to VOD just to cut his debt. There were also family issues affecting her home life. His father, August Coppola, also died in 2009, leaving him to care for his mother as her career plummeted.
“I have all these creditors and the IRS and I’m spending $20,000 a month trying to keep my mom out of a mental institution, and I can’t,” Cage recalled. “Everything was happening at the same time.” A few years later, he would divorce his third wife, Alice Kim, after 12 years of marriage, remarry in Vegas before calling it off four days later, and record multiple incidents of public drunkenness.
As bad as things were, Cage never filed for bankruptcy. He continued to slowly work his way out of a deep hole. Many of the films from this era are barely worth watching, even for dedicated stans. But there were enough legitimately excellent performances to remind viewers that Nicolas Cage is one of the best actors alive. He finally paid off his debts towards the end of 2020.
How Cage made his millions
There’s no denying that Cage’s background as Coppola gave him a level of financial security that most young artists never have. But he charts his own path as a performer. 1987 was the year of his breakthrough, as he starred in the Coen Brothers film. Raising Arizona and Dreamer alongside Cher.
Most of his signature roles display his incredible level of expressiveness that borders on unhinged. That’s why so many of his roles have become natural meme generators. Cage is willing to experiment and risk looking silly in a rare way. The heart that is in Desert, Face/Off, Bad Lieutenant: stopover in New Orleans, and Adaptation are the best examples of this approach.
But Cage also has the ability to tone it down in a way that feels authentic in films like Leaving Las Vegas Where Bring out the dead. This same range is apparent in two of his best performances of this last period, the psychedelic horror film mandy and Pig, where he plays a lonely chef whose search for a truffle pig teaches him a profound lesson about how life should be lived.
The unbearable weight of massive talent is a victory lap after a difficult decade. Cage has recovered financially (his current net worth is around $25 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth) and artistically and remains someone who deserves to be seen in the movies.
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