Why Nicolas Cage's Fast Times At Ridgemont High Role Was So Small

Nicolas Cage was originally going to be offered a much larger role in the 1982 teen classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The film, which was helmed by future Clueless director Amy Heckerling, is based on Cameron Crowe's 1981 book of the same name and follows a wide variety of students at a suburban San Fernando Valley high school, especially sophomore Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her tight-knit group of friends. In addition to being a considerable hit that kicked off the teen movie boom of the 1980s, it also launched the careers of a cavalcade of future celebrities including Leigh, Sean Penn, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, and Gremlins star Phoebe Cates.


Another one of these future stars was Nicolas Cage, then credited as Nicolas Coppola, in the extremely minor role of "Brad's Bud." Indeed, this was his first ever film credit, though he had previously held a role in the TV movie The Best of Times the year prior. For fans of the now-iconic actor, rewatching Fast Times is strange, because his role is so supporting, to the point that he only has one major line of dialogue. Though he does appear in quite a few scenes as part of Brad's entourage of male friends. Brad, who is Stacy's older brother, is one of the most prominently featured characters in the ensemble, so Cage has several opportunities to be seen, if not heard.

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Today, THR shared an oral history of Fast Times at Ridgemont High in honor of the film's 40th anniversary. While they were discussing Beverly Hills Cop star Judge Reinhold eventually getting the role of Brad, he spoke about the fact that they decided to "cast everybody in the senior class a little older." Cage was originally going to be offered the part of Brad, but the fact that he was 17 meant that he could only work restricted hours, so they offered him that much smaller role instead. Read Reinhold's quote below:

I’m sitting in the room the last time I read, and Art says, "Look at him. He’s as old as Ed Asner,” And he goes, "OK, we can cast everybody in the senior class a little older.”

Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage in Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Although not receiving the role of Brad was likely disappointing at the time, it clearly didn't impact Cage's career negatively for very long. The next year, by which time he had already turned 18, he would appear opposite Deborah Foreman in his breakout role in the 1983 classic Valley Girl. After that point, his career exploded and he went on to star in Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married, Moonstruck, Vampire's Kiss, and the Coen Brothers' Raising Arizona, all before the end of the decade.

Although Fast Times at Ridgemont High may not have given Cage everything he hoped for, it is still quite a film to have as one's introductory role. It is perhaps the only film to feature the Oscar-winning actor in anything less than a major part, or at least a scene-stealing cameo. That's something that makes the incredibly iconic film even more unique, in retrospect.

Source: THR