I miss the days when actors had bad hair days. When their coifs weren’t so coiffed, when their heads were allowed to look scruffy, greasy, crazy, unkempt. Not Robert Pattinson mousse-mussed, but genuinely dishabille. I miss the days when they could even be — maybe we should whisper this — bald. I admit that I have something of a personal stake in this. I’m a follically challenged male, and perhaps I speak for others who are losing their hair when I say that it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing if we were represented a little more often on screen, and not just by the usual character actors playing dweebish bank tellers and Internet wizards. I do like to think, however, that even if God had graced me with the Jim Morrison-on-Kiehl’s mane of Adrian Grenier, that I’d still want to stand up for a little more healthy hair diversity among contemporary Hollywood leading men. These days, if an actor is losing his hair, he isn’t allowed to show it. He’s got to be plugged, weaved, bobbed, re-strung. In effect, he’s not himself — he’s wearing a permanent costume.
In the new Werner Herzog remake of Bad Lieutenant (it comes out next week — here’s what I wrote about it from the Toronto film festival), Nicolas Cage plays a New Orleans homicide detective who is always high on coke, heroin, OxyContin, or some combination thereof, and Cage, playing this furtive and tormented enforcer/addict, gives the return-to-form performance that a lot of us have been waiting for him to give. The luscious joke of the movie is that Cage, as Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, is wild and operatic and monomaniacally over-the-top, just as he has been so often in his trashy paycheck genre movies. Only now, his beady-eyed gonzo theatrics are part of a deftly controlled character study. McConagh, trapped in the evil pleasure of his addictions, also uses those addictions to be a more sneakily effective cop. He’s like a crackhead undercover agent in hell.
Cage is mesmerizing in Bad Lieutenant, but there’s one aspect of him that hasn’t changed: He still sprouts what I think of as his popcorn-blockbuster hair — that perfectly sculpted widow’s peak of shiny black strands that just about erupts from the front of his head, only to be swept back into a kind of Peter O’Toole-meets-Igor curtain of hair. READ FULL STORY »