By Christopher Cudworth
If I got hair implants I’d look just like Nicholas Cage. That makes me think the resemblance might work perfectly in the opposite direction. And that’s why I’m going to write a screenplay about my life as a runner and cyclist and ask Nicholas Cage to play me in the movie.
He can’t be that hard to get these days. After all, he’s starring that horrible farce of a concept movie called Left Behind. Sure, the authors of those books made millions if not billions playing on the violent fantasies of frightened Christians hoping Jesus Christ is coming back to whisk them off to heaven soon.
It’s a perfect Nicholas Cage plot, of course. He’s always played tragically misplaced characters in his movies. Weatherman was about a guy abused for his climatological instincts. He kept getting hit with stuff thrown at him by other people.
I’ve lived that reality. Back in the 1970s and 80s people threw stuff at runners out of car windows all the time. I got hit by water balloons, soda bottles and once was nearly clipped by a pair of randy underwear tossed out of a vehicle. I stopped running for a minute and tried to think what the heck that really meant. Turns out it really meant nothing. Some things are like that in this world.
And that’s very Nicholas Cagey too. He’s always staring into the camera with that “What does this mean” look of his. I can do that look pretty well. As well.
So the convergence of my life with the characters played in movies by Nicholas Cage set the stage for the story of my life in film.
With a little makeup and a bunch of extra hair plastered on his head, Nicholas Cage can play a youngish me at 16 years old running high school cross country. Clad in short shorts and made up with one gray bit of enamel where a baseball once knocked out my front tooth, Cage will look the tragically needy type that most of us runners were in the 1970s. We ran for acceptance and to prove we weren’t wimps. It didn’t help that some of us wore crooked wire-rimmed glasses and had arms as thin as pipe cleaners. But we made do.
Sooner or later the film would capture my young self making out with a young girl in the back seat of an oversized 1970s car. She would have slightly crooked teeth and pale breasts. But that wouldn’t matter to a young Chris Cudworth trying to get some action while his older friends drove the car around laughing under their breath at the rustling in the back seat.
Then came the move to a new town, and making all new friends. Nicholas Cage would be great in the scene where my ability to dance actually made a strong impression on the girls and my new friends in the new school. Then came fall and cross country and a team that went 9-1 while the football team went 1-9.
It was heady times being pursued by the lead cheerleader who slept with the top runner each year. But I was too innocent and a bit dumb to truly recognize the potential of that situation. That would be a great contrast to the bold efforts leading the cross country team on the trail of success, winning meets and a district championship. We sang Who songs naked in the shower, a perfect misty scene for Nicholas to play up for pathos.
Then Nicholas could play me going off to college with a still thick head of hair. But not before the blowout end of summer party where we all drank ourselves mad into the night and went skinny dipping in the local pond that sat black and still in the night.
College was a heady rush of long miles and competition for the Top 7 spots on the team. Cage would be perfect in the role, framed on the big screen with a rolling camera catching his carefully stitched hair blowing straight back while his desperate breathing filled the sound track.
Perhaps a dream sequence here, where Cage lies sleeping fitfully as flashes from his young life roll through his mind. The domineering father. Competitive sibling rivalries and fights. A swirl of confused and angry thoughts. Cage wakes to find himself in a cold sweat. He knows now why he runs.
The dream sequence segues into the sudden act of falling in love with a green-eyed girl under an August moon in Wisconsin. We see the walks in the woods, the holding hands across campus and some passionate lovemaking in the college dorm.
At this point in the movie the hairline of Nicholas Cage begins to recede, ever so much, to reflect the destiny of one Christopher Cudworth.
As the movie winds on the penultimate college meet comes around, with the dramatic chance to lead the team at nationals. Cage plays the 21-year-old me running those last 200 meters in slow motion. Because it really felt that way. Then the triumph. And the celebration with a college girlfriend.
And then college winds down and with it the strange glory of college dreams and athletics. The real world impinges on the happy world of Nick/Chris and his girl. They split under a July 4th sky with lightning coursing through the thunderclouds.
And then sadness. But Nicholas is shown running through long Illinois nights figuring out what comes next in life. As he runs back into fitness, a new dream emerges. He loses a job in the Reagan economy (with film clips of the vacuous Great Communicator inserted for ironic value) and he decides to not go back to work for a bit. He runs full time. Begins to win races again. He starts to write a novel on a jury-rigged IBM Selectric typewriter. It is a story about competition, and running, and we see the typewriter letters racing across the page superimposed over the moving image of Nicholas Cage as Christopher Cudworth running down the Chicago lakefront at full speed. Lake Michigan flashes in the background, and the Chicago skyline. And as the giant letters increase in size on the screen the camera moves in to a closeup of the face of Nicholas Cage, now with a full on receding hairline. He is running with a squint on his face and sweat on his brow.
And then it ends. Black screen. And the movie title appears at full width.
Oh, and the riding part? That’s in the sequel.