Nicolas Cage has transcended pop culture. The legendary actor has won an Oscar, starred in both blockbusters and indie titles, inspired internet memes and stolen the Declaration of Independence. Now, he’s being honored in the most Cage way possible, by starring as a version of himself, called Nick Cage, in the new Lionsgate movie “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.”

However, when Cage first got the pitch for the meta-comedy-drama-action film, his first response was “absolute horror.”

“There was no muscle in my body that told me I should play a character named Nick Cage, it was absolute horror,” he told Variety at the New York premiere on Sunday. “However, the director wrote me a very intelligent, sensitive letter, and in that letter I knew he was a true film enthusiast that likes some of the earlier work. He wanted to make a movie that was about people, not about caricatures or cartoons.”

Just like the real Cage, the film’s Nick Cage is a world-famous actor, but one who’s on the verge of retirement and is a “highly neurotic” and “anxiety-filled interpretation.” Before calling it quits from acting, Nick Cage accepts an offer from a billionaire fan, played by Pedro Pascal, to attend his birthday party. However, the super fan turns out to be a super crime boss, and Cage must escape using the action skills from his movie career.

“It was a balancing act. Like I’m on a high wire, and if I slipped it was a pretty big fall. I had to facilitate the vision of so-called Nick Cage,” the actor said.

“[Cage] just wanted to make sure we weren’t out to make fun of him or make fun of the things he’s done. We took it seriously, and once he understood that, he became more and more comfortable with [co-writer Kevin Etten] and I as filmmakers,” director Tom Gormican told Variety. “I think he was a little put off until he understood. We said to him, ‘There are ideas people have of who you are and there’s actually who you are, and somewhere in the middle we’re gonna find the movie.’ We said this entire thing is the chance to take the reins of that narrative and become a big piece of performance art. Once he looked at it that way, he started to come around.”

The “Unbearable Weight” cast includes Sharon Horgan as Nick Cage’s wife and Lily Sheen as his daughter. In another departure from the fake Cage, the real Cage described himself as a family-first man who enjoys his “wonderfully quiet moments at home reading Murakami with my cat.”

“This character starts the movie as a kind of narcissist actor who wants a big part, almost to the neglect of his own family members. Then he evolves into a sensitive family man. I am a family man. My family comes first,” he said.

Fellow cast members include Neil Patrick Harris as Nick Cage’s agent, plus Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz and Paco Leon. After premiering last month at SXSW, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” hits theaters this week.