A gilded Cage

There are few people more gifted at the art of phony moral preening than your average Hollywood movie star. Most of them know next to nothing about anything, but a remarkable number of them are quick to weigh in on political issues and say whatever they think will make them look like pillars of virtue.

And yet one after another of these stars, who are already extremely well paid, are also quick to sell their services, for the right price, to any brutal dictator who comes down the pike.

Will Smith

We’ve seen, for example, that Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, have gone all-out to promote Dubai, which, of course, is one of the United Arab Emirates, where gays are executed and where straight tourists who engage in even the tamest public displays of affection are subject to long prison terms. We’ve discovered how Sting took a million or two dollars to perform for the daughter of murderous Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov and how Nicki Minaj cashed a $2 million check from the Angolan dictator José Eduardo dos Santos for a similar gig.

Sharon Stone with Putin and unidentified girl

We’ve listed the names of several celebrities – among them Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Paul Anka, Gérard Depardieu, Mickey Rourke, and Sharon Stone – who’ve taken money from Vladimir Putin to turn up at official events in Russia, and other luminaries – including Seal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Hilary Swank – who’ve accepted payments to entertain Putin’s puppet leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Now it’s time to add another Tinseltown name to this roster of shame: Nicolas Cage. Born Nicolas Coppola, a nephew of filmland’s master of nepotism, Francis Ford Coppola, Cage, now 53, has been one of the luckiest men in the business, reaping great rewards in exchange for a very modest talent. He gets millions of dollars per picture and is reportedly worth about $25 million.

Nicolas Cage in Kazakhstan with an official of the Eurasia Film Festival

In short, he is not a man in drastic financial need. Nonetheless, in exchange for an unknown but presumably hefty sum, he recently attended the Eurasia Film Festival in Kazakhstan, a country that has been ruled for over a quarter of a century by the tyrannical Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Some people will do anything for a buck. Cage, who invariably comes off on talk shows as something of a self-important jerk and all-around dimbulb, was willing to don a native Kazakh outfit that earned him widespread mockery online. “I would be pleased to participate in some film project on the territory of Kazakhstan,” Cage told local journalists during his lucrative visit. “I enjoyed the architecture of your capital. What I saw reminded me of an old black-and-white film that depicted the future.” These stars often make such dopey, ingratiating statements in these situations. It’s hard not to believe they are reading from a script. In any event, one thing is clear: Nicolas Cage didn’t go to Kazakhstan for his health.

Above the law: Steven Seagal’s Balkan cronies

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Seagal meeting with Nikolic

One of the first stooges we profiled on this site was Steven Seagal, the action star who’s got a bromance going with Vladimir Putin, whom he’s praised as “one of the greatest living world leaders.”

Now it turns out that Putin isn’t the only unsavory head of state in Seagal’s social circle. On December 1, the Associated Press reported that Seagal had “received the royal treatment” during a recent visit to Serbia. While there, he’d been granted audiences by President Tomislav Nikolic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, and Belgrade mayor Sinisa Mali.

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Seagal with his fellow 2015 laureates

And that wasn’t all. Seagal was also presented with the Karic Brothers Award, which is given to a half-dozen or so people a year at an annual Belgrade ceremony. The award was created by Bogoljub Karic, who, as the AP pointed out, “was given asylum in Russia after he fled Serbia when its previous government charged him with corruption and the embezzlement of millions of dollars in state funds.” The award’s stated purpose is “to stimulate and motivate all those who create and produce value that will result in more pleasant living conditions”; winners have included businessmen, artists, actors, journalists, diplomats, clergymen, and politician.

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Nursultan Nazarbayaev

One of Seagal’s fellow 2015 laureates was Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator of Kazakhstan, who, rather hilariously, was honored for “strengthening democracy and peace.” This, note well, for a “president” whose personal bank accounts were found to contain over a billion dollars fleeced from the Kazakh treasury; who pushed bills through the Kazakh Parliament granting him legal immunity and legalizing money laundering; who’s been repeatedly returned to office in elections universally considered to be total shams; and whose country, thanks largely to his thuggish, terroristic treatment of journalists, stands at #161 out of 180 nations on the World Press Freedom Index.

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With pal Putin

In short, these awards might fairly be described as a joke.

Upon accepting his award, which was described as a recognition of his “humanitarian work,” Seagal told the audience that he was “honored to follow many leaders who have received this award before me, such as Vladimir Putin.” (He also made the rather baffling remark that “the world’s 17 major Roman Emperors originate from this region, and that has to mean something.”)

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With Prime Minister Vucic

But that was just the beginning. Seagal, who “used to overwhelm Russian and Serbian bad guys in Hollywood movies with his martial arts techniques,” was offered a job teaching Aikido, the Japanese martial art, to Serbian special police.

And in January it was reported that Seagal, after agreeing to set up a martial-arts school in Belgrade, had been granted Serbian citizenship. Seagal praised the country’s leaders and said “he feels like a Serb.” It was unclear exactly how aware Seagal was of the record of President Nikolic, who in 2007 proposed making Serbia part of a Russian superstate that would resist “the hegemony of America” and in 2012 denied that genocide had ever taken place in Srebenica. Of course, given Seagal’s enthusiasm for Putin, one can hardly imagine him balking at Nikolic’s comparatively amateur-level malevolence.